Soldiers’ names, children’s voices: The Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour Soundscape project

This week Honest History published a piece by Dr David Stephens (@honesthistory1) about the Australian War Memorial’s Anzac centenary project Roll of Honour Soundscape. From early 2014, the Memorial will invite Year 6 students from around Australia to record the names and ages at death of the 62,000 Australians who died during the First World War. The recordings will then be broadcast in the Roll of Honour cloister during the centenary years. As heard in the Memorial’s video about the project, below, “Thomas Noonan, age 23… James Ashton Taylor, age 23… James Ellaby Abbott, age 18…”

Stephens’ piece is a valuable overview of the Soundscape project and asks some important questions about the context, purpose, and ethics of the primary school students’ involvement. I am also interested in the impact the project will have on visitors’ experience of the Memorial, in particular of the Roll of Honour. The project brings to mind my own experience of a similar undertaking at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.

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Spotted: “ANZAC Run. Exercise your freedom”

In 2014 the First World War centenary – or, as it’s officially being called in Australia, the Anzac centenary – really is everywhere.

Anzac Run Screenshot

Lately I’ve been seeing ads for “ANZAC Runs” to take place on either side of Anzac Day this year, in Melbourne on 21 April 2014 and Brisbane on 27 April 2014.

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Performing the eulogy for the Unknown Australian Soldier

Last week many people around the world observed Remembrance Day, Remembrance Sunday and Veterans Day, marking the anniversary of the armistice that concluded the military conflict of the First World War. In Australia, Remembrance Day has long been a war commemoration of secondary significance to Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli. Anzac Day is observed with a public holiday, dawn services, morning marches, ‘pilgrimages’, and much rhetoric about the supposed ‘baptism of fire’ of a young nation on 25 April 1915. Remembrance Day is a much quieter affair, not least because its focus is a minute’s silence at the hour of 11 am, when the armistice came into effect.

But this year’s Remembrance Day in Australia was a bit different. For the first time, the eulogy for the Unknown Australian Soldier was performed.

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Darkness in remembrance of a dark day

The centenary of the First World War has not yet begun and already we’re seeing new and interesting forms of commemoration of the conflict.

This past weekend, the exterior of the Auckland Museum was – for the first time – not lit on the evening of Saturday 12 October “as a mark of respect to [New Zealand’s] Passchendaele losses”: during the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, 845 New Zealanders were killed and 2,700 wounded.[1]

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