craft / “Silver & gold: Unique Australian objects 1830-1910”, Royal Australian Mint, until April 1. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.
SOIL taken from the battlefields and war cemeteries across the Flanders region of Belgium was placed in a new memorial garden today (April 4) at the Australian War Memorial.
The soil was collected by the Returned and Services League from significant military heritage sites in each Australian state and territory with part of the region in which lie the remains of more than 13,000 Australians.
Half the Australians who died during the bloody fighting in Flanders in 1917 have no known grave. For decades afterwards, “Passchendaele”, the name of the village which so many had died to capture, became, in the words of Australian official historian Charles Bean, “one to shudder at”.
The Flanders Memorial Garden sits within a formal grass court in the Memorial’s Western Precinct and is constructed from Portland Stone, the same stone used on the arch and in the commemorative panels of the Menin Gate in Belgium.The text from John McCrae’s famous poem “In Flanders Fields” is inscribed on the low stone walls.
Director of the Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson said the garden honours the enduring partnership between Australia and Belgium, and commemorates those who lost their lives 100 years ago.
Yesterday afternoon, members of Australia’s Federation Guard transported five hand-crafted boxes containing the Flanders soil from the Memorial forecourt and into the commemorative area.
The boxes were placed in the Hall of Memory, adjacent to the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, where they remained in symbolic vigil overnight before being transferred to the garden early this morning.