This Sunday, the 11th of November marks 100 years since the Armistice treaty was signed to end the First World War. One hundred years ago, on 11 November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after four years of warfare. We now call the day Remembrance Day and with the words, ‘Honour their Spirit’, we remember and give thanks for the men and women who fought for our country’s principles and freedom, not only in the First World War but in every war, conflict, and peace keeping missions from that day to now.
Across the country on Sunday, people will pause at 11am (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) to remember them, in public places and wherever they are. In almost every city and town in Australia there are memorials where wreaths and poppies will be placed and ceremonies conducted as a sign of remembrance and respect.
We have some impressive memorials and museums in Australia and if you are ever visiting Melbourne I would urge you to visit the Shrine of Remembrance. The impressive building is in the city and is surrounded with courtyards and gardens. The Second World War forecourt features an eternal flame and a cenotaph inscribed with the names of the theatres of war from that conflict. On top of the column, six servicemen carry a fallen comrade.
Ascending the steps to the shrine you will first enter The Sanctuary where a Stone of Remembrance lies. It signifies a gravestone for men and women buried overseas in unmarked graves. There are many thoughtful features in the building including here in The Sanctuary where it is necessary to bow your head to read the inscription on the stone of remembrance which reads ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’. A feature was also made with a small aperture created in the eastern side of the Shrine where a natural ray of sunlight beams onto the Stone of Remembrance, at the 11th hour of the 11th month and shines onto the word Love. Is that not the greatest memorial feature you’ve ever heard of?
On other levels inside the building you’ll find galleries of remembrance, downstairs is a crypt which commemorates the fighting units of the First World War and you can climb stairs to a Balcony where you are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding grounds and Melbourne city buildings.
The displays throughout are outstanding. There is an eerie quality as you move around the museum with uniforms and artefacts from the time, posters and videos explaining different theatres of war that Australians have been involved in. It’s quite breathtaking and a place you could spend hours to take it all in. Entry to the Shrine is free, though donations are welcome and why wouldn’t you, or you can pay to go on a guided tour where more of the history and symbolism will be explained in greater depth.
I have ancestors who fought in the First World War and my Dad and all of my uncles were in each of the services in the Second World War. Thankfully every single one of them returned to Australia.
I always feel so humbled and proud when I visit memorials like this and thankful for all of the veterans and current service men and women for the roles they played then and now.
Lest we forget.