There's a lot I could write about the Australian War Memorial. The building itself with its beautiful dome, the history of the wars that it tells, the artefacts and the stories behind them ... but, for me, it was the brilliant red columns of poppies, an en masse tribute adorning name after name on the commemorative Roll of Honour, that left me still inside. There are over 102,800 names on the bronze panels that record the names of Australians who have died in war and on operational service. Every name and every single one of those little poppies represents somebody's life...
Name after name after name cover the walls under the arches of the War Memorial's Commemorative Area. They lead you to the tomb of Australia's Unknown Soldier. Inside, under that magnificent dome, you will find no names but a sombre quietness in respect to all those who lost their lives to war.
The Commemorative Area's arches.
The golden mosaic on the dome's ceiling.
In the late of every afternoon, the Last Post ceremony is held in the Commemorative Area. We stood, as the cold deepened and dusk crept in, while our national anthem was played, as wreaths of flowers were laid on the edge of the Pool of Reflection, and while the story of just one of those brave soldiers, whose name is there among so very many others on that honour roll, was told. The silence was broken by the haunting sound of the bagpipes carrying The Pipers Lament, the solemn voice of a soldier reciting The Ode and the lonely call of a bugle signalled the end of the day and the end of so many lives as the The Last Post rang out, up and into a darkening sky.
As we spoke of it later, a visit to the Australian War Memorial is not something enjoyable. It is not that kind of place. It is a place that holds a collective memory. That, I think, is its purpose. To help us to remember, to ensure we do not forget and to be ever mindful of the sacrifices which paid for our own freedom. As you enter and leave the War Memorial, words from our anthem greet and farewell you ... for we are young and free ...