Wednesday 25 April 2012 Jan McLellan Rizzo – Visual Arts
Sir William Dean, a former Governor-General of Australia wrote : “Anzac is not merely about loss. It is about courage and endurance and duty and love of country and mateship and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth and decency in the face of dreadful odds.”. These words are on the internal wall of the entry courtyard to the Shrine of Remembrance Education Centre, on St Kilda Rd, near Domain Road in Melbourne.
The Anzac Commemorative Medallion was instituted 1967. It was awarded to surviving members of the Australian forces who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January 1916. The medallion is cast in bronze and is approximately 7.5 cm high and 5 cm wide and depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier to safety. It is bordered on the lower half by a laurel wreath above the word ANZAC. The reverse shows a map in relief of Australia and New Zealand superimposed by the Southern Cross. The lower half is bordered by New Zealand fern leaves. The name and initials of the recipient is engraved on the reverse.
Captain Edward Frederick Robert Bage (1888–1915) is part of the Anzac story After attending Melbourne Grammar School, then graduating in civil engineering from Melbourne University, Bage joined the militia (like today’s current Army Reserve) in 1909. Two years later he transferred, as an officer, to the Royal Australian Engineers. Not long after that, aged 23, he took leave to accompany Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition as astronomer and recorder of tides. Bage led the expedition’s southern sledging party on a perilous 1,000-kilometre overland journey towards the magnetic pole region. For weeks on end the group encountered blizzards, freezing temperatures, snow-blindness and frost-bite. Their return, with dwindling rations, became a race for survival. Bage’s “quiet determination, resolution, and foresight carried them through … always cheerful, ready with a hand to anybody who needed it … he was a born leader of men” wrote Mawson later. Elsewhere, Mawson’s far eastern party struck disaster, leaving Mawson the sole survivor. Back at base, Bage was one of six volunteers who remained behind to wait for Mawson when he failed to return in time for the expedition’s sailing. They endured another winter before the relief ship could come back for them.
So, having been a prize-winning student, athlete, and soldier, then an Antarctic adventurer, Bage returned to his army appointment and his role as an engineer. When the First World War broke out in 1914, he was commissioned in the AIF as second-in-command of the 3rd Field Company, Australian Engineers. He took part in the landing at ANZAC on 25 April 1915. Twelve days later he was sent to an exposed position to peg out a new trench line. He came under intense machine-gun fire and was repeatedly hit. His dead body could not be recovered until dark; he was later buried in the Beach Cemetery at ANZAC.
Captain Bage’s grave at Anzac Cove can be visited today, but many who died at Gallipoli and at other battlefields in World War I had no known grave, or else their bodies lay in graves, but were unidentifiable. After the end of the war the idea was formed that one unidentified body should be brought back from a battlefield cemetery and interred in Westminster Abbey, to symbolise all the lost lives of the war.
. So in 1920, people in the United Kingdom who had lost a loved one were given the hope that their son, father, brother or friend lay in the Abbey tomb.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the future Queen Mother) placed her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after she and the Duke of York (the future King George VI) were married in 1923 in Westminster Abbey The gesture was made in memory of her brother Fergus, who died at the Battle of Loos in Belgium in World War 1. Other royal brides who have married at Westminster Abbey have continued the tradition.
So that after the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton, her flowers were placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
In my own family, my Dad’s uncle James McLellan went with his brother Bill to fight in France, after Bill had already fought at Gallipoli. Jim died in a terrible battle at Bullecourt and has no known grave, although his name appears on a wall with 60,000 others at the Australian cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux
Plans for a tomb for an Australian unknown soldier were first put forward in the 1920s, but it was not until 1993 that with great reverence, the remains of an unknown Australian were removed from a cemetery in France and after a ceremony at the Australian War Cemetery at Villers- Bretonneux, were transported to Australia. After lying in state in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House, the remains were interred in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993 – Remembrance Day.
The Hall of Memory, set above the Pool of Reflection, is the heart of the Australian War Memorial. It can only be reached by walking past the names of the 102,000 who have given their lives in the service of Australia.
Artist Janet Lawrence created four pillars - combinations of glass, wood, nickel, silver and marble, each 11 m x 0.6 m - to symbolise the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water and battlefields in all corners and climates on Earth.
The Unknown Australian Soldier was buried in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, with a slouch hat and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the battlefield of Northern France was scattered on his tomb. He represents all Australians who have been killed in war and for my Dad’s generation and my Grandfather - who died a very old man the year the soldier’s remains came home - there was comfort in the thought that it might have been Jim. Paul Keating, then the Prime Minister of Australia, made a speech which explains beautifully all that this soldier’s tomb represents, both on Anzac Day 25 April – the anniversary of that first Gallipoli landing in 1915- and Remembrance Day 11 November - the day the First World War ended in 1918. Paul Keating’s speech