The war memorial movement was underway before the First World War had ended. With almost two-fifths of men aged between 18 and 44 enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force, every community was touched by the war. Committees were established to create memorials in recognition of the service and sacrifice of members of the local community who had served their country.
Forms for memorials
Committees most often erected a cenotaph, obelisk, or statue (especially of an Australian Imperial Force soldier). Other communities chose pillars, cairns, windows, flagpoles, gates, ornamental structures, parks, gardens, or buildings as memorials.
In Australia war memorials held a special significance, as they often represented “surrogate graves” for soldiers whose bodies were buried in overseas war cemeteries or could not be located. Usually erected in prominent civic areas such as town squares, parks, central intersections, or near public schools, these local monuments continue to be a focus for community Anzac Day services.
Honouring their service
More than 90 per cent of local war memorials included a list of names. The criteria for inclusion of names varied. Sometimes only those who were born in or enlisted in the town were included. Other memorials listed those who were living or working in the town when they enlisted, or even those who became associated with the town after their military service.
Only in Australia was it common practice to include the names of those serving men and women who returned as well as those who died. Usually these names were listed separately. Where the names appeared together, those who died were often designated with a cross, asterisk, or dagger. Names were nearly always displayed in alphabetical order without any rank.
Registers of memorials
There is no national body responsible for war memorials in Australia. A register of local war memorials is maintained in each state. Northern Territory memorials are listed with the South Australian register.
Local government bodies enquiring about federal government assistance in setting up war memorials and rolls of honour should contact:
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: 133 254
A. Borg, War memorials, Leo Cooper, London, 1991
K.S. Inglis, Sacred places: war memorials in the Australian landscape, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2008
E. Scott, Australia during the war, the official history of Australia in the war of 1914–1918, vol. 9, Angus and Robertson, (Sydney, 1941, p. 874
- Australian War Memorial – origins
- War memorials, Department of Veterans' Affairs website
- War memorials in Australia
Archived database of memorials in the states and territories of Australia
- Memorials to Aboriginal soldiers
- Australians in the Boer War: memorials
- RSL Virtual War Memorial
- Remembrance Driveway
- Queensland war memorial register
- Register of war memorials in New South Wales
- South Australian & Northern Territory war memorials
- Tasmanian war memorials
- Victorian war heritage inventory
Searchable database of sites relating to Victoria’s war history including war memorials
- War memorials in Western Australia
- Caring for war memorials
Information sheets prepared by the New South Wales Office of Communities, Veterans’ Affairs