Canberra, Hall of Memory

From the gallery of names we made our way into the Hall of Memory. This is where the tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier is. He was laid to rest in the hall on November 11 1993. What is known about the Unknown Soldier is he served in the First World War and it is thought he was first buried on the battlefield where he fell. He was later taken to the Adelaide Cemetery in France and because of this no one can say if he was from the 14th Battalion or the 59th Battalion. He is truly unknown. He was identified as an Australian soldier because of the Australian badges and other indications that had survived the 75 years he had laid to rest at the Adelaide Cemetery. The Unknown Soldier gives a focus to the Hall of Memory as he rests just as you enter the hall. He was buried in a Tasmanian Blackwood coffin with a bayonet and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the Pozieres battlefield in France was scattered on his tomb. He stands for all Australians who have fallen or will fall protecting Australia and her people. Written across the front of the tomb is “He is all of them, and he is one of us.”

The Hall is a large tall room with stained glass windows representing the qualities of the Australian servicemen and women. The artist, Napier Waller (who lost his right arm during World War 1 at Bullecourt) completed the piece in 1958. They stand tall and proud.

We walked around the room in silence, as did everyone else.

The Last Post is played at the end of each day. The story of one of the 102,000 people whose names are on the Roll of Honour is read out. As much information as possible is gathered about the honoured person. Personal things, like where they grew up or what their life was like, as well as where they fought and died. Their family members are invited to honour the day by laying a wreath at the base of the Pool of Reflection.

By the year 2295 all the names on the Roll of Honour will have had their stories told. What a lovely way to remember our heroes.

“With the going down of the sun we will remember them.”

A name that is missing from the Roll of Honour is Breaker Morant. It is not because he was dishonoured, but because he was not a member of the Australian armed forces. He is not listed in the Commemorative Book, which lists the names of all the Australians who died in service of other allied armies, nor was he technically an Australian Citizen at the time. (I didn’t know that until I read it at the museum.)

Breaker Morant was born Edwin Harbord Morant on 9 December 1864 in Bridgwater in Somerset England. He immigrated to Australia in 1883 and adopted the name Harry as a first name before his became known as Breaker. Morant was a bush poet and a horseman. He served during the Second Boer War with the Bushveldt Carbineers, which was a short-lived mounted infantry regiment of the British Army. He reached the rank of Lieutenant when he was court-martialled. It is said that Morant retaliated for the death of his commanding officer in combat by revenge killings of both Boer POW’s and civilians. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out by a firing squad on 27 February 1902. Many Australians now regard Morant as an Australian and a scapegoat for the British. Over time attempts have been make to obtain a posthumous pardon or even a new trial for Morant. (A movie was made in 1980 about the court martialling of Breaker. We do seem to like our rebels in Australia.)

 

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