And marble, and granite, and wood …
I wrote recently that every town in Australia seems to have a war memorial. Here are some examples, photos I took over a three day period without going too far out of my way. This post is image-heavy, but everyone has broadband now don't they?
This first one is an obelisk at the University of Melbourne. It's tucked away in a shady corner of the South Lawn between Wilson Hall and the Old Law Quad. Probably, few people even notice it.
The inscriptions are entirely in Latin, which is unusual but presumably is intended to reflect the educated status of the University's staff and students who fought in the world wars.
The inscriptions on the four faces read:
A free, very rough and likely very wrong translation based upon my schoolboy Latin and my Googling skills might go something like this:
from the Empire
from the Dominion [or: their homeland, fatherland] from the Academy
they served [or perhaps: they gave] at home
Anyone with more Latin than I, please help out!
I can't find anything about this memorial on the web, though I did find that there's another one on campus which I could have looked at. It's a series of stained glass windows and two tiled tablets, erected in 1920 to commemorate the war service of the staff, students and alumni of the Melbourne Teachers' College, which later became part of the University (the building now houses the School of Graduate Studies).
Next is an interesting, and I think unusual memorial: a statue of the goddess Peace in a small roadside shrine, backed by a grove of trees. This is the Honor [sic] Reserve in Snake Valley, a small town (population about 350) west of Ballarat in country Victoria.
Less Latin here, as you might expect, though there is some ('PRO PATRIA', for the homeland) and of course Peace was a Roman goddess. Despite that, the inscription has a Christian flavour:
To the Glory of God
and in Honor [sic] of the Men
of this District
who fought in the Great War
The names of those who served are arrayed on both sides of the shrine.
The local branch of the RSL closed down a few years ago, and the task of maintaining the memorial fell to the Snake Valley Historical Society. They're trying to set up a separate organisation to deal with the task, as this will make it easier to attract funding. I wish them luck, it's a beautiful little shrine and ought to be well-cared for.
The war memorial in North Melbourne, one of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, is more typical of local community efforts at commemoration. A simple obelisk, with the ANZAC crest, and the following inscription:
IN IMPERISHABLE MEMORY
OF AUSTRALIA'S SONS
– WHO DIED –
IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM
IN THE GREAT WAR
ERECTED BY THE MEMBERS
OF THE NORTH AND WEST
MELBOURNE RED CROSS SOCIETY
ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS.
The other sides list the major theatres where Australians fought in the First World War: 'GALLIPOLI', 'FRANCE', 'PALESTINE'. Much more modern plaques list other wars Australia was involved in: the Second World War, Korea, the Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam.
Unfortunately, as these photos show, the North Melbourne memorial is not situated in a tranquil location, suitable for introspection on the sacrifices made: it's squashed into a triangle of grass, with busy roads on two sides and car parking spaces on the other. On the other hand, it is at least in the heart of the suburb, at the other end of the main street from the old town hall.
The Australian Hellenic Memorial is in Melbourne. It's also in Canberra, or at least another one with the same name is, which is a bit confusing. I think the Melbourne one may be specifically for those who died (both Greek and Australians) in the Greek and Crete campaigns in the Second World War. I assume Melbourne got its own because of its strong ties with Greece through immigration after the war — it was conceived and constructed some time within the last decade.
Presumably there is some heavy classical allusion-making going on here. The upright columns evoke a Greek temple. I'm not sure about the urn and the rough-hewn rock with the temple-shape on top — an acropolis perhaps?
I'd forgotten about this next one (and the last one too for that matter) — I stumbled across while walking to the Shrine of Remembrance. It's a memorial to the Victorian casualties of the Boer War, or South African War as it was then known. Unlike the uniformly classical designs of the post-First World War monuments, it's a splendidly Gothic … whatsit. I'm not sure what the correct architectural description is! Like the Australian Hellenic Memorial, it is in the King's Domain in the heart of Melbourne.
'KING AND EMPIRE' — my guess is that such a phrase would have been easier to use, less hollow, in AD 1903 than in AD 1919.
Unlike the other memorials here, this one was raised by the returned soldiers themselves, not their community:
ERECTED by Members of the
5th VICTORIAN CONTINGENT, V.M.R.,
in memory of their
FALLEN COMRADES in South Africa, 1901-2
I'm surprised that there were so many Boer War memorials — a probably incomplete list is here. On the other hand, it was Australia's first war, after all — the Commonwealth of Australia came into existence during the war, in fact, while units from the various colonies (like the Victorian Mounted Rifles) were already over there fighting for King and Empire. So perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised then. But it's certainly been replaced by the First World War in Australia's founding myth.
I've been going through the list roughly in ascending order of size. And now the monuments are starting to get appropriately monumental in scale. This is the Arch of Victory at Ballarat, a classical conceit if ever there was one. The Arch was completed in 1920. Oddly, the end date given for the war is 1919. My guess is that this refers to the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed in June 1919.
It's also unusual for a war memorial to unashamedly proclaim 'VICTORY' like the Arch does …
… but this bombast is more than compensated for by the Avenue of Honour which starts from the Arch (which I was standing under when I took the above) and extends for 22 km. It is flanked on either side by a rank of trees, over 3300 in all. In front of each tree is a plaque (only barely visible in the photo, unfortunately) with the name, unit and number of a man from the Ballarat region who served in the armed forces in the First World War. It really is a dramatic and imaginative form of memorial, and it inspired over a hundred similar avenues in Victoria and the rest of Australia. It's not, however, a uniquely Australian phenomenon, as I have seen claimed: there's at least one in Canada, and they were quite popular in the United States after the First World War too. And it looks like there's one in Leeds. Still, the Ballarat Avenue of Honour must be one of the longest and best-preserved in the world. (Another form of living memorial is noted at Trench Fever.)
Another Ballarat memorial, though this time it represents men and women from across the country: the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial. More than 35,000 names (including my great-uncle's) are etched on two black granite walls, separated by six obelisks which bear the names of the countries where they were held, from the Boer War to Korea. Another is lying as if it has toppled, I suppose to represent those who died in capitivity (over 8000, mostly in the Second World War). The photo at the top of the post also shows the obelisks.
The day that I visited was by chance the same day that the annual ceremony was held, the third since the memorial was opened in 2004, which accounts for all the wreaths.
Last of all is the grandest of all, Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.
As can be seen, it's big. And once more, it's classical. In fact, it's inspired by one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. It really is a very impressive building, easily one of the largest war memorials in Australia — second only to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Not that size is everything, of course … but why is Melbourne's so big? K. S. Inglis, in Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2005 ) suggests that it's partly because Melbourne was at the time of the Shrine's construction (1928-34) still the de facto capital of Australia: Parliament only moved to Canberra in 1928, and most of the civil service remained here until after the Second World War. It may also have been a harkening back to the "Marvellous Melbourne" days of the late 19th century, when many grand structures were built. Finally, Inglis suggests that the influence (and interests) of Sir John Monash, a Melbourne-born civil engineer and the successful commander of the ANZAC Corps on the Western Front, played a part.
The inscription reads
THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED BY A GRATEFUL
PEOPLE TO THE HONOURED MEMORY OF THE
MEN AND WOMEN OF VICTORIA WHO SERVED
THE EMPIRE IN THE GREAT WAR OF 1914-1918
It still serves this function of a place of memory. Every year on ANZAC Day, a dawn service is held at the Shrine. Ten or twenty thousand people gather to shiver in the cold and to hear the Last Post being played. I went a few years ago, and it's a very moving experience.
The winged woman here is the Mother Country; the tympanum as a whole depicts "The Call to Arms". (The tympanum on the other face shows the Homecoming.) From her vantage point, she can see down St Kilda Rd, across the Yarra and down Swanston St into the heart of the city.
I think that's enough for now — I have more photos from the Shrine area, statues, the Second World War Forecourt and so forth, which I may work into a post at another time. But hopefully I've shown something of the ubiquity and variety of Australian war memorials, and the ideals and values chosen for comemmoration — peace and victory, King and Empire, country and comrades.
For more information, see Inglis's book, or the War Memorials in Australia site, if it ever comes back up.
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