Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lest We Forget (Canberra, Australia) - Part Two

Continuing from part one of the highlights of the Australian War Memorial...

In the same hall is G for George, a World War 2 Lancaster bomber that saw and survived 90 combat missions over Europe – most did not manage ten. With a creative use of light, sound and film, G for George is the centrepiece of a short multimedia presentation that gives an impression of the experiences and discomfort that townsfolk on both sides must have felt during bombing missions. There has been some controversy over the use of such modern means to capture the feelings and mood of the time but I personally enjoyed the display believing that it adds to the reality of the time. Photos of the airmen, most barely out of school forever captures the horrors of war and the demands that the world do a better job in avoiding this approach to national conflict.

Using a similar multimedia approach, an Iriquois helicopter packed with troops enact an assault and a medical evacuation in Vietnam, one of 100s of missions flown by this actual helicopter. Strong fans rustle the thick grass and emulate the rotor blades as troops dive out before the chopper has even landed.

Off on another wing of the memorial, the largest display has visitors walking the bridge of the HMAS Brisbane. Serving in Vietnam and the first Iraqi conflict, the excellent display captures radio transmissions as orders are issued and obeyed. Somewhat eerily, the reflections of the young naval personnel are reflected in the ship’s windows, the reddish and green lights of the metres and radars providing the only lighting on deck.

Uplifting spirits is the central room exhibiting a gallery of around 60 of the 97 Victoria Crosses (the largest public display of such medals) won by Australians, the highest individual award available to a British or Commonwealth member of the armed forces for exceptional individual valour and conspicuous bravery “in the face of the enemy”. Most striking are the ordinary lives associated with such men, most barely in their twenties who have won these medals with a plain crimson ribbon and dark bronze cross – among them boilermakers, railway workers, carpenters, farmhands and blacksmiths. While many were awarded posthumously, others returned to normal civilian life, most around them unaware of their most prestigious award.

Next to the Hall of Valour is what I consider the memorial’s the most moving single display. In a darkened room to the faint music of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, is the haunting Menin Gate at Midnight. Reputedly painted in one sitting by a mournful Will Longfellow, the painting captures the famed gates that tens of thousands of soldiers passed heading to the Western Front. Today, the walls of the gate list 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave, only a small percentage of the quarter of a million lives lost in this area of battle during World War One. The painting eerily captures the artist’s vision of thousands of spirits of the dead rising and marching towards the battlefields.

The highlights of the Australian War Memorial continues to its final chapter.


Khmessenger said...

Thanks for this post, it's useful for me
but about travelling to south america, it's also great ;)
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BarbaraW said...

As with part one of this series, I was moved almost to tears. partly, that may be due to the fact that my dad was a belly-gunner in a B-17 bomber during WWII. As ou say, most of the bombers didn't make 10 missions, but he did more than 20 and lived to tell about it. Wonder photos and descriptions. I anxiously await your final chapter.

Dino said...

Awesome Post,
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San Antonio Hotel said...

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Donna Hull said...

I enjoyed Part Two of "Lest We Forget (Canberra, Australia). The experience of visiting this museum must be a heart-tugging one.

Heather on her travels said...

For us in the UK it's Remembrance day on 11 November. I think the audiovisual presentation is a really great way to bring the experienceof war home to those who haven't experienced it directly. At the Imperial War museum I sat in an audio visual show where the voices, and sounds of war were projected all around me and it was very realistic

Mark H said...

@BarbaraW: I hope you got to share some of your father's stories. A belly gunner must have been a tense and nerve-racking role.

@Heather: Australia stops more a minutes silence and passes poppies around on Nov 11 but the true war memorial day has evolved to April 25. I really enjoyed the usage of the latest audio visual techniques in portraying some concept of what these young men and women must have experienced - dignified and effective without being glorified or tasteless or nationalistic.

Anil said...

It's important to see these things and to learn about war with accurate and informative depictions. I often think in today's world many people have forgotten what war really is and take violence too lightly.

Mark H said...

@anil: Most poeple haven't really experienced a war. I think that is a key element of what these fine museums offer - hopefully to tell of the horrors of war rather than the glory of war, even though it involves sacrifice and bravery.

sunita said...

3) The memorial is offering a great history of World War as live through its paintings and other objects that lure every person to know more about the war…seems like I have visited this attraction after reading this…

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