The foundation stone for the Shrine of Remembrance – Melbourne was laid on 11 November 1927, by the Governor of Victoria, Lord Somers. Although both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments made contributions, most of the cost of the Shrine (£160,000 out of a total of £250,000) was raised in less than six months by public contributions.
Work was finally completed in September 1934, and the Shrine was formally dedicated on 11 November 1934 by the Duke of Gloucester, witnessed by a crowd of over 300,000 people—a “massive turnout” given that Melbourne’s population at the time was approximately 1 million, and, according to Carl Bridge, the “largest crowd ever to assemble in Australia to that date”.
The Eternal Flame representing eternal life was lit by Queen Elizabeth 2 in February 1954.
The human cost of World War One defies belief, 61,000 Australian soldiers died representing 1.4% of the total population of the nation for a war on the other side of the globe that we had nothing to do with. All volunteers, all brave and selfless, many of whom paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
The unadulterated waste of life in any war is beyond tragic but the way it was done in the ‘Great War’ seemed to me to be even more pointless. My understanding of it was that the Generals were trained in war making before the machine gun was invented and the practice of charging defended lines was standard practice. The result when machine guns were added to the mix were massacres unprecedented in human experience.
The worst 24 hours in Australian history occurred 90 years ago at Fromelles. Not the worst in Australian military history, the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history. The Australians suffered 5,533 casualties in one night. The Australian toll at Fromelles was equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam War put together. It was a staggering disaster.
By wars end the allies won loosing a staggering 9.4 million in the process (1.2% of there collective populations) the central powers lost 7.1 million (5% of their collective populations) not to mention the countless maimed and injured both physically and mentally.
Due to the ridiculous Treaty of Versailles World War I part two (i.e. WWII) was reignited 20 years later at the cost of another 60 million lives. This treaty demanded 226 billion Reichsmarks ($31.4 billion) from Germany and wouldn’t of been paid out until 2020 had not Hitler not put a stop to them (Ironically I’ve been told that Britain has only just finished paying off what it cost her to win World War II).
I have heard it argued that the person largely responsible for this reparations blow out was none other than the Aussie PM, Billy Hughes who seeing all the Europeans at the table getting concessions that Australia had no access to, argued for a monetary reparation for lives lost. Considering that Hitler came to power in no small part due to the continuing ill will the Germans had for the rest of Europe bought about by this treaty, it could be argued that the roots of World War II could be deemed to lie at the feet of the patriotic Billy Hughes. Controversial hey…
Wars continue around our planet to this day.
Will we ever learn?
That said, I have nothing but admiration for the brave soldiers who stood up for what they believed was right and literally gave their all for their mates and their country.
Like so many others my family lost loved ones in this conflict and just last month my Uncle Wal died. A vivacious outgoing young man before the war, after wards he was nervous and introverted incapable by choice or disposition of relationships, he died a bachelor.
Rest in Peace
Lest we forget.