Published: Tue 19 Mar 2013

Students from all across Australia who visit the Australian War Memorial are sharing messages of thanks for Australian soldiers who gave their lives during the First World War. These messages, written on small wooden crosses adorned with a single red poppy, will be placed on the graves of Australian soldiers across the battlefields of the Western Front.

Today students from Campbell High School, assisted by the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, packed these crosses in boxes to be sent from the Memorial to the battlefields.

“In the lead-up to the Centenary of the First World War, the Memorial is proud to be a part of such an important initiative, one which encourages students to reflect on the experiences of our First World War diggers,” said Dr Nelson.

“The Memorial is as much about our future as our past, so projects like this are important because they ensure that our leaders of tomorrow understand the importance of the sacrifices made by our Australian servicemen and women.”

With the help of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the crosses will be transported to four cemeteries in France and Belgium – Buttes New British Cemetery, Toronto Avenue Cemetery, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. The crosses will be placed by Australians on the graves of Australians as part of ANZAC Day 2013 ceremonies. 

The commemorative cross project began in late 2010; it was the initiative of Peter Pickering, from the Sons of the British Empire, with the support of Andrea Gerrard. They were keen to see the service of Australian soldiers who had died while overseas commemorated.

Beginning with students from Tasmania and South Australia, this project has expanded to become a nationwide initiative, and is expected grow further in the lead-up to the Centenary of the First World War.

The Australian War Memorial received around 2,000 crosses, on which visiting students were invited to write their messages, along with their names and their schools. An additional 500 clean crosses will be sent to Buttes and Villers-Bretonneux to allow the visiting public to write their own messages.

Every year more than 120,000 school students from around Australia and the world visit the Memorial to learn about the Australian experience of war and its impact on Australian society.

CONTACT DETAILS

Tom Vasey                 (02) 6243 4575       0409 600 038   media@awm.gov.au
Marylou Pooley           (02) 6243 4383       0412 646 298

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