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Australian War Memorial
CanberraCanberra was chosen as the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney and as compromises go it has none of the charm of either, being a typical government town. What it does have and what brought me to the capital on this brisk Anzac Day is the Australian War Memorial.

ANZAC Day - 25 April - is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 

Australian War MuseumWhen war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only fourteen years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed and their sacrifice and those of their comrades led to the creation of what became known as the "Anzac legend" and the glorification of the Australian Digger or common soldier which has become an important part of the national identity of Australia.

Australian War MemorialIn the aftermath of the battle of Pozieres in 1916, the Australian Official War Historian of the First World War, Charles Bean, began to develop plans for a memorial to commemorate the tremendous sacrifice made by his fellow Australians. He felt that it would be important for such a Memorial to include a collection of relics in order to help Australians at home understand the wartime experience. His view was widely supported from the start:

"It had always been in the mind of many Australians soldiers that records and relics of their fighting would be preserved in some institutions in Australia, and to several of us it had seemed that a museum housing these would form the most natural, interesting, and inspiring memorial to those who fell."

(Gallipoli Mission - C.E.W.Bean, 1948 ABC Books p.5)