The Flanders Fields Memorial Garden at the Australian War Memorial opened to the public on 4 April 2017.
The Garden is a commemoration of the Great War and, in particular, the 12,000 Australian lives lost in Belgium in 1917, of whom 6,000 have no known graves and are named on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper.
Work on the garden began in 2013, four years after the Flemish and Australian governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation between Australia and Belgium to increase community understanding and recognition in their respective countries of their shared history of the twentieth century's World Wars.
The Flanders Fields Memorial Garden is set within a formal grass court in the Australian War Memorial’s Western Precinct. An adjacent bronze plaque includes a dedication listing the Australian divisions that fought in Flanders, their insignia, and the cemeteries in which their members are buried.
The Memorial Garden was built from Portland Stone – the same stone used on the arch and in the remembrance panels of the Menin Gate in Ypres. The garden’s circular shape is reminiscent of the roof opening of the Menin Gate, through which poppy petals are scattered on Remembrance Day.
The commemorative text of John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders fields” is inscribed atop the Garden’s low stone walls. The overlapping text is designed to encourage visitors to experience the garden from every aspect as they walk around it in commemorative reflection. Much of the soil in the garden has come from areas of Flanders: It was collected in 2015 and 2016 with the assistance of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from the Tyne Cot Cemetery and many of the battlefields in which Australian soldiers fell. The soil was shipped to Australia for treatment in early 2017 before being mixed with Australian soil and added to the garden. It is within this soil that the poppies will continue to grow.
The Memorial gratefully acknowledges the support of the Flemish government, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Australian Embassy to Belgium and Luxembourg and Mission to the European Union and NATO.