The Roll of Honour

Please note: In accordance with the Australian War Memorial’s Heritage Management Plan, and facilitated by a $1 million grant from the Department of the Environment’s Protecting National Historic Sites program for 2014–17, the Memorial’s Commemorative Area is undergoing a major refurbishment.

Work will take place in two stages:

  • Stage 1 (western cloister) between February and March 2016.
  • Stage 2 (eastern cloister) between December 2016 and March 2017.

The principal objective of this project is to replace the decaying fabric of the west and east string courses and sculptural figures by re-carving them in matching sandstone. The reconstruction of these essential architectural elements, designed by artist Leslie Bowles in 1939–40 to adorn the classical architectural design of John Crust and Emil Sodersten, will preserve the Commemorative Area’s historic, aesthetic, and social values for generations to come. Secondary goals for this project include repairing the Commemorative Area’s drainage systems and making water-tight all pavements and garden beds, as well as the Pool of Reflection.

To achieve the project’s principal objective, fully enclosed scaffolding must be erected along the full length of the western and then eastern cloisters. During each eight-to-ten-week stage of work, the scaffold will be covered with a photographic image of the wall behind it. Visitors will have full access to the Rolls of Honour while scaffolding is present, but its height will prevent the public from viewing the Last Post Ceremony from the cloisters. However, visitors will still be able to view the ceremony from in front of the scaffold beside the Pool of Reflection.

The first 13 sculptures were successfully installed on the western wall of the Commemorative Area in March 2016, with the final 13 to be installed on the eastern wall in March 2017. The original sculptures removed from the string course remain part of the Memorial’s art collection, and have been appropriately crated for storage.

All work is taking place along with extensive consultation with building and cultural heritage specialists. Consultations have also been held with cultural stakeholders, including the Department of Defence Indigenous Liaison Officer’s network and the local community, in accordance with Burra Charter best practice management for heritage sites and the Memorial’s Heritage Management Plan.

Website visitors can watch the re-creation of the bearded dragon sculpture here. Taking measurements from the original plaster moulds created in 1939–40, this highly trained and experienced sculptor can be seen employing ancient techniques virtually unchanged since medieval times.

At the entrance to the Memorial are two medieval stone lions that once stood at the gateway of the Menin road at Ypres (Ieper), and were damaged during the First World War. The lions were presented by the city of Ypres to the Memorial in 1936. From the entrance, you can see the copper-clad dome of the Hall of Memory - inside of which lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

Stepping through the front entrance to the Memorial, your attention is immediately captured by the Commemorative Courtyard. Straight ahead are the Pool of Reflection and the Eternal Flame. Above are 26 sculptures carved in sandstone, representing the people and animals inhabiting Australia. Light and shade, flowers and stone, flame and water: all the elements here are designed to evoke a mood of calm contemplation.

Surrounding the courtyard and glimpsed through arched cloisters is the Roll of Honour. Here are inscribed in bronze the names of virtually every Australian who has died in war since 1885 – more than 102,000 people. Australia is one of the few nations able to name its war dead so completely. Walking past the Roll gives an impression of the magnitude of this loss. Many visitors insert paper poppies in the niches of the Roll of Honour, next to a name that has significance for them.

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