Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens is the home of The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, which catches my eye every time I walk around Lake Wendouree.

The memorial is 170 meters long, and the wall has almost 35,000 names listed, commemorating those Australian servicemen and women who have been a Prisoner of War in conflicts from the Boer War to the World Wars, to the Korean War. These names were complied by the Ballarat RSL and volunteers in the region, growing out of a group of survivors who met on a regular basis wanting to mark the hardship and sacrifice their fallen brothers and sisters made in conflicts around the world.

In place here since 2004, according to the Ballarat Accommodation and Tourism Directory site:
The POW monuments' design uses the basic idea of a journey through and an experience of time and place. The start of the pathway is long and straight heading off into the shape of railway sleepers, a reference to the Burma Railway. Running parallel to the pathway is a polished black granite wall, 130m long etched with the names of all the Australian POW's. Standing in a reflective pool are huge basalt obelisks up to 4.5m high will the names of the POW camps. The columns are out of reach and across the water symbolizing that all the POW camps were away from Australian shores. Further on there is another wall with the words Lest we Forget engraved, allowing for an area of contemplation and reflection after the "journey".

The mere volume of names, spanning the length of the Memorial, is overwhelming. It also includes a section on the wall for the addition of further names, as details are located, researched and confirmed.

Walking along the Memorial without many people around, the design feels meaningful, and so I had to look it up! The reverence with the placement, layout and design is impressive, to incorporate so much significance, and has made this section of the Gardens an important memorial for all of Australia.

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