Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is conducting Last Post services every Sunday from 4.45pm on the Shrine Forecourt.
The 15 minute family-friendly event includes bugle calls and bagpipers, Shrine Guards in historic uniform, wreath-laying, a recital of the Ode and lowering of the flags.
Each week commemorates a different moment from Australia’s military history – from the First World War through to today.
Attending the ceremony is one of a number of ways to experience the Shrine. A guided tour is another. Joining such a tour is a great way to learn more about the items on display.The crypt is home to the colours of disbanded Victorian Regiments. To the uneducated eye the colours look like tired flags hanging from the roof, begging the question: Why haven’t they been restored?
However, as our Shrine guide Karl explained, that’s the tradition. The colours are `laid up’ and left to slowly fade away. The 24 Battalion Colours were the first to be laid up in 1953.
The crypt was one of the many memorable areas included on our 45 minute Shrine tour. During this time we learnt about the Shrine’s fascinating history, its architecture and the sacrifices of the men and women to whom it is dedicated.
As we discovered the Shrine was originally conceived in response to the needs of a grief-stricken nation, still severely affected by the loss and devastation of the First World War. Given that those killed during the war were buried overseas, most Australians couldn’t visit their loved ones’ graves. Thus there was a need for a place where they could reflect and honour those who died.
When the Shrine officially opened in 1934 it comprised three levels – the Crypt, the Sanctuary and the Balconies. These were included on our tour together with more recent additions, including new garden areas and the Galleries of Remembrance.
While most of the areas we visited evoked emotions, The Sanctuary was probably the most poignant. It’s home to the Stone of Remembrance, a sunken marble stone which bears the inscription: “Greater Love Hath No Man”.
Here we joined a simulation of the Ray of Light ceremony. The official ceremony is held on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to mark the end of the First World War. Thanks to the work of the then Government Astronomer and 144 pages of astronomic and mathematical calculations, the sanctuary’s 1930s design ensures the sun’s rays cross the stone and light up the word `love’ at precisely 11am. While a metal plate stops the light hitting the stone on all other days apart from November 11, a Ray of Light simulation mechanism allows visitors to recreate the moving and reflective ceremony every day on the half hour from 10.30am.
Also very moving were some of the stories Karl told about those featured in the Galleries of Remembrance. This area features more than 800 artworks, historical artefacts and the personal effects of those who served their country.
While the stories of those featured are told through informative labelling next to the exhibit, hearing someone tell a soldier’s story somehow makes it more personal.
At the same time, given the exhibits and all there is to see and experience at the Shrine (including some wonderful views of Melbourne), it’s wise to leave some time either before or after a tour for self-exploration. As I discovered, it’s easy to spend hours learning about and reflecting on the lives of those Australians who paid the ultimate price as a result of wars and conflicts around the world.
The Shrine of Remembrance is open from 10am to 5pm daily, except for Christmas Day and Good Friday. Entry is free. Guided tours are conducted hourly from from 10am-4pm (except midday) and cost $20 for adults, $15 concession and $10 for children. For more information visit the Shrine website.
*Images courtesy Shrine of Remembrance.
Jenny Burns joined a guided tour as a guest of the Shrine of Remembrance.
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