We said farewell to Jindabyne and what’s left of the snowfields this morning to head to Canberra. It’s been over 10 years since either of us were here, and we were particularly interested in the War Memorial. It was early afternoon by the time we arrived, so thought we’d enjoy lunch with a view at the Telstra Tower and see what the Australia’s Capital looks like from 900m above sea level. The lake and city centre looked very pretty, but it was easy to see why it can be in danger during warmer months, as it is surrounded by so much dry bushland. The $7.50 entry fee was reasonable to see the city from this viewpoint, but the one thing we were shocked about – it’s the Telstra Tower, and we could barely get a bar of service to do a Facebook update! Very surprising. You’d think service would be off the scale, but clearly not.
After enjoying the view, we headed to the Australian War Memorial. We had been warned we might need quite a bit of time, even a couple of days, to make our way around so thought we’d better go there before seeing any other sights to get a feel for it. After spending a good few hours silently walking through exhibits dedicated to the ANZACs, the war in Afghanistan, World Wars I and II, we had to move on – not because we had seen it all, but it is quite confronting and extremely sad at the sheer number of predominantly young soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for our country. Not only that, but it had quickly approached 4:50pm. Each day the Memorial chooses one of the 100,000+ fallen, arranges for their family to attend and lay wreaths, and plays the Last Post just prior to closing time. The following extract is from the AWM website, describing the ceremony:
At the end of each day, commencing at 4.55 pm AEST, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post ceremony. The ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a Lament, played by a piper. Visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection. The Roll of Honour in the Cloisters lists the names of more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations over more than a century. At each ceremony the story behind one of these names will be told. The Ode is then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post.
The officer being commemorated today was Flying Officer Michael O’Meara Shanahan. further information can be found on him at https://www.awm.gov.au/research/people/roll_of_honour/person.asp?p=560909. The entire ceremony is broadcast live, for those family, friends or members of the public who can’t attend in person. Except for perhaps the children, who don’t yet fully understand the sacrifices made, there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere when the Last Post finally sounded. As the sun began to sink and shadows crossed the Pool of Remembrance, we were both quiet and very moved as we left the Memorial, determined to come back tomorrow, as we hadn’t even reached the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier yet.