A self-guided walking tour from the steps of the Australian War Memorial along the National Capital’s major commemorative way.
The term ‘ANZAC’ stands for ‘Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’. The Anzac legend has its roots in Gallipoli and the First World War, when Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey on 25 April 1915.
Anzac Parade (the Parade) is set along Canberra’s magnificent Land Axis, a key feature of the Griffins’ original 1912 plan of the city. The Land Axis is now bookended by Parliament House at one end and the Australian War Memorial at the other.
The Parade is visually powerful, with a red gravel central strip and dark eucalypt ‘walls’. The red gravel of the central strip was originally made from crushed Canberra house bricks and was chosen in part for the similarity to the ‘crunch’ made by military boots during a parade. The ‘walls’ are created by the Victorian Blue Gum, Eucalyptus bicostata, and the central planter boxes feature the native New Zealand Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’ (symbolising the ANZAC connection).
The Parade was completed in 1965, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli.
To gain the optimum effect, the first memorial – the Australian Hellenic Memorial – should be approached from the back as if entering an amphitheatre. All other memorials should be approached from Anzac Parade.
1. Australian Hellenic Memorial
While the Anzac legend has its roots in the First World War, there was only one ANZAC unit formed during the Second World War and it saw action in Greece. The name ‘Hellenic’ is used instead of ‘Greek’ to ensure all the Greek battles that were fought, not just those on the Greek mainland, are represented. The spear in the paving points to the Thermopylae Line; an historic pass where the Spartans resisted the Persians, the Greeks held off the Gauls and the Anzacs and British troops resisted a German advance. In each case, a small force held the pass against overwhelming odds. The jagged flint stone rock outcrop symbolises the terrain over which our troops fought. The mosaic is a relief map of the Greek Islands. The column and amphitheatre shape remind visitors of the heritage of Greece.
2. Australian Army National Memorial
This memorial is dedicated to the ‘diggers’ of the Australian Army who fought on the African Veldt, in the trenches of France, in the Western Desert and in the jungles of the Pacific and South East Asia. Since the unified Australian Army was formed in 1901, ’diggers’ have taken part in many conflicts, including two world wars. The sculpture is entitled ‘Every Mother’s Son’ because ‘the Army is about people - about infantrymen who can be anyone’s sons, husbands, fathers or brothers’. The soldiers are not shown in formal uniforms but in their ‘jungle greens’, on patrol - alert, wary and protective of each other.
3. Australian National Korean War Memorial
This memorial commemorates the Australians who died and those who served in the Korean War. The field of poles represents those who died. The three figures represent the Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen who served.
The boulders, transported from the Imjim River region, and the monotone of materials used recalls the harsh climate and terrain, an enduring memory for veterans. In the contemplative space, a boulder from a Korean battlefield forms a focal point. The word in Korean script translates as ‘Peace and Independence’. An obelisk commemorates those who died with no known grave. The inscription from the ‘Missing in Action’ section of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan links this to the burial place of those Australians who died in the Korean War. The conifers Abies koreana (Korean Fir) stand as ‘bookends’ on either side of the memorial.
4. Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial
This memorial is dedicated to all those Australians who served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973. The ‘wall of words’ highlights the colourful and distinctive language developed there. A black granite memorial stone carries the badges of the three Armed Forces and a suspended granite ring contains a scroll bearing the names of those Australians who died in the conflict. The sheltering shape and calming water offer respite to visitors. The memorial was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the Welcome Home Parade for veterans. Vietnam Veterans’ Remembrance Day is commemorated on 18 August; the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. During this battle, D Company faced a Viet Cong force more than 20 times larger than the 108 Australians. D Company became only the second Army unit in Australian military history to be awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation.
5. Desert Mounted Corps Memorial
This was the first memorial to be constructed on Anzac Parade (in April 1968). It commemorates all Australian and New Zealand units and formations that served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria from 1916 to 1918. The monument commemorates the partnership expressed in the word ‘ANZAC’. The original memorial was suggested after the battle of Romani in August 1916 and agreed to by the troops. In 1917, every serving member of the Desert Mounted Corps, the New Zealand mounted units forming part of the Corps, members of the Australian Flying Corps and the Nursing Services - all then in Egypt or Palestine - donated one day’s pay towards the cost of the memorial. The original memorial in Port Said, Egypt, was destroyed by Egyptian nationalists during the 1956 Suez crisis. This is the third casting, with the second on Mt Clarence, Albany, WA.
6. Boer War Memorial
Between 1899 and 1902, Australian Colonial forces joined British forces in South Africa, united against the Dutch-Afrikaner settlers known as the Boers. The area had been highly contested since the Napoleonic wars, and when gold was discovered in the 1880’s, hostilities broke out again. Australians were quick to respond to Britain’s call for assistance, and by the end of the conflict over 23,000 had served. On 1 January 1901, the formation of the Australian Commonwealth was declared, making this the first conflict in which our nation was involved. Four horsemen are the centre piece of the artwork, posed dynamically and as if caught in a moment of the conflict. Along the top are nine bronze replica journals, which are excerpts from letters detailing the experience of the Boer War as written by Private FH Booth, 2nd Victorian Mounted Rifles.
7. New Zealand Memorial
A gift from the New Zealand Government to the people of Australia in 2001 the memorial symbolises the Anzac experience and is a reminder of the long history of cooperation between our nations. The design is a bronze representation of the handles of a flax basket (kete harakeke). The words in the pavement are a Maori proverb, meaning ‘Each of us at a handle of the basket’, a reference to the cooperative relationship between our countries, especially in wartime. On the Australian side of the memorial the pavement was designed by Indigenous artist, Daisy Nadjundanga. On the New Zealand side, by artists Allen Wihongi and Toi Te Rito Maihi. Their design is based on the whakatu weaving pattern of a flax basket.
8. Australian Peacekeeping Memorial
This memorial commemorates the significant contribution made ‘ in the service of peace’ by more than 80,000 Australian peacekeepers – military, police and civilian – to more than 60 United Nations and other international peacekeeping missions since 1947. The design includes a Commemorative Beam that will list all Australian peacekeeping missions. The beam sits at the back of a commemorative courtyard that includes sentiments and phrases describing the characteristics of peacekeeping operations. This courtyard is reached through a centrally lit passage between two tall, black monoliths. These represent the opposing factions and the passage way between is lit to reflect the peacekeepers who strive to bring these factions together. Flags, symbols and explanatory plaques within the memorial explain and identify the contributors and characteristics of Australian peacekeeping – past, present and future.
9. Rats of Tobruk Memorial
This memorial commemorates the historic siege of Tobruk, Libya, from April to December 1941 where Australians, British, Indian, Czechoslovakian, Polish and other allied troops held off a larger German force. Of the garrison of 22,000 about 14,000 were Australian. The name derives from German radio propagandist, Lord Haw Haw, who referred to the troops as ‘rats who would be smoked out of their holes’. The Australians made this name their own. The memorial is based on the one in the Tobruk War Cemetery, built by Royal Australian Engineers during the siege. That memorial has since been destroyed. The original marble inscription stone was brought back to Australia after the war and is incorporated in the obelisk. The Eternal Flame was installed in 1984. A time capsule was placed in the step below the marble stone on 17 April 1991, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the siege.
10. Royal Australian Air Force Memorial
Per Ardua ad Astra – Through Adversity to the Stars. This memorial to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) honours the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the RAAF and the Australian Flying Corps. It was the second memorial to be erected on Anzac Parade and was unveiled in 1973 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the RAAF. The original sculpture, by Inge King, was enhanced in 2002 by three polished granite walls. The artwork depicts the dedication and valour of serving members and traces major episodes of conflict from 1915 to the present day. The RAAF is one of the world’s oldest independent air forces, established in 1921. Australian pilots were on active service in 1914 in New Guinea and in 1915 the Australian Flying Corps were fighting in Mesopotamia (Iraq).
11. Australian Service Nurses National Memorial
This memorial commemorates those Australian Service Nurses who died and honours those who served and suffered in war since 1899. This is a markedly different memorial to the others on Anzac Parade, being horizontal and flowing in form, as well as nurturing in character. Artist Robin Moorehouse drew inspiration from accounts that dying soldiers in the First World War just wanted to be held by nurses. The first army nursing service was raised in New South Wales in 1899, and left to serve during the Boer War in early 1900. During the First World War, about 2,300 members of the Australian Army Nurses served in most theatres of war, including Gallipoli and isolated posts in India, in appalling conditions and under the threat of death. In the Second World War, nearly 3,500 Army, Navy and Airforce nurses served, facing bombardment, capture, torture and death.
12. Royal Australian Navy Memorial
This memorial is also known as ‘Sailors and Ships’. It is dedicated to the naval servicemen and women who from colonial days have created the naval traditions of Australia, and honours those who have died and those who continue to serve. The sculpture itself expresses the constant vigilance and preparedness required of Navy personnel. Walk around the sculpture not only to look, but also to listen to the water. Each element has a distinctive sound – for example, the bow wave has a slight hiss and the main gush of water behind the sculpture throbs as though driven by propellers. There is the sound of water cascading from a submarine’s conning tower and the general turbulence created by a ship’s passage. The geometric shapes symbolise a ship and the emerging figures portray a range of ranks and activities.
13. Kemal Ataturk Memorial
This memorial is part of an agreement by the Australian and Turkish governments on commemorative gestures to acknowledge the 70th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. Kemal Ataturk commanded the Turkish forces at Gallipoli and later became the founder and first president of modern Turkey. This memorial honours him, as well as the heroism and sacrifice of both the Anzac and Turkish troops who took part in the bitterly fought campaign. Soil from Anzac Cove in Turkey was placed beneath the dedication plaque. Surrounding the memorial are pine trees Pinus halepensis grown from seed collected from the landmark ‘lone pine’ at Gallipoli. The crescent-shaped wall was inspired by the symbol of the crescent and five-pointed star on the Turkish flag. Located on the wall is a bronze likeness of Ataturk, a gift from the Turkish Government.