Australia did not have a national War Memorial until 1941, but the idea was conceived during the First World War by Charles Bean, who had been appointed official war correspondent for Australia in 1914. As he served in a number of theatres of war, he started to realise the importance of recording and preserving the legacy of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
In 1917, the Australia War Records office was established and Bean, John Teloar and others set about collecting various items of interest from the battlefield, including machinery and uniforms. Treloar went on to serve as the first Director of the AWM in 1920. A competition was held for the design of the AWM and officials were unable to decide on a winning entry. So two entrantís designers were encouraged to collaborate together and to combine the designs of each to create a war memorial fitting a nation such as Australia.
The Memorial is a national memorial to all members of the armed forces, army, navy and air force and those organisations that supported the forces, who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The onset of the Great Depression bought the building of the memorial to a halt, but it was finally finished and opened on 11th November 1941 by the Governor General of Australia at the time, Lord Gowrie.
The War Memorial has developed to become one of the best resourced war museums in the western world. People from all around the globe travel to Canberra to spend time at the Memorial.
The War Memorial has improved and developed over the years and has kept pace with technology and conservation methods. Both younger and older generations can find many interesting installations and areas that are user friendly to develop a keen understanding of the conditions of war and the conditions under which men and women fought for Australia.
The memorial consists of three major parts. The Commemorative Area which includes the shrine, the Hall of Memory, the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier; The Memorial Galleries form the museum section of the War Memorial and the final section is the Research Centre which houses the records.
My advice to anyone who is considering visiting the War Memorial in Canberra is to put at least a day aside. Entrance is completely free and the Memorial is open every day but Christmas Day.