Friday, April 3

TRAVEL: Our emotional visit to Australian War Memorial - Canberra

My girls are obsessed with knowing more about World War 1 at the moment.  This is not a bad thing, and really extends from the focus on the centenary of Gallipoli landing this month.  Part of this learning was an assignment on a person who fought in World War 1 - which Laura with the help of my Mum did on her great-great grandfather.   As a family we were fascinated by our own personal link to the first world war.   

My great-grandfather John (Jack) McCarthy 56th Batallion
So we decided quite on the supur of the moment, given we had a break in netball commitments to go down to the War Memorial.  Hubby and I met in Canberra, so there is a certain sense of nostalgia when we visit.

As soon as we popped onto the M5 motorway, the excitement was building.  The frills have been learning about recipients of the Victoria Cross and all along centennary drive (the M5 through to Canberra) all the rest stops are named after Victoria Cross recipients... so everyone with their iPads and me with my camera were capturing them to reference later at the memorial.

VC photo-capturing

and we were even lucky enough to stop at one!  
What has changed is all the coffee stops along the way, coffee vans at most rest areas these days.. a very welcomed sight by hubby!

When we arrived, it was just at the end of the Op Slipper parade, which was a parade to commemorate the end of our defence involvement in Afghanistan and Middle East.  This memorial is to the west of the war memorial main building.

My smallest frills were so excited when they saw the statue of Simpson and his Donkey (Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick), as they had just learned about him the week before at school.

At this point I asked them to pose in front of Australia's Parliament House and hubby explained to them why there is a direct view from parliament house (old and new) 'so politicians making decisions about war would be constantly reminded of the sacrifices of war'.

Inside the Australia War Memorial, it's a very emotional place.   I would suggest heading up to the Roll of honor and hook up with a guide.  They have fascinating stories about the names on the wall.  Where they came from, where they joined, a bit about their family and loved ones and what they did in the war.. it really helps humanise those people.

We laid poppies in the wall next to my great-grandfathers' batallion and also at Jack Simpson Kirkpatricks (in the First Aid section).

The Hall of Memory is quite a solemn experience.  You can't be there and not contemplate the person this could have been, the family they left behind, their experience of war.  The stained glass windows, ceiling and murals are just magnificent. 

Then we headed into the new World War 1 section.  Quite frankly it's amazing.

My girls loved seeing the uniforms (and later they tried some on - more on that soon).  

It looks so heavy!

Laura and I were mesmerised by the Gallipoli landing boat, bullet holes and all.  Well worth a look and you can even touch it.  Having exhibits like this makes it so real and instantly relateable.  Laura was working out how many men could fit in there and then I reminded her they would have equipment as well...

There were diaries and films and interactive displays - I loved the artefacts most of all.  This is a recruitment poster from World War 1.

Remember our stop off? We went and found the Victoria Cross Medal recipients in the Hall of Valour, which is shaped in the shape of the Victoria Cross.

It's hard to tell what the kids' favourite part of the War Memorial was, and I'm only showing you a small sample of what we saw and experienced, but a must-must-must-do for the kids is the Discovery Zone.  The kids can get hands on experience of many war experiences.  There's uniforms for them to try on and try all kinds of things.

This is the dug-out.. where the kids can put their foot into an open space and...

See what trench foot looks like! (Yuck!)

Fly in a helicopter from the Vietnam War...

Hang out in a submarine (and a have a kip)

And try out some morse code...

For us of course the World War 1 section was the focus, I guess because the girls understood more about the war.  As my grandfather served in World War two and my own father in the Gulf and Afghanistan, I think we have a lot more family history to go through and then go back.  I honestly think you need a few days.. and it doesn't matter if you went last decade, last year or last month (or even yesterday) you can always see new things at the War Memorial.

Key info tips:

  • War Memorial is free to all members of the public
  • It's a long day, if your kids are younger than teens, split it into two days.
  • Food and drink is not permitted, but there is a cafe on site, it's a tad on the expensive side, but less than the movies
  • Tours are free you can pick these up at the front entrance or join one that might be in an area you're in.
  • If you want to find records of those in your family - their research centre is open every day except Sundays
  • The giftshop is where you can pick up poppies for $1 each.  The giftshop has a fabulous range of books, videos, posters and memoriabilia.  If you can't get to the memorial, you can order from their shop here
  • The last post, bring tissues if you are there for it.  A tear springs to my eye if I hear it anyways, but there, it's profound.  Every day at 4.55pm.  You can watch a live stream of it here each day.

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1 lovely comments:

Andrea Enright on April 4, 2015 at 1:12 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

Love all the meaningful experiences you give your girls. Looks like it was a special trip. <3 <3


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