Remembrance 2021

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NOVEMBER 2021-22 | VOLUME 11





Gunner 1919 by George Benson (1886–1960)




REMEMBRANCE NOVEMBER 2021-22 | Volume 11 ISSN 2209-3826

AUSTRALIANS ALL Who we are. Where we’ve come from. The forces that shape us. How we relate to each other and the world… This year, the Shrine explores the weighty theme of ‘identity’ through an interrelated suite of exhibitions, interviews, podcasts and events.

ON THE COVER Shrine at dusk 2021 photographer Earl Carter

Remembrance is published by the Shrine of Remembrance. Editorial Team Sue Burgess, Naias Mingo, Sue Curwood and Leigh Gilburt Art Director and Production Manager Louise Thrush Friends of the Shrine enquiries: Friends of the Shrine, GPO Box 1603, Melbourne Victoria 3001 For more information email or call 03 9661 8100 © All material appearing in Remembrance is copyright. Reproduction in whole or part, whether stored in an electronic retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, must be approved by the publisher. Every effort has been made to determine and contact holders of copyright for materials used in Remembrance. The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne welcomes advice concerning any omission.



Few events in Australia’s modern history have shaped our sense of national self more than the actions of the ANZACS at Gallipoli. For more than 100 years, Australians have continued to draw influence from the actions of our defence force men and women. The Shrine and its related monuments provide proof, as war ravaged communities sought to secure aspects of identity threatened by the loss of loved ones in wartime. Identity often forms around national themes, derived from actions on the world stage. The recently federated nation of Australia became a global actor in the First World War; and the birth of the ANZAC legend defined what many hold to be essential Australian qualities set-down by Former Governor-General, Sir William Deane: courage, endurance, duty, love of country, mateship and good humour. Yet a nation’s identity must by its nature be reflective of the communities, families and people living within it. Increasingly, we are coming to recognise how difference may be acknowledged, accepted, embraced and championed— without detriment to the whole. Some fear change that challenges their pre-determined social framework. I contend that the considered reframing of individual difference—making it part of a shared identity rather than a divisive tool—presents one of society’s greatest opportunities: allowing us to maximise our human potential through the additive value of diversity in thinking and action. Few better opportunities exist to explore this theme than examination of the lived, multi-generational, experience of Australians caused to confront the human condition in the

crucible of war. This year, ‘identity’ is the lens we will bring to focus as we continue our efforts to understand and reflect upon the experience of all Australians in wartime. Our special exhibition, Lust. Love. Loss., will examine the intersection of primal passions for blood and intimacy in war. This will be followed by an exhibition examining the experience of LGBTQI+ members of the Australian Defence Force—an aspect of Australia’s military history often ignored. To conclude the series, a reflection on the unique experiences of Indigenous service personnel in the ADF will be shared in a reinterpretation of the Shrine’s successful Indigenous Australians at War touring exhibition: exploring new perspectives of Indigenous service in the First and Second World Wars. Reflecting the theme of identity and informed by our increased use of digital channels to advance our purpose, we have also recast the Shrine’s graphic design language and updated the logo introduced in 2003. More evolution than revolution, the design language continues to draw upon the iconic architectural forms of the Shrine monument, interpreting them in contemporary ways. Upholding our heritage, while recognising and embracing our place in the hearts of Victorians. We are ‘the Shrine’. Yours in commemoration,

Dean M Lee




NOVEMBER 2021-22 | VOLUME 11









by Neil Sharkey

by Kate Spinks-Colas

by Katrina Nicolson

by Sue Burgess and Katrina Nicolson




by Peter Luby

By Carolyn Argent

by Naias Mingo




by Peter Luby










by Neil Sharkey

by Toby Miller

by Leigh Gilburt




Female Impersonator (Private Victor Fox) 1945 by Geoffrey Mainwaring (1912–2000) AWM (ART24388)



Soldier and woman 1943 by Sidney Simon (1917–97) AWM (ART29393)



The Shrine of Remembrance’s newest special exhibition Lust. Love. Loss: Australian stories of wartime relationships explores the intersection of sex and war. The exhibition examines important themes of the topic by showcasing works of art and historical artefacts representing universal experiences across time. The core of the exhibition is a selection of official Australian war art on loan from Australian War Memorial and original artefacts from the Shrine’s own collection.


he complex issues surrounding matters of love and sex profoundly affect people, everywhere and every day. Wartime is no exception. Indeed, the disruptive nature of war and the extraordinary situations it brings about, inevitably magnify human experience in these areas. The love lives of millions of Australians— military and civilian alike—have been formed by their experiences in wartime as perilous, uncertain times prime individuals for intense and personally transformative experiences and relationships. Marriage and birth figures from Second World War (1939–45) illustrate the urgency with which Australian men and women strove to establish and cement their relationships during that conflict.

Some 374,500 marriages occurred in Australia during the war—89,000 more than the number of marriages projected for the same period before the war. Births reached 39,117 in 1943, the highest figure recorded since 1891. Marriage and birth rates would remain high in the immediate post-war years resulting in the highly influential ‘baby boom’ (1946–64) demographic.

Among a host of novel customs, the Americans introduced a sophisticated dating culture and more open attitudes to sex. Young Australians, particularly women, were impressed. The American GIs had access to exotic consumer goods, were considered better dressed and mannered than their Australian counterparts and represented wealth, glamour, and modernity.

The arrival of almost one million American service personnel in Australia during the Second World War presented ordinary Australians (who had traditionally looked to Britain for cultural leadership) with a very different lifestyle, and the wartime American influx would mark the beginning of an enduring cultural shift in this country.

Soldier and Woman (1943) by American official war artist Sidney Simon (1917–97) depicts a brooding Australian military policeman eyeing off an American GI as he courts a local girl, beautifully encapsulating the jealously, suspicion and rivalry which raged between the men of the two Allied states. An almost identical motif is employed by Australian war



One Sunday Afternoon in Townsville 1942 by Roy Hodgkinson (1911–93) AWM (ART21350)

artist Roy Hodgkinson (1911–93) in his watercolour One Sunday afternoon in Townsville (1942) but the context is quite different. The dominating figure—again a military policeman, this one American—serves to separate an ensemble of young white male and female Australian and American service personnel from two African American soldiers at a fortified Queensland beach. The United States military attaché reported to Washington on 4 August 1942 that ‘the easy and intimate association between our Negro troops and some white women here has given rise to some resentment on the part of Negroes over the restraint that has been imposed on them at home.’ Reports in the Baltimore Afro-American and other stateside newspapers of the generally warm welcome given to the 8,000 Africa-



Americans stationed in Australia helped provide political impetus to the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Indigenous Australians, meanwhile, encouraged to socialise with black Americans by the Australian authorities (a noxious attempt to discourage interactions between white Australians and black Americans) learnt of African American efforts to improve conditions in their own country, thereby drawing inspiration for their own struggle.

while serving overseas during the First World War (1914–18) and they sponsored the passage of some 18,000 women and children to Australia at war’s end. Australian airmen participating in the Empire Air Training scheme during the Second World War, meanwhile, brought 4,027 wives and 878 fiancées to Australia in 1948. Conversely some 15,000 Australian women left our shore in the years after the Second World War—two thirds of these moving to the United States.

Australian servicemen and women have themselves travelled to distant, exotic locales during wartime, interacting with people—however fleetingly—they would never have otherwise met. Migration rates in the years immediately following Australia’s wars bear this out. Over 12,000 Australian soldiers married

Motoe Higashida was one of 650 Japanese ‘war brides’ who arrived in Australia in 1953. Her husband, career soldier Warrant Officer Ian Robertson, was one of hundreds of Australian servicemen stationed in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (1946–52) and during the Korean War

Portrait of Motoe Higashida in her kimono

Motoe’s kimono fabric

Image courtesy of Motoe Hiashida

Image courtesy of Motoe Hiashida

(1950–53). The pair overcame official prohibitions and considerable social pressure in both countries to be with each other. The exhibition features love tokens exchanged between the two as well as a magnificent kimono Motoe brought with her to her new home. Beyond the forging of lasting and meaningful relationships, Australian service personnel have also often been guilty of objectifying local people, in the countries to which they have been deployed, as the exotic ‘other’. Sexual politics aside, a nude post card of a Balinese woman kept by Lieutenant Jim Bryant MM during his captivity at the Changi POW camp served as a beacon of hope, nonetheless. Erotic and sexually provocative imagery have long been a popular

diversion for troops on deployment, far removed from romantic prospects. The explicitness of the images—be they nude postcards, pin-ups or pornographic videos— has changed with the times, but the end goal—of placing the viewer in a fantasy world, far removed from danger—remains unchanged. Strong, rigorously trained warriors have been celebrated by their societies since ancient times and are themselves often presented as sex symbols. Powerful associations have been drawn between valour and sexual potency. Warriors are encouraged to glorify physicality and their own bodies. The uniforms servicepeople wear, particularly dress uniforms, are often designed to enhance this sex appeal. For example, the jaunty and tightfitting uniforms worn by the Royal

Australian Navy throughout most its history were arguably as attractive as they were functional. First World War Official War Artist, George Benson’s (1886–1960) barechested Gunner (1919)—tall, lean, chiselled, poised—represents the classical ideal of male beauty. His virility is underscored symbolically (if not subtly) by the six-inch charge case nestled in his hands and the backgrounded howitzer rising from his loins. A cheeky juxtaposition to the Gunner’s magnificence is the nude portrait of Corporal Alicia Carr, Darwin (1999) by Wendy Sharpe (b. 1960) painted during the deployment of iNTERFET forces to East Timor (1999–2000). The maintenance of open lines of communication between service personnel posted overseas and



Gunner 1919 by Roy Hodgkinson (1911–93)

AWM (ART19992)

their partners at home, or at other battlefronts, is among the greatest challenges faced by any wartime couple. Separation brought about by military deployments may intensify a couple’s longing for one another but can just as easily erode the bonds that sustain their relationship. Clutching a letter from her husband, scrawled on YMCA stationery, everywoman Jessie (1940) by William Edwin Pidgeon (1909–81) represents the anxiety felt by the partners of all service personnel on deployment. Letters, parcels and postcards have been supplemented by newer communications technologies— telegrams, lettergrams, recorded messages, e-mail, satellite calls, Facebook and Zoom. The end goal remains the same—to keep love alive.



The spectre of infidelity hovers over all couples in wartime. Partners of individuals in the armed forces not only have to deal with anxiety arising from the potential harm that might come to their lovers on the battlefield but the temptation they might encounter behind the lines. Sweetheart brooches of various designs (handmade ‘trench art’ and those acquired commercially) were gifted to women by servicemen in both world wars and allowed women to support a loved one serving in the armed forces. Men risking their lives far from home, no doubt, hoped the jewellery would also ward off prospective suitors while they were away. Love tokens and mementos remain popular among service personnel of both sexes today. ‘Wartime morality’, stemming from fear that death may come at any

time, disrupts pre-war social norms and lowers inhibitions. Civilians and troops alike have found themselves compelled—by loneliness, frustration or economic privation—to pursue encounters, or engage in sexual behaviours, that may not have occurred in peacetime. Constantly on the move, short on privacy and the time needed to cultivate meaningful relationships, many servicepeople will seek out the services of sex workers. Conversely, other Australians, for reasons personal and economic, will opt to provide these services. Garrison towns and naval harbours have long been home to higher ratios of sex workers, especially in wartime. Lieutenant Frederick Manning, an Australian serving in the British Army, wrote in his novel Her Privates We:

Jessie 1940 by William Edwin Pidgeon (1909–81) AWM (ART94590) NOVEMBER 2021-22 REMEMBRANCE


Compensation (Back of the Waggon Lines) 1918  by Will Dyson (1880–1938)  SHRINE COLLECTION



Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), or Venereal Disease as they were previously known, have been a scourge of the Australian military throughout its history. At least 55,000 Australian soldiers were treated for gonorrhoea and syphilis during the First World War and cost more than two thousand five hundred years in lost military efficiency. It was the largest collective self-inflicted wound of the war. On display in the exhibition is one of the thousands of Blue Light Outfits issued during both wars, named for the Army treatment depots, illuminated with blue lights, where men received treatment. STI infection rates for Australian Troops in the Second World War (a peak of 48 cases per thousand troops in 1941) was only 65.7 percent of the rate ‘achieved’ on the Western Front in First World War but began climbing alarmingly at war’s end among BCOF troops in Japan (29 percent of the Australians who served with the force). Among

War kills. Bereft lovers must decide how they will proceed—alone or with new partners. The death of Australian Major General George Vasey in an air crash near Cairns, Queensland on 5 March 1945, spurred his wife Jessie to advocate on behalf of other war widows. Jessie Vasey founded the War Widows’ Guild of Australia on 22 November 1945 and achieved an increase in the war widows’ pension and other benefits, such as free public transport and allowances for children. The Lust. Love. Loss. exhibition does not shy from the most odious aspects of sex in wartime. Sexual violence has been a constant, hideous companion of war since the very


The exhibition design of Lust. Love. Loss. is an important aspect of visitor experience. The colour palette will be dominated by pink—a hue closely associated with sensitivity and romance but also of luridness— coupled with a dark shade of khaki, emblematic of military uniforms, trench mud and grime. The salonstyle hang highlights the eclectic nature of the items on display and the exhibition’s non-linear storyline. items and works of art from the world wars sit alongside artefacts and depictions of more modern-day deployments. The Shrine’s East Gallery can only hope to host an introduction to such a vast topic but the visitor is sure to come away with an enhanced perspective. Lust. Love. Loss. explores how Australian attitudes to sex in wartime shifted further away from duty and procreation to pleasure and self-realisation. Australians have grappled with complicated wartime relationships, endured long separations, infidelities, abuse and abandonment. Unplanned children and sexually transmitted infections have thrown lives into turmoil. Same sex attractions and liaisons with exotic lovers opened new worlds. Public behaviour, attitudes and discourse around sexuality today, while certainly more sophisticated than in decades past, continues to be affected by the social, political, moral and economic fallout of wartime.


Neil Sharkey is Curator at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Adapting to war’s destructive aftermath tests even the most committed couples. Divorce rates in Australia rose dramatically in the years immediately following both world wars and some 38 percent of Vietnam veterans’ marriages failed within six months of their repatriation. One study indicated a staggering 42 percent of Australian Vietnam veterans had engaged in at least one act of violence against a partner in the preceding year. Veterans of modern wars will continue to struggle. Without support, some individuals—restless, traumatised or alienated—will neglect, abuse, or desert their significant others. Long periods of self-sufficiency, meanwhile, may give their spouses confidence to contemplate life alone.

beginning—employed to victimise and intimidate. Battlefield injuries, physical and psychological, have harmed veterans’ ability to forge future relationships and build families and has left damaging sexual fixations and behaviours. Sex too has been a weapon—exploited by spies, recruiters, propagandists—to coerce soldier and civilian alike to fulfil a nation’s war aims.


Far removed from disapproving family and friends, often among peers who would turn a blind eye or actively encourage them to pay for sex, Australian soldiers during the First World War were notorious for the gusto in which they sought out the Red-Light districts of Columbo, Cairo, Paris and London. The Australian Digger’s pay of six shillings to the British Tommy’s one meant that Australians tended to dominate the market for sex workers in any town they passed through. Compensation (Back of the Waggon Lines) (1918) by Australia’s first official war artist Will Dyson (1880– 1938) provides an idealised depiction of such a transaction.

Australian troops in Korea infection rates peaked at 386 cases per 1,000. The rates of infection among Australian troops in Vietnam (1962–73) reached an astounding 478 cases per thousand troops in 1967. Those servicepeople who had not sought proper treatment often found their prospects for a successful relationship at war’s end was greatly compromised.


segregated males hungered for two fundamental necessities… food and women. In the shuddering revulsion from death one turns instinctively to love as an act which seems to affirm the completeness of being.





Experiences of LGBTIQ+ Personnel BY KATE SPINKS-COLAS

DEFGLIS Members lay a rainbow wreath in the Shrine’s Sanctuary Anzac Day 2021 Image courtesy of DEFGLIS


In July 2022, the Shrine will launch a special exhibition that aims to shine a light on an aspect of Australia’s military history that has, until recently, largely been ignored or absent from our war memorials.


n Anzac Day 1982, the Shrine of Remembrance became inextricably associated with the discrimination and exclusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender diverse, Intersex, and Queer and Questioning (LGBTIQ+) service community when Bruce Ruxton, then Victorian President of the Returned Services League (RSL), stopped five veterans laying a wreath in honour of gay and lesbian people who had served and died in war. The five men were representatives from a newly formed organization called the Gay Ex-Services Association (GESA). Founding member and Vietnam veteran, Max Campbell suggested that the association begin to lay a wreath on Anzac Day. Max was overseas in 1982 when the first attempt to lay a wreath was made; however, he and another GESA member, Terry, bravely attempted again in 1983. Although initial attempts were met with the same refusal, they were eventually able to lay the wreath later in the day on Anzac Day in 1983. Interviewed by author Noah Riseman in 2015, Max stated that a reporter from The Age had seen them being refused entry to the Shrine and came

and spoke to them. Max then spoke with the Shrine’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Wing Commander Peter Isaacson, resulting in Max and Terry being allowed to lay their wreath later in the afternoon.

absent from memorials like the Shrine. The exhibition will be part of a series of programs and events that are broadly based on the concept of identity in relation to service and sacrifice.

The Shrine’s Chairman ultimately stood by the memorial’s intended purpose as a place of commemoration for all Australians to commemorate all who have served. However, the events of the previous year already entwined the history of the Shrine with the exclusion of the LGBTIQ+ community.

It will explore the intersection of LGBTIQ+ identities and identities relating to service in Australia’s defence force. Some of the central questions that will inform the exhibition include: how has being LGBTIQ+ and being part of the Australian Defence Force shaped people’s lives and personal stories; and what does a Queer history of service and sacrifice look like?

It is a confronting juncture in the Shrine’s story and one that we cannot disentangle ourselves from. However, we can take ownership of this unpleasant event and everything it represents. We can use it to draw attention to the diverse experiences and stories of LGBTIQ+ service people and celebrate their incredible contribution to service— often in the face of discrimination, marginalisation and silencing. In 2022, the Shrine will launch a special exhibition that aims to shine a light on this aspect of Australia’s military history that has, until more recently, largely been ignored or

The exhibition is an opportunity for the voices of people who have served their country to be heard, celebrated and acknowledged, without stripping them of an essential aspect of who they are. It is well known that history has been (and often continues to be) shaped by heteronormative views and assumptions. Exclusion has been the way to maintain this illusion of homogeneity and heteronormativity. The Shrine itself has contributed to maintaining a heteronormative view of Australia’s military history. This is



Thankfully, the 1982 wreath laying incident at the Shrine was not the last word on the subject. In fact, one significant legacy of this event is that it gave rise to something called the


DEFGLIS participates in Anzac Day because this day is important to all Australians. The Rainbow Wreath Project allows us to celebrate our brave history, and the identity and shared values that were forged in battle and make us proud of who we are. DEFGLIS Members and exserving personnel are honoured to continue this tradition annually, as it is an important part of recognising the rich diversity of

Whilst there has been an external reclaiming of the Shrine by some members of the LGBTIQ+ service community through the Rainbow Wreath Project, it is important that changes from within the organisation are championed. This is the path to establish meaningful and lasting connections and transformation between the Shrine and those it serves and represents. Almost 40 years have passed since the Shrine was embroiled in the very public exclusion of the LGBTIQ+ service community. It is beyond time to reestablish the true purpose of the Shrine as a place of commemoration for all Australians, honouring all who have served or died for the country.


Kate Spinks-Colas is Curator: Exhibitions and Collections at the Shrine of Remembrance.

The annual ritual was started by the Defence Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Information Service (DEFGLIS), a non-partisan volunteer charity that supports LGBTI serving members, exservice members and veterans of the Australian Defence Force and their families. Nathan White, President of DEFGLIS says:

those who served and sacrificed in war and non-warlike operations. Wreath laying is an important commemorative tradition that recognises all who served. The Rainbow Wreaths placed by DEFGLIS are a colourful tribute to remember LGBTI personnel who served, the sacrifice of all who served and to recognise the families who supported them.


The upcoming exhibition and programming offers the beginning of what is intended to be a new path for the Shrine and for the memorial’s relationship with the LGBTIQ+ service community: something productive and, maybe, something that has healing potential. In setting out on this new path, the Shrine will liaise closely with Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ service community as well as researchers and authors who have, in recent years, done much to shed light on the previously hidden stories and history of LGBTIQ+ service members.

Rainbow Wreath Project. Established in 2015, a rainbow wreath has been laid every year on Anzac Day at the Shrine, as well as other memorials around the country, to honour the diversity of those who have served and died for Australia.


not just evident in the exclusion of the five gay veterans who attempted to pay their respects to fellow service men and women in 1982, thereby denying their very existence as part of the Anzac tradition; it is also evident in the permanent Galleries at the Shrine where representation of LGBTIQ+ service people and their stories have been absent.



SAME Aboriginal Platoon December 1940 Number 9 Camp, Wangaratta This Platoon, all volunteers, was the only Aboriginal Platoon in the Australian Military Forces (AMF). It was led by Major Joseph Wright, a First World War Light Horse veteran. (BACK ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) Lance Corporal Edward Mullett, Albert Hayes, Campbell Johnson, Major Wright, Otto Logan, Harold Hayes, Eugene Mobourne, Sergeant Morris. (FRONT ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) Noel Hood, Watson Atkinson, David Mullett, Joe Wandin, Sam Rankin. AWM (02140.002)



The experiences of Victoria’s First Peoples in the Australian Defence Forces and on the homefront will be explored in a new exhibition at the Shrine opening in April 2022.


atching VFL football one Saturday afternoon, in perhaps the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, my family were surprised when our father suddenly said: ‘I reckon I played footy with that bloke’s grandfather— best footballer I’ve ever known— he plays just like him.’ Not a bad accolade from Dad, who was a highly regarded player in the local league in his youth and an avid, and knowledgeable, VFL fan. The ‘bloke’ in question was an Indigenous player from Western Australia, so we were mystified as to when and where Dad, who was born and bred in Western District Victoria, would have encountered his grandfather–if Dad was right. During the Second World War (1939– 45) while training in Queensland, Dad played inter-battalion footballthe man he recalled played with him in the winning team. Post-match, they all went to a pub to celebrate, but the Indigenous soldier was refused entry in no uncertain terms. Dad and his teammates were disgusted. In Dad’s words: We were all the same like then. All in the same war, in the same team. So, if they wouldn’t have him, they couldn’t have us. We


got some beers [elsewhere] and went and drank them behind the grandstand. This story sheds light on an important aspect of First Peoples’ service in the Australian military. While racism could and did still occur behind the lines, it was greatly reduced amongst troops who served together and relied on each other for their security. Sadly, this did not always last and there are tales of First Peoples veterans being excluded from sharing a drink on Anzac Day and not being supported by their mates. It was also my introduction to the experiences of First Peoples in military service. Dad never found out if he was right, but his story stuck with me, and 40 years later there is a certain serendipity in finding myself working in this area of research. In April 2022, the Shrine will launch an exhibition exploring the Australian Defence Force experiences of Victoria’s First Peoples servicemen and women and their families. This exhibition builds on the Shrine’s previous exhibition Indigenous Australians at War: from the Boer War to the Present. Inspired by the Victorian Aboriginal Remembrance Service, which the

Stuart Nicolson in football uniform 1947 Reproduced courtesy of the Nicolson family

Shrine has hosted each year since its inception in 2007, the exhibition grew out of a collaboration with the Victorian Aboriginal Remembrance Committee and Koorie Heritage Trust. In 2010, the exhibition launched at the Shrine and subsequently toured regional Victoria (2012–14) and nationally (2015–18), notably Uluru, and Thursday Island for the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion 75th Anniversary commemorations. This new exhibition reflects the significant research undertaken in the 12 years since the first, resulting in an increased understanding of First Peoples’ service. It was originally

Robert Charles Searle Reproduced courtesy of Pat Keenan, Lorraine Symington and Peter Bakker

Signalman Claude McDonald and Aircraftwoman Alice Lovett 1944 Wedding portrait AWM (P05049.004)



Private Chris Saunders c 1916 AWM (P00889.012)


First Peoples’ readiness to join Australia’s military and fight in wars abroad, from the Boer War to the present day, is remarkable, given not only the long history of conflict between Indigenous and nonIndigenous Australians, Indigenous dispossession, and denial of equal rights, but the erratic administration of Defence policies that actively discouraged their enlistment. Despite these issues, for many, Defence service provided their first experience of equal treatment. In each of the two World Wars, First Peoples were first permitted then denied enlistment. Many men were rejected on the grounds of race, specifically, that they were not substantially of European descent; only to be actively encouraged to

First Peoples joined up for the same reasons as their non-Indigenous counterparts: adventure; escape, often from Mission life and from oppression; good pay; educational opportunities and because they felt it their duty. the natives at the Condah station felt that they were real Britishers, having been born under the Australian flag, and were willing to fight to a man if they were accepted by the military authorities James Arden, Gunditjmara man from Lake Condah, quoted in The Age, 13 April 1916. Many also joined because they felt it would advance their community’s cause for equal rights and citizenship. While Defence paid equal wages to First Peoples enlisted in regular forces, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enlisted in the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit (NTSRU) and the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion (TSLIB) were paid significantly less than their white counterparts, if at all. The Yolngu in

the NTSRU received three sticks of tobacco a week, with no monetary pay until back pay and service medals were finally awarded in 1993. Members of the TSLIB were paid only a third of the regular rate and were not entitled to the same leave as non-Indigenous soldiers. After one of their number was killed, they struck for better conditions. The Army raised their pay to two thirds the regular rate. Back pay was finally awarded in the 1980s and medals in 2005. Despite the positive experiences of many in the two World Wars, First Peoples veterans returned to the same discrimination and poor living conditions they had previously known. Many employers offered preferential positions to veterans, but First Peoples were actively discouraged from applying for this work. The soldier settlement scheme, which offered farming land to veterans, was not only denied the majority, but to add insult to indignity, lands previously reserved for First Peoples were transferred to non-Indigenous veterans. Gunditjmara man, Herbert Lovett applied for land near Lake Condah, his family’s traditional land, but was denied. Percy Pepper, a Gurnai/Kurnai man from East Gippsland was one of the very few First Peoples allocated a block. It was in a reclaimed swamp at Koo Wee Rup. Repeated flooding made the farm unworkable, and he was forced to give it up. After the Second World War restrictions on First Peoples’ service in the military were removed. It is still difficult to know how many have chosen to serve since that time, as until the 1980s the military did not ask enlistees about their heritage. It is estimated over a thousand First Peoples are serving in the modern Australian Defence Force, which values traditional and technical skills equally. This exhibition covers 120 years of service by First Peoples. The stories presented provide insight into the challenges, positive and negative, they and their families faced in service and on the home front. It will be on display in the South West Gallery of the Shrine until April 2023.


Katrina Nicolson is the Exhibitions and Collections Research Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Eliza Saunders, mother of First World War serviceman, Chris Saunders, and grandmother of Harry Saunders, who was killed in the Second World War and Reg Saunders, who served in that war and in Korea, was particularly troubled by the Board. On learning she had been saving her allotment from Chris’s wage to pay for some land and a house the Board cut off her rations and refused her permission to leave Lake Condah Mission Station.


Similarly, several First Peoples have now been identified as serving during the Boer War (1899–1902). The Shrine is grateful to Peter Bakker, the researcher who first alerted us to the fact the Boer War soldier represented as Indigenous in the original exhibition was in fact of West Indian origin, and then kindly shared the results of his further research. He identified Robert Searle, a descendant of Eliza Nowen, a Bunurong woman from the southern coast of Victoria, as a member of the 4th Imperial Bushmen’s corps. He is one of many individual scholars whose work complements that undertaken by the Australian War Memorial, Australian National University and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, among others, to provide much greater insight into the complexity of First Peoples’ service. The Shrine too has contributed to the fund of knowledge, by recording oral histories, consulting with community at each tour venue for new stories and collaborating with the Department of Veteran Affairs on Primary and Secondary School resources on this topic.

enlist as casualties rose and more manpower was needed. Some circumvented the regulations by stating they were Pacific Islander, Maori or Indian. This had the dual benefit of enabling them to enlist, and ensuring their wages were not controlled or reduced by the repressive State Protectors of Aborigines. These Boards offered scant ‘protection’ and often sought to bar families from receiving rations or assistance while in receipt of a military allotment or pension.


estimated around 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in the First World War, now over 1,000 men are identified as enlisted, and the number is growing.






Changed Forever: Legacies of conflict commenced its tour in late 2019. Whilst the events of 2020 have had an impact, the exhibition is still strongly resonating with audiences. Visitors are leaving with a strong sense of our shared humanity.


he Shrine’s current touring exhibition, Changed Forever: Legacies of conflict, explores the stories of refugees fleeing conflict zones alongside the experience of recent veterans who served overseas with the Australian Defence Force and the impact conflict has had on their families. Visitors are invited to delve into the influence of global and civil conflict on changing lives and shaping contemporary Australia through engagement with these very personal stories. The oral histories shared with us have been shaped into narratives enhanced with art, objects, photographs, poetry and audio visuals. The exhibition launched in September 2019 with a resounding performance at the Shrine by the Dili Allstars band, led by Paulie Stewart OAM and Jose ‘Zeca’ Mesquite, two of the exhibition storytellers. It was a wonderful opportunity for our storytellers to meet each other for the first time. The tour started positively at the Hume Global Learning Centre in Craigieburn. If we needed affirmation of the importance of the exhibition, we got it with our community group tours. Tour participants from a local Community Hubs group found the stories gave them the language to share their stories with others around them: ‘This was amazing, I didn’t think anyone in Australia would understand what it meant to be sent away from my mother and

father, but she understood exactly. I am outspoken and my father worried that I would be shot if I stayed in Mosul and he begged [my husband] to take me and look after me in Australia and we are now married, but I miss my home.’ ‘This powerful exhibition triggered personal stories of fleeing conflict and settlement in Australia... It was a wonderful moment in the Hub when two women found they had a common connection emanating from their home city of Mosul.’ Arriving at Bendigo Soldiers Memorial in February 2020, storytellers, Museum staff, volunteers and visitors were all enthusiastic about the exhibition. At the launch we had over 40 people hear from storytellers and curators about the exhibition. Visitation was very strong in the four weeks it was open to the public, with many encouraging and heartfelt comments left in the Visitor Book. Here are some reflections from our Bendigo visitors: ‘Thank you for your stories and courage.’ ‘Covers so much and puts the world in a perspective that we overlook from our own comfort zones–gripping, emotional and a wake up call!’ ‘Very humbling and evocative.’ Then in March 2020, the world changed and we were all required to close our doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. The exhibition spent the bulk of 2020 locked away inside the

Soldiers Memorial. It was a great day in February 2021, almost 12 months later, that we opened at the Walker St Gallery in Dandenong. Due to visitor restrictions it was launched with a curator talk online. This achieved over 500 views and visitors to the exhibition were thrilled to see previously unknown stories on display. We were fortunate to have Jean McAuslan, exhibition curator and former Shrine Director of Access and Learning, return to lead our rescheduled community program. She was joined by storytellers James Farquharson, Paulie Stewart OAM and Zeca Mesquite, in his first public speaking engagement. This was serendipitous, as all three have connections to East Timor and between them covered the themes underpinning the exhibition—refugee, family and service impacts of conflict. Zeca was born in East Timor, his family fled the Indonesian invasion; Paulie’s brother Tony was killed at Balibo, one of five Australian journalists murdered by Indonesian forces; and James served with UNMISET (UN Mission in Support of East Timor). Dandenong is one of the most culturally diverse areas of Victoria, which was reflected in attendance at the Gallery. ‘Visitors came from very diverse backgrounds and some had never visited Walker Street Gallery before and came because of the content of the exhibition.’ The exhibition enjoyed more strong local support at the Cube 37 Gallery



Frankston exhibition launch 2021. (left to right) Ben Pullin, James Farquharson, LTCDR Helen Ward and Matter Muchar

Frankston and the Central Goldfields Art Gallery, Maryborough. We could hold physical launches and once again our storytellers were generous in sharing their experiences. In Frankston we had four storytellers at the launch; visitors were fortunate to hear some heartfelt reflections, including how much it means to be a part of the exhibition: Thank you for displaying this wonderful exhibition and allowing us to tell our stories. Helen Ward We were lucky to deliver community programs to two U3A groups and a combined group of Rural Australians for Refugees and general public in Maryborough between lockdowns. The talks coincided with Refugee Week, which brought a new audience to the gallery. Staff reported many of the new visitors had not previously thought exhibitions of this nature would run regionally.


A visitor to Maryborough was so moved by the exhibition he wrote to the local paper: I am compelled to say that I was deeply affected by the exhibition. It is a very confronting display, extremely artistically and tastefully presented, and very deeply engaging and moving of the experiences of a number of people associated with some of the more recent theatres of war and conflict in which Australia has been involved. It is the ‘telling of the stories’ of soldiers, sailors, and aviators from the Australian Defence Forces and their families, and the equally compelling stories of civilians whose lives have been affected by these and similar events in recent years. In each of these cases, the title of the exhibition describes exactly what has happened to the lives of these men, women and children whether military or civilian, whether friend or foe. This deep emotional engagement has been a feature of visitor

comments so far across all venues. Undoubtedly, the power of the exhibition lies with the storytellers and their compelling stories. Hearing from them in their own words at each launch has been a highlight. Each time we attend a launch event, we are reminded of the bravery and resilience of each of the storytellers. Their stories help us to expand our understanding of what civilians and service people go through in war; to bridge the gap in comprehension between Australians at home and service people who have served abroad and new arrivals. Visitors are left with a strong sense of our shared humanity. For many of the storytellers, the experience has been cathartic and gives them confidence to move forward in their lives. We are grateful for their generosity and openness. It is very important for me to learn to express my emotions in my art and have the chance to talk about these experiences as well. Being

Changed Forever launch event at the Shrine 2019 photographer Susan Gordon-Brown

One of our aims with the exhibition has been to collect new stories along the way. The circumstances of the last 18 months have made this challenging but we are still keen to capture the stories of others and include them digitally in the exhibition. Please contact us at if you would like to share your story. Our goal has always been to tour the exhibition to as much of Regional Victoria as possible. So, we are excited to share that come December, we will be at Coal Creek Community Park and Museum, Korumburra, followed by runs in Swan Hill and Pyramid Hill.


Open Arms Safe Zone Support offers free, 24 hour, anonymous counselling for all current and ex-serving members of the ADF, veterans and their families. Call 1800 142 072. Lifeline is supported by TIS National (Translating and Interpretation Services) to provide interpretation and translation for their crisis support help line. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT:



We could not have known how relevant this exhibition would be, given the unfolding events in Afghanistan. Many of our storytellers have strong links to Afghanistan,

Sue Burgess is Director Public Programs and Katrina Nicolson is Exhibitions Outreach and Grants Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.

If this article has raised concerns for you or a loved one, help is available.


James Farquharson

either as refugees or service veterans. In recent days we have been made painfully aware of how tenuous safety can be and how quickly people’s lives are changed forever.


part of this exhibition has affirmed the importance of my service and helped rebuild my self-confidence.



Sketch of the Shrine under construction 1931 by Len Annois (1906–1966) pen and ink on paper SLV (H91.290/10)


Shrine Construction Workers, 1928-1934 BY PETER LUBY


The Shrine was built by an ‘army’ of master builders, labourers, craftsmen, returned soldiers and the unemployed, but individual workers have rarely been given a voice or even a name. A few surviving stories tell of a troubled worksite during the darkest years of the Great Depression.


n 2010 builders clearing rubble from the subterranean foundations of the Shrine discovered a crate of empty beer bottles dating back to the 1920’s. They then noticed at the base of a brick pillar a small, impasto caricature of a man’s head—made from mortar and signed ‘Lewis.’ The brickie who used a trowel to leave behind this little joke would probably be amused to think that 90 years on, people are still looking at his beautifully crafted brickwork and wondering—who was Lewis? ABC News interviewed Mel Bartlett, a Portland stonemason, in 2014. His grandfather William Thomas quarried the Buchan marble columns for the Sanctuary and Bartlett was sure his grandfather had employed a Lewis, a father of six, during the Shrine’s construction. Tantalisingly, he had no idea if Lewis was his first or last name. Back then hiring, firing and payroll was often delegated to the ‘ganger’—the foreman assigned by the contractor to a specific job on a worksite. This may account for why Shrine employment records seem lost or elusive, and why Lewis is likely to remain an anonymous worker on a brick pillar in our Second World War Gallery. The key creators of the Shrine— architects, surveyors, artisan sculptors—spoke for themselves in letters, public talks and newspaper articles. But the legion of master builders, labourers, craftsmen, exsoldiers and the unemployed who built the Shrine were just ‘workers’, occasionally making the news if there was industrial unrest or scandal. They rarely had a voice or a

name, but a few stories survive that depict a building site full of tensions and struggle deeply linked to the economic and social turmoil of the Great Depression that followed the Great War. When construction of the Shrine was announced in June 1928 the first impacts of the Depression were already biting. Unemployment reached 11 per cent. Hundreds of diggers crowded the corridors of Anzac House hoping for work and those who went straight to the building site were turned away. There wasn’t work for them all—six men marked out the site and just 30 more began excavation. The contractors Messrs. Vaughan & Lodge promised 200 more would soon join the workforce and 300 others would work offsite. Construction of the first stage, the substructure, was swift. A perimeter fence went up and steam shovels removed hundreds of thousands of tons of soil. By the end of June workmen with compressed air drills had dug trenches six feet deep to a bed of solid rock. Workers huts and site offices were built. Streams of lorries carted in bricks, sand, timber and filling. Scaffold-hands built platforms for cement mixers to empty straight onto the formwork. Seven-man concrete teams mixed, screened and spaded the main foundation, which they dubbed ‘Jumbo’. Terraces and voids were filled with rubble from city building sites. Bricklayers set to work and the millionth brick was laid by November 1928.

‘Lewis’ caricature in the Galleries 2014 photographer Peter Glenane image courtesy of Major Projects Victoria

Hundreds were employed beyond the Domain worksite. A quarry was opened up at Tynong to get granite for the exterior. Thousandton blocks were blasted out of the ground and cut on site with a state-of-the-art circular saw. Other men milled timber, forged steel for reinforcements or quarried the freestone at Redesdale. Stone was dressed at the Vaughan & Lodge yards in West Melbourne then hauled to the Shrine. The second stage of construction— superstructure and sculptural embellishments—began in 1929 just as a bitter strike erupted in the timber industry. Most unions went out in support of the timber workers and Victorian industry was crippled for months. Brick and timber yards closed, and work at the Shrine stopped until June. By November the site was ‘a hive of industry’ again, swarming with 140 builders, stonemasons and allied workmen. The Governor-General Lord Stonehaven inspected progress, NOVEMBER 2021-22 REMEMBRANCE


Bricklayers forming piers for the foundation of the main structure c 1928–34 Shrine Collection

Workman operating a surfacing machine c 1928–34 Shrine collection

Workers pour and screen concrete on the south terrace c 1928–34

Tynong Quarry c 1928–34

Shrine Collection

Shrine Collection

stepping off the ‘duck boards’ and splashing through mud to chat with a workman: ‘a typical Digger with a stub of hand-made cigarette drooping from his lips.’ Amid noise of drills and clattering stone grinders, contractor David Vaughan frantically waved at the workman to get rid of his cigarette, which he did—he put it behind his ear. National interest in the Shrine ran hot, level with stories of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. Newspapers relished the slightest growth or change to the building. Enthralled by its scale and grandeur, hyperbolic reports proclaimed the largest sculptures ‘since the days of the Ancient Egyptians.’ Shrine construction materials were exalted: 6,000 tons of silver Tynong granite; Redesdale and Hawkesbury freestone; columns of black marble from Buchan; 124 tons of steel; 26,000 bags of cement; two-and-ahalf million Brunswick bricks; bronze cases for 42 parchment Books of Remembrance listing all Victorians who served overseas in the war. 24 NOVEMBER 2021-22 REMEMBRANCE

Sir John Monash became one of our first tour guides: hosting schoolteachers, judges and former army nurses over the worksite. On Anzac Day 1930, 12,000 people swarmed over the unfinished monument. The perimeter fence was gradually dismantled and the site opened up to the public each Tuesday and Sunday afternoon. This left it prey to vandals and protesters, who broke in and defaced bronze work and threw hollow potatoes filled with grease at the buttress sculpture ‘Patriotism’. The damaged granite had to be chipped off with a pneumatic drill, and the ‘degenerate’ vandal got a year in gaol on breadand-water. The final form of the Shrine was slowly resolving above the city. A giant steam crane lifted stone blocks to the upper galleries and the top of the dome was reached in November 1931. Vaughan boasted there’d only been one serious accident (a broken leg), the only time lost was due to the Timber Strike and more than 100 men had been kept in work. But the Depression was deepening.

State governments began handing out sustenance payments to the jobless: up to one pound a week, plus two shillings per child (basic wage then was £5 a week). The ‘Susso’ was augmented with ‘dole tickets,’ redeemable for groceries in shops or bags of rations from welfare agencies. The Shrine stressed its aim ‘to employ as many returned soldiers as we can.’ Even the Committee’s typist—their only female employee—was a bona fide daughter of a veteran. But the press challenged the true ratio of diggers to workers, once claiming it was as low as 24 per cent. Unions accused the Shrine ‘of acquiring quite a cosmopolitan tinge’ with the extraordinary disclosure that six Italians were being employed at the expense of out-of-work Australians. Vaughan countered that no Melbourne hardstone mason had the skills needed to flute the Doric columns and besides, 30 Australian masons were working the freestone in the Sanctuary. And one Italian, Pietro Porcelli, was sculpting the frieze panels for the Inner Shrine,

though he was later deposed by their designer Lyndon Dadswell. August Rietman was another foreign artisan employed on contract work at the Shrine. The Swiss monumental mason and his wife Frieda had come to Australia in 1914 and settled in Bentleigh. Specialising in pressedcement sculpture, he carved dozens of ‘diggers’ for country towns in the memorial boom after the war. Shrine chief sculptor Paul Montford wanted him to complete the Sanctuary friezes but Rietman declined, fearing his surname and German wife would stir controversy. Instead, he created the beautiful streetlamp standards for the pathways around the Shrine, and the Rietman family business continues today. The Shrine looked ahead to its Dedication ceremony in November 1934. The structure was largely complete but public fundraising had slowed, sculptures and the Crypt were unfinished and ‘the pyramid in the desert’ sat high on a bare ‘eminence of raw earth.’ Victoria introduced ‘work in return

for Sustenance’, which forced the jobless to labour on road construction, draining swamps or ‘beautifying’ public space in return for the dole. Relief work was paid by the hour. Men had to register, show up at a site and hope to be picked by the ganger out of hundreds vying for work. It might be a day’s work or a few hours a week. In 1933, the darkest year of the Depression, with unemployment at 32 per cent, the Shrine became one of Melbourne’s biggest relief worksites. ‘An army’ of the unemployed set to work on the Shrine approaches to forge lawns and gardens out of the dustbowl. An enthusiastic reporter claimed this work ‘brought temporary happiness to many an unhappy home and gave the light of hope to many darkened hearts.’ The reality was not so rosy. Hundreds of relief workers removed earth five-feet deep to make 80 acres of sweeping, level lawns—graded and covered with six inches of clay and loam. They furrowed 17 miles of trenches into the banks, planting

creeping roots of grass from the Albert Park golf links. A 24-kilometre network of pipes was laid to run millions of gallons of water to 1,000 hidden sprinkler heads. The diggers blasted hundreds of pits to plant trees and dug flowerbeds on the northern approach for 10,000 bulbs of iris and lily. A ‘billy boy’ moved through the dust, handing out cups of water to thirsty men. Trade unions and some of the men slammed relief work as ‘slaving under convict conditions for sustenance.’ When the state government lowered the rates of sustenance, the Unemployed Workers Movement (an arm of the Communist Party of Australia) organised a strike for better conditions at the Shrine that went for eight weeks. Men who refused relief work were struck off the sustenance lists. Those who accepted it could find their names on another list: of scabs. On 15th August the Shrine offered work to 213 men but only 87 accepted. Six of them knocked off at 5pm and were walking home

August Rietman in his studio c 1920s Image courtesy of the Rietman family and CMHS at Box Cottage Ormond



Concrete team spading the foundation trenches down to the bedrock c 1928 Shrine Collection

was kicked and punched for three minutes before a police motorcycle attended and broke up the fight. In hospital, Denzel Warren received eight stitches in his forehead. Warren had served in France with the 16th Battalion. Robert Cumberlidge— charged with assaulting him—had fought with the 24th.

Leo Nolan and family Leo worked as a foreman at the Shrine during the 1920s Image courtesy of the Nolan family

on Moray Street when a gang of 20 ‘dole strikers’ set upon them ‘with fists and boots,’ bashing and jumping on them with shouts of ‘there’s one of the scabs!’ and ‘kill the bastard!’ Ernest Scott, a 49-yearold butcher from Montague Street,


George Nelson, who had attacked Scott, was a former member of the Unemployed Workers Movement. He narrowly escaped gaol with a £10 fine. It is likely Scott was No.6107 Private E E Scott of 38th Battalion who had been severely wounded in 1917, wounded again in fighting near Mont St Quentin in 1918, gassed and discharged medically unfit in 1919. In 1933 he was hard up, getting by on relief work, unfairly labelled a ‘scab.’ Hardly the homecoming envisaged on the Tympanum over the Shrine’s south portico. There was more trouble in February 1934 when F J Hayden was sacked by a ganger at the Shrine. Four hundred co-workers downed tools and marched to the office of the Minister for Sustenance to demand Hayden’s reinstatement. They also

wanted a morning tea break and a strict ban on ‘strong language’ at the worksite. One MP complained of the ‘lazy fellows’ at the Shrine, and people made fun of the ‘the Shrine’s statuary’ and their preposterous demands. D Duncan, for the Job Committee, hit back: The assertion that Shrine workers as a body are loafers and indolent is untrue. We are working in the dust and have done so for many months, while at times the heat has been well over the 100 mark. Rest assured that we, the Shrine sustenance workers will not be speeded up by such calumny. Melburnians had some sympathy for the half-starved figures seen working on the Domain—many in rags and barely able to stand after a few hours of pick and shovel work. They embodied the social dislocation of the Depression. Bank clerks and commercial travellers worked alongside bricklayers, tailors, engineers, insurance agents, painters and plumbers. When the gong sounded and 330 men sat down to sip 200 gallons of tea, a Herald reporter encountered a 62-year-old Professor

Shrine construction site late 1932 SLV (H91.160/396)

Unemployable, a penniless old man. ‘I am a professor,’ he says, ‘a professor with a shovel.’ He shrugs his shoulders. ‘It all seems so stupid…’

One gang of relief workers struck it lucky in May when someone’s pick

Lifting up the sculptures for the Tympana in June signalled the end of construction works and in November the Shrine was duly dedicated in the Royal presence. The vaunted £250,000 cost of the project did not include £60,000 paid in sustenance to the Shrine’s relief workers. Some were still at work on the landscaping in 1935.

We realised that the men who built such a memorial would leave behind them a monument to themselves as well as to their fighting countrymen… a structure that will tell the story of part of this generation till the world ends.

Last July at the end of a Shrine guided tour, Catherine Smith came forward to tell me that her grandfather was one of the men who had built the Shrine. Leo Thomas Nolan, a 31-year-old builder from Malvern, built the steps. ‘It’s something we have always been very proud of.’ Leo’s daughter (Catherine’s

Peter Luby is a writer and Visitor Experience Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.


The Herald, 14 December 1933

mother) Gwen recalled her dad was a foreman whose job was to oversee the quality of workmanship on the stairs. Anyone who visits or works here knows that the Shrine has a lot of very beautiful stairs. Leo Nolan joins the very select band of Shrine construction workers who we know by name. For the rest, the building itself is their testament. Before it was completed, David Vaughan spoke of the ‘justifiable pride’ of the workers:


John Leopold Howard had taught English, French and German at St Petersburg University for 20 years. He fell out with the Soviets after seeing several people shot dead by the Red Guard and fled to London with his wife in 1920. He came to Perth in 1927 and lectured at the University but lost that job when the Depression hit. Drifting to Melbourne, he pawned all his belongings and now worked for 25 shillings a week sustenance. Too poor to afford the tram fare, every day he walked from North Melbourne to the Shrine in hope of work. This was a fall from grace typical of the Depression: a cultured gent from a wealthy family who’d once ‘supped with Russian nobility’, seen an empire fall and the terror of revolution.

hit a solid gold Albert chain in the dirt. They dug up a small fortune in gold jewellery: a watch for the chain, 25 brooches and pendants, three silver thimbles. It was thought the cache was somehow connected to staff at Government House, 50 yards away. The gang disbanded when the work dried up and apparently never presented their find to police— perhaps making them the best-paid of the Shrine relief workers.


of Languages from Soviet Russia and the story went round Australia.





n bell 1933 d SMS Emde The recovere NL A (625118



! E N I R H S ON

While researching stories of the Shrine’s construction workers, a 1933 headline from the Herald leaped out: ‘German worked at Shrine.’ The almost unbelievable story of Charles Kaolmel forms a strange link between the Shrine and the Australian War Memorial. Portrait of Charles Kaolmel AWM (A03161)


German from Alsace-Lorraine, Kaolmel deserted from the French Foreign Legion (and briefly rowed a gondola in Venice) before arriving in Sydney in 1925 as a ‘prohibited immigrant.’ He was known to police under a swag of aliases—Charles King, Colman, Watts, Wise, Konig. Working for General Motors as a mechanic, in 1932 he won a compensation claim worth £250—a fortune. That year he was also a suspect in the theft of the ship’s bell from the German cruiser Emden, a war trophy from the Royal Australian Navy’s first sea battle. The navy had it on display at their Garden Island Depot until it disappeared in August. In February 1933 Kaolmel confessed to police he didn’t know the bell was stolen when he bought it off some

‘sailors’ for £150. He took detectives to Sydney’s Domain to show them where he’d buried it. The ‘priceless war relic’ was dug up and handed over to the fledgling Australian War Memorial Museum (then in Sydney) where it was bolted to its pedestal with steel cable. Shortly after Anzac Day the Emden bell was stolen for the second time. By Kaolmel. He’d later say he hefted the 50-kilogram bell onto a truck in broad daylight and drove off. Worryingly, he was friendly with officers of the German freighter Main who’d just raised the Nazi flag at a pro-Hitler demonstration in Sydney, and it was feared the bell would be spirited away to Germany. Police searched the Main twice on its way out of Australia, but the bell was not found. Neither was Kaolmel.

It was suspected he’d jumped a ship bound for San Francisco, where US detectives combed the dockyards. War Memorial Director John Treloar and Commonwealth ‘secret service men’ traced Kaolmel to Melbourne in October. His girlfriend Christine Wise hurried to the strictly male preserve of the Shrine building site to warn him the coppers were on his tail. He told her to ‘have faith in me’—and bring him a suitcase with clothing and money. When detectives got to the Shrine ‘the bird of passage’ had flown. It’s likely Kaolmel was one of the hundreds of men working on the grounds of the Shrine for sustenance payments. His workmates thought the German with the soft, white hands was the ‘laziest loafer’ on



TOP SMS Emden bell on display at the Australian War Museum, Sydney 1933 NLA (6251180)

RIGHT Detectives dig up the Emden bell in Melbourne 1934 Sydney Morning Herald

They couldn’t figure out why someone supposed to be broke wore such fine clothes: ‘his underclothing was of the very best…’


Peter Luby is a writer and Visitor Experience Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.



the Geelong Road (Royal Park Zoo in some accounts) the Emden bell was once again unearthed. Kaolmel served six months in Long Bay Gaol, and for the next 40 years the War Memorial put a replica of the bell on display, worried perhaps that the German who once worked at the Shrine might strike again.


‘What a good actor that fellow must have been. No wonder the boss hadn’t the heart to sack him,’ said a Shrine worker today.

Police finally nabbed Kaolmel in Sydney in November. On trial for taking the bell ‘out of the possession of the Commonwealth’, he denied involvement. The bell was probably in Germany ‘and you will never find it.’ Sentenced to 12 months in gaol, he was on bail waiting an appeal when he struck a bargain with Treloar and reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald: £50 in reward money and a reduced sentence if he helped them recover the bell! Reporters raced him by car to Melbourne and after a frantic midnight dig in a field beside


the job. Threatened with dismissal, he had broken down weeping: he had a wife to keep, wasn’t used to manual labour, he’d once been ‘a gentleman’.

David, Don and Trevor Bergman attending ANZAC Day commemoration at Noble Park RSL 18 April 2010





Don training with 2 Commando Company two days prior to the rip incident 15 Feb 1960

Don and Ron on Anzac Day at the Shrine c mid-2000s


Across two generations, four members of the Bergman family have devoted 116 years to our defence forces and emergency services. Their contribution spans across the ocean battlefields of the Second World War and the jungles of Vietnam to Ground Zero of the September 11 attacks and the highways of Victoria.


on Bergman was a guide at the Shrine of Remembrance for over 18 years, welcoming visitors, showing them around the Galleries and engaging all with stories of the service and sacrifice of Victorian service personnel. Don also delivered talks to community groups and repaired or made replica items used in the Shrine’s education programs. However, Don’s connection with the Shrine reaches back over half a century, as an Anzac Day marshal. Escorting and directing people laying wreaths, helping members of the public and connecting with people young and old alike, Don only gave up this commitment in 2014. Don also worked tirelessly for the RSL, as he felt a deep level of camaraderie with the wider veteran community and their families. He has sold badges on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, raising funds for the organisation. Don’s story of service began at a young age. In late 1943, aged 15, he joined the Air Training Corp, as he was too young to join the Royal Australian Air Force, however, the war ended before his services were required. Don also worked at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne, making hydraulics for Boomerang fighters. Don’s service to his nation continued after the Second World War, but this story wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the contribution of other members of his family.

Ron Bergman was only a year older than his brother Don. In 1942 he went to the docks in Port Melbourne to see the United States (US) Navy vessels and joined the Merchant Navy, even though he was told he was too young. At 14, against his mother’s wishes, he became a deck boy on the Merchant Ship Reynella. He sailed across the Great Australian Bight, the Indian Ocean to Mumbai (Bombay) and the Middle East. He had to clean the crews’ quarters and his action station was operating one of the deck guns. Ron served on several merchant ships, including the US merchant ship the Contessa, sailing across the Pacific to San Francisco and down to Panama. He also sailed to Townsville and Port Moresby, New Guinea. He trained at Cerberus and enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) 3 October 1944. After joining the RAN, he was posted to Darwin and served on HMAS Stuart, operating the stern four inch gun. He sailed between Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville and up to Port Moresby and was in Darwin when the war ended. His final posting was on HMAS Warramunga when he was discharged on 18 October 1946. Even though he was a sailor he later recalled, The sea, it scares me, it scares me, the only thing I am scared of is the sea. Ron recalled the hardest part of his service was that you were always on duty, whether you were on or off watch. After he left the navy, he

became a carpenter and brick layer. In 1948, after being discharged from their respective service, both Don and Ron joined the Citizen Military Force (CMF)—later renamed the Army Reserve—in the Royal Victoria Scottish Regiment. Both brothers wanted to be in the services and saw it as an effective way to be part of army life. Don was an original member of 2 Commando Company, transferring across in 1955 when volunteers from existing CMF units in Victoria were invited to apply to join the new company. Don remained in the company for over 20 years, serving terms as 2IC (Second In Command) and Acting OC (Officer Commanding) and on his retirement in 1976 was the longest serving member of 2 Commando Company, obtaining the rank of Captain. On 17 February 1960, Don was one of 74 Commandos to be involved in what is now known as ‘The Rip Incident’. As Commandos left Point Lonsdale in a range of kayaks and other small vessels, heading to Point Nepean on a training mission, the weather suddenly changed, tossing some into the water. Tragically three men were killed: Privates Roger Wood and Edward Meyer and Warrant Officer George ‘Taffy’ Drakopoulos. Don and others were rescued by the Akuna, a Port Philip pilot boat and former navy minesweeper. An annual commemoration service is held to honour this loss of life. NOVEMBER 2021-22 REMEMBRANCE


Ron Bergman in the navy 1944

Whilst in the Commandos, Don’s Commanding Officer, General Sir Phillip Bennett, requested Don teach navigation to the Commandos. Don designed and built a navigational training aid which has been used by numerous Commando and cadet groups, both here and in New Zealand. In 1992 Don had the aids computerised and is still presenting them locally and interstate, a volunteer service for which he was awarded an Army Commendation in 2002. ‘It gives me something to do’ Don replied to my enquiry as to what drove him to continue this commitment. In 1969 Don was seconded to 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam on a tour of duty. Of his time in Vietnam, Don recalls being issued with a rifle, even though they were only observers. For 34 years Don worked as a telephone technician for the Postmaster-General’s Department, later Telecom. This role saw him in charge of fitting telephones for the new Defence Centre in Melbourne. 34 NOVEMBER 2021-22 REMEMBRANCE

Don Bergman receiving the Efficiency Decoration c 1970s

His expertise with phones saw him seconded to Victoria Police from 1981–1984 as part of Task Force Zebra. His work tracing and assisting with breaking up criminal Starting Price Bookmakers saw him become the first non-Police Officer to be awarded a Chief Commissioner’s Certificate. Other career highlights include volunteering for three months at the Central Army Records Office (CARO) at the Victoria Barracks Melbourne, compiling a list of all the 701 CMF officers and the few noncommissioned officers who went to Vietnam as observers during the Vietnam War. This list is still used by researchers and CARO. Don’s son David Bergman had watched his father’s involvement in the Commandos and Vietnam and had accompanied him on various army activities, which led him to enlist in the army aged 17. After three years David left to pursue civilian life but remained in the Australian Army Reserve, rejoining as a full-time Officer where he currently serves as a Major.

There are several items belonging to Major David Bergman on display in the Galleries at the Shrine of Remembrance. They are housed in three different cases that shine light on his personal story and add to the Shrine’s broader mission of highlighting the service and sacrifice of Victorian Defence Force personnel. David was in the US attending training relating to chemical and biological weapons when the September 11 attacks occurred. Photographs from David’s collection, along with a rubber stamp found at the site and a set of identity discs, depict his experiences at this time when he was seconded to the New York Port Authority and New Jersey Police Department to assist with the recovery operation at Ground Zero. In the Recent Conflicts Gallery are other items, including banknotes and a cloth patch from David’s time serving as an army engineer with the Australian Army Training Team in Iraq. A torn Afghan flag is mounted on the wall, which was collected by David from his service with the

Coalition Mine Action Centre at Bagram airbase. Regular flooding at the base was not addressed because the area was littered with landmines. David instigated mine clearing of the affected area, enabling the terrain to be modified to prevent further flooding to the base. For this he was awarded the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) Meritorious Service Medal. These items capture something of the everyday life of an Australian soldier in modern combat war zones, far removed from life in suburban Melbourne. Acting Sergeant Trevor Bergman is another of Don’s sons who grew up witnessing his father’s commitment to helping others. After commencing his career with four years in Customs, Trevor joined Victoria Police, where he has served for 30 plus years. Don at a Shrine Last Post service commemorating the Rip incident March 2021

Don with the Friday volunteers on his last day 17 May 2021

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job was, he did not hesitate to say, ‘helping members of the community in their times of need, after car accidents, bushfires, floods and even to reassure people during the COVID-19 pandemic’. Trevor has enjoyed visiting kindergartens, schools and aged care facilities promoting positive relationships between Victoria Police and the community. During Trevor’s years at the Traffic Alcohol Section, he became aware of the batteries used in breath testing machines ending up in landfill when they still had some charge left. He commenced checking over 100,000 used batteries, bagging and donating them to charities who in turn offer them for free to those in need. Also, the extensive knowledge Trevor gained through years of attending accidents was the basis for creating over 200 short instructional videos, accessible for free as an aid to learner drivers. These are additional activities to Trevor’s formal police duties on top of which he has donated blood and plasma over 450 times, encouraging others to do the same. Don’s example of service to community has been an inspiration followed by his family. It was apt that Don chose Volunteer week, in May 2021, to hang up his volunteer jacket at the Shrine of Remembrance and share a farewell luncheon with his Friday group of volunteers. Don will be missed, however the stories and knowledge he shared will continue to be passed on.

Don has been married to his wife, Audrey, for 70 years. They have six children and nine grandchildren.

Carolyn Argent is an Education Officer at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Maj David Bergman and an Afghan deminer near Bagram Air Field 2008






photographer Capt Joe Nyhan








ur Last Post Service is the Shrine’s opportunity to engage our community in commemoration; those who have served, their loved ones, and those who enjoy lives of peace and freedom as a result of that service. Each week we remember a different event and wherever possible the person laying the wreath in memory is someone connected to those events. A veteran who served there and, for some services, the family members of those who served or died. It is a chance to tell the stories of our people, our veterans and their families, and events both little and well known but

significant to all those impacted by them. In many cases, through generations. The Last Post Service has been running weekly since November 2019, in between COVID-19 restricted lockdowns, and the Shrine has received some beautiful feedback from participants in that time. Here we share the stories behind a few of the services and the responses from participants who were asked ‘what did this mean to you?’.

The Rip Incident In Carolyn Argent’s article in this edition of Remembrance magazine, ‘Generations of Service’, she explores the Bergman family’s connection to the Shrine. Don Bergman was our veteran representative at the Last Post Service on 7 March 2021, remembering those lost in the Rip incident on 17 February 1960. Don survived the incident, three others did not. David, the son of George ‘Taffy’ Drakopoulos, joined Don at the Eternal Flame as they laid wreaths together in memory of those lost. Sixty-one years since the Rip incident the impact of the event are felt by all those involved. ‘The Rip’ is a dangerous stretch of water connecting Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait. Seventy-four Commandos from 2 Commando Company set off from Point Lonsdale on a training exercise on the evening of 17 February 1960. Their task: to form a mock ‘attack’ flotilla of kayaks, inflatable rafts and amphibious jeeps. All headed for Portsea. By nightfall the conditions had turned from calm to treacherous as a storm rolled in. Some of the group


were overcome by a fierce tide; swept through the Rip and out to sea. Others were battered by huge waves, swamped and capsized in the darkened sea. Over the course of the night all but three of the Commandos were rescued. These three had died; one body was never found. Don was an original member of 2 Commando Company, joining at its formation in 1955. Don remained in the company for over 20 years and was the longest serving member on his retirement in 1976.

After a lifetime of military service, Don continued to serve his community as a Shrine Volunteer for 17 years, only recently retiring. David was a young boy when his dad, George ‘Taffy’ Drakopoulos, died in the Rip incident. David represented the loved ones of those lost as he and Don laid wreaths together to honour the three men who died in the Rip, 61 years ago.


It was an honour to attend the memorial with Captain Don Bergman. We go a long way back. Don and Dad started together at 2 Commando as Sergeants. To be there with Don was a special moment for me. It made me feel closer to my father, whom I lost at such a young age. Commemorating those lost at the Rip, next to my father’s oldest comrade, made the day that much more meaningful.

Capt Don Bergman and David Drakopolous at the Last Post Service for the Rip Incident 2021 photographer Susan Gordon Brown



Sinking of the 2/3 Australian Hospital Ship Centaur On Sunday 16 May 2021 we held a Last Post Service to remember the sinking of the 2/3 Australian Hospital Ship Centaur as part of our programming for the current special exhibition, Dean Bowen’s Imagining Centaur. We were privileged to be joined by family members of those who were lost and those who survived, members of the Returned Nurses Association RSL Sub-Branch, the Australian Red Cross and Melbourne Legacy.

In 2009 the Centaur’s wreck was found off Queensland’s south-east coast. An at-sea service followed— conducted by the Royal Australian Navy—for the family members of those lost. A sense of peace prevailed as the grave, their resting place, was made known and commemorated.

Two days after the 78th anniversary of the sinking we remembered the horror of the event, the 268 innocent souls lost and the 64 brave individuals who survived. The day was wet and cold, and those present huddled under umbrellas as the rain fell.

We were joined by Tom Evans, representing members of the Centaur Association, and Vietnam veteran Colonel Jan McCarthy, representing members of the Returned Nurses Association RSL Sub-Branch, as our wreath layers.

Centaur was converted to a hospital ship and commissioned in March 1943. In May of that year, it steamed from Sydney with 332 personnel on board. They included medical staff, field ambulance members and a crew of merchant seamen.

Tom represented the enduring sorrow of the many families who lost loved ones in the sinking of Centaur. He is one of three grandchildren of Private Michael O’Brien of the 2/12th Field Ambulance, who died in the sinking. Tom’s grandmother never recovered from the loss of her husband. His mum was just four when she and her sister

It was before dawn on 14 May, crew were on duty and kitchen staff prepared breakfast for sleeping shipmates. At 4.10am Centaur was struck without warning by a torpedo. An inferno erupted. The ship sank in three minutes, going down by the bow. Of the 332 souls aboard Centaur, 268 perished: 267 in the sinking, another of wounds—his body committed to the sea. The 64 survivors huddled on makeshift rafts through day and night for 34 hours. They were retrieved by the USS Mugford and brought to safety at Pinkenba Wharf on the Brisbane River. Centaur was marked with red crosses and floodlit, as stipulated under The Hague Convention. The identifying number—47—had been lodged with

the International Red Cross and the Japanese government. The sinking was a war crime. Nothing less. News of the outrage shocked the world.

lost their dad. Tom and Jan placed wreaths at the Shrine’s Eternal Flame in memory of the 268 innocent souls lost in the sinking of the Centaur. Colonel Jan McCarthy then recited the Ode: They have no grave but the cruel sea, No flowers lay at their head, A rusting hulk is their tombstone, Afast on the ocean bed. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them. As she did, the rain cleared and a rainbow appeared over the shoulder of the Shrine. The Second World War Memorial Forecourt glistened and the sun set over Melbourne. At the conclusion of the service those present laid their own floral tributes. Joining the wreaths laid by Tom and Jan.


I wanted to thank you [Naias] and your team for such a memorable experience yesterday. I know I speak for most that the ongoing recognition and commemorating our family members’ memory and the tragic events surrounding them means so much. Your team at the Shrine were so professional and attentive, and the Last Post service very moving, with a rainbow on cue! The exhibition will be a significant chance for the public to learn more about it as well as experience the tragedy of war with Dean Bowen’s depiction of the sinking along with Ayumi Sasaki’s work.

TOM EVANS, 16 MAY 2021



Centaur Last Post Service May 2021




FAR LEFT is Chris’s father who was a Shrine Guardafter the First World War. LEFT are images from Chris's time in Vietnam c 1967–71 images courtesy of Chris Cannan

Tet Offensive, Vietnam War The Last Post Service on 31 January 2021 remembered events of 53 years ago: the beginning of the Tet Offensive on 30 January 1968. On that day, in the early hours of the morning, the main offensive followed. it was the beginning of a year that was to see the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War to date. Australians were heavily engaged during the Tet Offensive and it became one of the most well-known of the Vietnam War.

concealed bunkers. After a couple of hours fighting from bunker to bunker, the enemy withdrew. Our losses were two killed in action. One being my machine gunner. We were about three or four metres from a bunker when a burst of automatic fire came. We couldn’t see the bunkers; they were well camouflaged. My mate was hit by the burst, killing him instantly. I’ll never forget our first big contact even to this day.

and one captured. Enemy losses were 91 killed, 36 wounded and one captured. Two-hundred and eighty weapon pits and bunkers were destroyed. Almost 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam from 1962–1975. Fivehundred and twenty-one Australians were killed and over 3,000 were wounded. The effects on those who served have been lifelong. Chris laid a wreath to honour all members of the Australian Defence Force who served in Vietnam and the 521 members who died while serving there.

At the end of Operation Coburg, Chris Cannan, a Vietnam veteran, Chris’s Battalion suffered seven joined the Army as a regular soldier in January 1965. He completed two tours killed in action, 35 wounded in action of Vietnam with 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) in 1967–68 and 1970–71 and went on to complete 20 CHRIS TOLD THE SHRINE: years of service.

Everyone was so lovely to mum. I am unable to express how much it meant to her and family.



Naias Mingo is Director Visitor Experience at the Shrine of Remembrance.


with a couple of Viet Cong. The VC broke contact and retreated back to their positions. We swept through the contact area coming under automatic fire from well

I felt extremely proud to have laid a wreath for all Vietnam veterans who did not return especially for my mates in my own unit.


in his own words, Chris recounts events recorded in his Battalion Book describing 6 Platoon / Bravo Company’s first engagement in conflict during the Tetcame Offensive: 5 Platoon into contact

Jennifer Rosewarne, LPS on 20 June 2021 remembering the sinking of HMAS Matafele during the Second World War.



Collection From the

Beaufort Bomber Turret BY NEIL SHARKEY


An impressive embellishment to the Second World War Gallery was installed earlier this year. The Beaufort Bomber B1. Mk. IV dorsal gun turret display is a long-awaited and welcome addition that fills a gap first revealed in July 2017, when a near-identical turret on loan to the Shrine was withdrawn by its owner the RAAF Museum, Point Cook.


indful of the original turret’s loss—a visitor favourite since October 2014—then Chairman of Shrine Trustees, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Spence AO (Retd), requested that the Exhibitions team source a replacement. Hours of curatorial effort had, in fact, already been spent in this space but the Chairman’s suggestion that the Shrine purchase, rather than loan a turret, gave the project renewed impetus. The Beaufort was Australia’s mainstay medium bomber in the Pacific during the Second World War. Designed in Britain and built under licence in Australia by the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP), the type eventually equipped 17 Royal Australian Air Force squadrons. Some 23,800 workers, a third of whom were women, produced 700 finished aircraft between May 1941 and August 1944 at Government Aircraft Factories, Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria.



Readers may be surprised to learn that Mk. IV turrets remain (relatively) common, even today. Unfortunately, most are derelict, incomplete, and— aesthetically speaking—more at home in landfill than museums. Far rarer than turrets are the build-teams with the skillsets required to restore them to original condition. Thankfully,

two individuals—self-confessed Beaufort-obsessive Tony Clark and former Australian War Memorial curator David Crotty—were able to offer invaluable advice as to how the Shrine might source both. Turret restoration took place at the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre (AAHC) in Caboolture, Queensland, under the direction of Ralph Cusack of the Beaufort Restoration Group. The all-volunteer workforce refurbished a turret (provided by the AAHC) in the same workshop as the group’s primary project—A9-141—a DAP Beaufort being restored to flying condition. Assembled from componentry of several war-era turrets—each part sand-blasted, beaten, straightened, welded, rivetted, painted, oiled and hand-stitched into place—the artefact was painstakingly re-formed between June 2018 and December 2019. Excepting the replica machineguns mounted in its sponsons (for legality’s sake); modern acrylic canopy ‘glass’, rather than the identical, period-accurate Perspex (which, unfortunately, yellows and becomes brittle with age); and two replica ammunition feed drums, the Shrine’s turret is wholly original. It is a truly magnificent achievement.

COVID-19 restrictions delayed the turret’s delivery by 10 months, but construction of a brand-new display enclosure began immediately upon its arrival. In addition to simply securing the turret (as its predecessor had done), the new enclosure aims to evoke the aircraft fuselage into which the turret was originally emplaced. Those who remember the previous display are unequivocal in their praise, agreeing that it represents a far superior visitor experience. Among them, members of the Beaufort Squadrons Association, individuals who designed, built and operated Beauforts during the war. The Beaufort turret demonstrates to the wider public how ordinary Victorians contributed to the war effort during the Second World War. Entire industries—non-existent before 1939—arose to provide war materiel to young Australian men on the frontline. The same industries brought about the widespread integration of women into traditionally male fields of endeavour, paving the way for Australian women to ultimately participate in all aspects of Australia’s economy.

Neil Sharkey is Curator at the Shrine of Remembrance.








he 20th anniversary of Australia’s entry into the First World War was commemorated at the Shrine of Remembrance with a ceremony followed by tree planting. In contrast to the Shrine’s public dedication, held three months later on Armistice Day (now known as Remembrance Day), the tree planting ceremony, officiated by Sir Harry Chauvel, fittingly focused attention on 100 ‘former fighting units’ of the Australian Imperial Force. A representative from each unit was invited to plant a tree in honour of their unit or group‘s service and to commemorate those who had died. For those wishing to mark the occasion with a souvenir, small nickel-plated commemorative spades could be purchased and engraved with the details of the person planting the trees. Almost 90 years later, the now well-established trees form a much-loved sprawling arboreal reserve separated by two perpendicular rows of Bhutan cypress (Cupressus torulosa). Together they form an avenue of honour, fittingly lining the northern approach from Linlithgow Avenue to the Second World War Memorial Forecourt, and the penultimate destination for Anzac Day marchers.

Col. W.W. McLaren / To Commemorate the Planting / of the / Camel & 5th L.H.F. Amb Tree / SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE / August 4th 1934 / From the Boys From his official war record we know that William McLaren enlisted in 1914 as a medical doctor. He spent the opening stages of the war performing surgeon duties with the 1st Light Horse

It is unclear whether the tree McLaren planted remains on the reserve today. There is a tree dedicated to Imperial Camel Corps 5th Light Horse Brigade standing tall but no specific plaque

for the associated field ambulance unit. As with all gardens, the Shrine Reserve is a living space and many trees have come and gone over the years. While some were removed to make way for the Shrine Forecourt following the Second World War, most of the trees no longer with us succumbed to natural causes and have been replaced with new trees. Each new tree renewing a cycle of life and death that can serve as an allegory of what it might mean to speak of young soldiers being cut down in their prime on a distant battlefield. A HiS RT E iCL

Toby Miller is Collections Coordinator at the Shrine of Remembrance.

in Egypt, where he was stationed at the 2 Australian General Hospital. By 1917 McLaren was stationed at the 14th Australian General Hospital near Cairo. He transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Headquarters before assuming command of the 5th Light Horse Brigade Field Ambulance, incorporating components of the recently decommissioned Camel Corps, during the later stage of the war.


The Shrine collection has one example of the commemorative spade presented as a souvenir to the diggers. Housed in a felt-lined jewellery box, the spade is engraved on the reverse with the following:







A recent discovery in a French village returns home. n 2019, a local of Montbrehain, France, and an amateur battlefield collector Thomas Frischknect unearthed a small inscribed metallic disc. Thomas is a passionate collector and over the past eight years has uncovered objects ranging from belt buckles, buttons and brass sockets to helmets and bayonets. On the day he discovered this disc, Thomas was working with his metal detector in a private field—with the owner’s permission—on the northern outskirts of Montbrehain. The disc he found belonged to Australian Private Walter Leonard Cooper who served with the 4th Mechanical Transport Company, a support unit stationed in Montbrehain around October/ November 1918. The disc contains all of the essential information needed to identify Private Cooper’s body in a worst-case scenario.

of Captain Austin Mahoney, an officer killed at Montbrehain, and is active in promoting awareness and commemoration of the battle. Thomas found Michael through a Facebook group that Michael had set up to arrange the 2018 joint French and Australian centenary commemorations. With the assistance of Google Translate they arranged to return the disc to Australia.

We know little about the origins of Private Cooper’s disc nor how it was lost. It appears to be handmade rather than an official issue. Private Cooper survived the war and returned to Melbourne in 1919. He passed away in 1962 at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.

Following consultation with Private Cooper’s descendants, Michael and Thomas have donated the identity disc to the Shrine. It is now housed in a place that already shares a very special connection to the Battle of Montbrehain.

In 2021, Thomas contacted Shrine staff member Michael Ganey. Michael is the great nephew


The first formal identifications for the bodies of Australian service

personnel were issued during the Boer War (1899–1902). Soldiers were given a tape strip to be carried in their pocket which would be used to identify their body if they were severely wounded or killed. During the First World War (1914–18) this system was upgraded to something a little more robust—two fiberboard discs inscribed with the service person’s name, service number or regimental number as well as their religion and unit.






Leigh Gilburt is Production Coordinator at the Shrine of Remembrance.

TOP Historical image of Montbrehain Image courtesy of Thomas Frischknect

ABOVE The French and Australian connection in Montbrehain remains strong Image courtesy of Thomas Frischknect

RIGHT Thomas Frischknect with the identity disc c 2019–21 Image courtesy of Thomas Frischknect

FAR LEFT Identity disc of Private Cooper



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Able Seaman Hiram Ristrom at a Last Post Service 26 January 2020 photographer Cormac Hanrahan




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