The Australian War Memorial does an admirable job of positively commemorating Australia’s war dead while avoiding any glorification of war itself – a notable achievement for a country that sees participation in world wars as key to its identity.
The centrepiece is the Byzantine-style, domed Hall of Memory, approached past an eternal flame rising from a rectangular pond. Look up to see mosaics depicting veterans of World War II (the walls and ceiling are covered with more than six million tiles), while the lovely blue stained-glass windows commemorate those who fought in World War I. In the centre is the tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, while over 102,000 names of the fallen are etched onto the walls outside. This, the commemorative area, is where you should be just before closing time when the story of one of the soldiers named on the roll of honour is read out, and a bugler plays the Last Post in moving testament to the war dead.
Wings either side of the Hall of Valour house paintings by war artists, battle dioramas, military relics, photographs, personal possessions and films, while the lower level covers conflicts and peace-keeping missions from 1946 to the present day, as well as some temporary exhibitions. The fighter aircraft and huge naval guns of the Aircraft Hall compete for your attention with the ANZAC Hall with its giant Lancaster bomber, Messerschmidt fighters, and impressive sound and light shows that include coverage of the Japanese submarine attack on Sydney.