Past News

News 

New IT system: possible disruption to services

The Office of Australian War Graves is currently converting to a new IT system that will provide improved services for the provision of official commemorations for veterans.

During transition and transfer of data we may experience some delays and would like to thank you for your patience during this time.

Should you have concerns or identify any errors please do not hesitate to contact our post-war commemorations team on (02) 6289 6517, 133 254, or 1800 555 254.  Email enquiries may be sent to wargraves@dva.gov.au.

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Construction commences on new First World War Museum at Fromelles

Construction work has begun on the new First World War Museum at Fromelles in northern France.  This Museum, to be located adjacent to the recently established Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, forms part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which will see improved visitor facilities at key former Australian First World War battlefields.

The Fromelles Museum will focus on the Battle of Fromelles, which was fought by Australian and British soldiers against German defensive positions on 19 and 20 July 1916.  This action was to be Australia’s initiation to the horror and destruction of the Western Front battlefields, resulting in the death of nearly 2000 Australian soldiers in less than 24 hours.

The new Museum will encompass views of the Fromelles Military Cemetery and the local church, which was destroyed in the War and rebuilt in the 1920’s. The Museum will be officially opened to the public following completion of the exhibition fit scheduled for the latter half of 2013.

An excavating machine digging up a lawn

Commencement of construction 1

 

Construction site with a church in the background

Commencement of construction 2

People walking along a path into the museum

 




Fromelles museum - artist's impression

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New Signage at the 9th Division Memorial

In October 2012, twenty-one Second World War veterans of the North Africa campaign travelled to Egypt to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battles of El Alamein and the North Africa campaign.

The Office of Australian War Graves arranged for improvements to visitor access and the installation of new interpretive materials at the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

The works included the installation of new signage and interpretive panels, which contain information about the battles of El Alamein in both English and Arabic.  Improvements to the grounds adjacent to the memorial and the refurbishment of the path for visitors were also undertaken..  The work was completed with the assistance of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The memorial is a tribute to the men of 9th Division, who fought and died in the battles around El Alamein between July and November 1942.

The refurbished walking path leading to the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

The refurbished walking path leading to the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

The grounds adjacent to the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

The grounds adjacent to the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

New interpretive panels at the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

New interpretive panels at the 9th Division Memorial in El Alamein.

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Surrender Point Memorial, Malaysia

The Surrender Point Memorial, Labuan Island will be closed for public access from 15 November 2012 to 5 January 2013 while construction work to improve the drainage system is taking place.

For all inquiries please email wargraves@dva.gov.au.

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Bullecourt Museum Reopens

The Bullecourt Museum was officially reopened on Anzac Day 2012, by the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, with the Mayor of Bullecourt, M. Jules Laude.

The Jean and Denise Letaille Museum – Bullecourt 1917, established in northern France by the late Jean and Denise Letaille, focuses on the battles fought at Bullecourt on 11 April, and between 3-17 May 1917.   These were two of the bloodiest battles on the Western Front during the First World War, resulting in more than 10,000 Australian casualties.

Over many years, the Letailles collected weapons, machinery and other relics left behind in fields around Bullecourt by Australian, British and German soldiers.  Jean created a small museum in the Town Hall to display many of these items, before relocating them to his barn and stable in 1995.  Before his death earlier this year, Jean donated the unique collection and part of his property to the local community to allow for major redevelopment of the museum in 2011-2012. 

The refurbished museum retains the structural features of the original barn and stable, however the interior has been converted to accommodate contemporary displays and modern exhibition features.  The Australian Government and local French authorities shared the cost of the improvements.

The Bullecourt Museum is a key element of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which links sites of the major battles involving Australian soldiers on the Western Front.  (More information about the Trail Project is provided at www.dva.gov.au/art.htm).

The Tribute Hall at the Bullecourt Museum.
The Tribute Hall at the Bullecourt Museum.

The Battle Room within the Bullecourt Museum.
The Battle Room within the Bullecourt Museum.


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New timber walkway at the Sandakan Memorial Park

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) has completed the construction of a timber walkway at the Sandakan Memorial Park in Sabah, Malaysia.

The new walkway incorporates built-in lighting and replaces the concrete pathway leading from the boiler (a relic of the original Sandakan prisoner of war camp) to the Pavilion, connecting with the RSL Commemorative area. The walkway itself provides a beautiful and tranquil approach to the main Pavilion and information centre.

In 2011, during the first stages of the upgrading work at the Park, part of the project included extensive ground landscaping and environmental works adjacent to the walkway due to erosion and overland flow and lack of topsoil. Geo textile matting, topsoil and plants were added to regenerate the area and avoid future erosion and tree loss. The ground vegetation re-growth has improved beyond all expectations.

Ground level lighting has also been installed at the Obelisk to assist with Commemorative Ceremonies.

 Ground vegetation re-growth along side the timber walkway leading up to the Pavilion and information centreView from a set of stairs of the completed timber walkway at the Sandakan Memorial Park
The completed timber walkway veers off to the right between some tall trees The completed timber walkway at the Sandakan Memorial Park rinning in a straight line off into the distance

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Australian Memorial, Wellington, New Zealand

In June 2011, during a visit to Canberra by the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, previous Prime Minister Julia Gillard officially announced that, “design work would commence for an Australian Memorial in the proposed New Zealand Memorial Park in Wellington. This Memorial will be completed by the time of the Centenary of ANZAC in 2015 and will reciprocate the New Zealand Memorial on ANZAC Parade in Canberra.”

On Tuesday, 7 August, the New Zealand Prime Minister announced additional planning details for the New Zealand National War Memorial Park in which the Australian Memorial will be located.

“The National War Memorial Park will provide a space for people to congregate on major occasions or reflect at any time on the sacrifices made for this country in the past,” Mr Finlayson said.

The proposed Memorial Park site is currently divided into two parts by a state highway which runs straight through the memorial precinct and divides the proposed new elements from the existing New Zealand War Memorial, Carillion and Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The additional planning announced by the New Zealand Government will see the undergrounding of the highway to unite the precinct; increase the accessibility of the National War Memorial, and limit the effects of traffic on visitors to the Memorial Park.  

It is estimated that development of the park will cost $12 million (NZD). The Wellington City Council has agreed to contribute $2.11 million (NZD) to the cost. The undergrounding project for Buckle Street will cost $70-75 million (NZD), and will be overseen by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

In April 2012, the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) appointed UGL Services as the Project Managers for the Australian Memorial Project. OAWG are currently undertaking tenders for the Design services for the Australian Memorial to be constructed in the Memorial Park in Wellington.

Construction by the New Zealand Government of the main undergrounding work of Buckle St will begin in early 2013. It is envisaged that construction and landscaping of the Memorial Park, including the Australian Memorial will begin in late 2014.

See additional information regarding the New Zealand Memorial Park,

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Vietnam Veterans’ Education Centre (VVEC)

The then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, launched the Australian Government’s commitment of $3.3 million towards a world-first education centre honouring Vietnam veterans on 8 March 2011.

The VVEC will be a centre for both education and commemoration. It is not a traditional museum but will use multimedia technology to tell the story of the Vietnam War. The VVEC will also be accessible via the internet. The purpose of Australia’s funding contribution is to ensure that when Americans remember and learn of the Vietnam War, they will also remember and learn of the significant contribution that Australian servicemen and women made there.

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund (VVMF) is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC, promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War. Authorised by Congress, its most recent initiative is building The Education Centre. The two story underground building will be adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial ‘The Wall.’

In February 2012,DVA established an Advisory Panel, endorsed by the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Hon Warren Snowdon. The purpose of the Advisory Panel is to ensure that the Australian contribution to the VVEC suitably reflects the Australian experience of the war in Vietnam. The Panel met for the first time on 15 March 2012.

The Advisory Panel members are:

  • Dr Robert O’Neill, AO - Distinguished Historian and Advisory Panel Chairman (and Vietnam veteran).
  • Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, AO, Ret’d – President, Returned and Services League (and RAN veteran of Vietnam).
  • Ron Coxon, OAM – Vietnam Veterans of Australia Association
  • Lieutenant Colonel Graham Walker, Ret’d – Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia.
  • Mrs Margaret (Meg) Green - War Widows’ Guild and widow of a Vietnam veteran.
  • Ms Colleen Thurgar, AM - Nurses Representative and Vietnam veteran.
  • Bill Kane OAM - Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex Servicemen and Women and RAN veteran of Vietnam.
  • The Hon. Graham John Edwards, MP - Vietnam veteran - Army.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gary McKay, MC, Ret’d – Vietnam veteran – Army.
  • Air Commodore Chris Beatty, DFC, AFC, Ret’d – Vietnam veteran – RAAF.

DVA will consult widely with the Vietnam veterans’ community, principally through the Advisory Panel, Ex-Service Organisations, the Ex-Service Round Table and the VetAffairs newspaper.

Ex-Service Organisations wishing to stay abreast of developments are invited to register their interest at VVEC@dva.gov.au providing name and contact details, including email address of a point of contact.

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New facility to request permission to use the Service emblem for Second World War, Korean War and Vietnam veterans

An on-line facility has been developed to assist in obtaining the necessary letter of permission to use the Service Badge on the commemoration/memorial of a deceased veteran. Veterans may wish to print a letter of permission for placement with their personal papers. Families, cemeteries and crematoria are also able to print permission letters without delays when a veteran passes. The facility to print a letter of permission is available for each veteran listed on the Nominal Roll.

Simply log on to the Nominal Roll (www.ww2roll.gov.au | www.koreanroll.gov.au | www.vietnamroll.gov.au), find the veteran and follow the options to obtain the necessary letter of permission to use the Service Badge.

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National Sandakan Wreath-Laying Service, 29 May 2012

Sandakan Memorial, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

The service is an annual event commemorating the prisoners of war held at Sandakan POW Camp during the Second World War. In attendance was Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF) Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO, Director of the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) Brig Chris Appleton CSC (Ret'd), Chairman of the RSL National Conditions of Service Committee and surviving Sandakan POWs Leslie Bunn Glover and Billy Young OAM.

Following the service was an afternoon reception for family and friends of Sandakan POW Families at Government House hosted by the Governor General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO.

Laying of the wreaths at the Sandakan Memorial (Click for fullsize image)Bugler, Corporal James Duquemin, Band of the Royal Military Colege stands next the Sandakan Memorial in the Sculpture Garden, Au

For images from today’s ceremony please visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/australianwarmemorial/  

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Map of Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches released

Following research by the Army History Unit and the Defence Imagery & Geospatial Organisation, the Department of Defence has released an official map showing the route taken by Allied prisoners of war on forced marches between Sandakan and Ranau POW camps in Borneo, during the Second World War.

In all, 2,428 Allied POWs died at Sandakan, at Ranau or on the Death Marches between the two. Only six POWs survived, all Australian escapees.

The route shown on the map (PDF 10MB) is based on information collected by the Australian War Grave Unit shortly after the war, as well as published historical maps and local accounts.

Description of the map contents

ROUTE OF SANDAKAN DEATH MARCHES, 1945
Sabah, Malaysia

The map was prepared by the Department of Defence and shows the route taken by Allied prisoners of war on the notorious 'Death Marches; between Sandakan and Ranau POW camps in 1945.

The route begins in Sandakan and proceeds in a generally westerly and slightly southerly direction before turning south shortly after crossing the Pandan-Pandan river. It continues in a southerly direction before meeting the present-day sealed road, the route of which it follows, passing the village of Boto, before entering the Taviu valley. In the Taviu Valley it follows the route of the present-day sealed road, while remaining south of it. It follows the route of the Taviu and Lolosing rivers up to the village of Toupos. From there it follows closely the route of the present-day sealed road, passing Maringkan, Pagintan, Matupang, Segindai, Nabutan, Nalapak, and Muruk. At Muruk the route turns west until it reaches Ranau.

March route primary source: Map entitled 'Route of P.O.W. Marches Sandakan - Ranau', CPL G.D. Robertson 31 AWGU.

March route secondary source: Annotated copies of contemporary British Borneo 1:250 000 map sheets Jesselton, Kuamut & Sandakan.

March route tertiary souces: Australian War Grave Unit diary records, P.O.W. body recovery data, published historical works, published maps, local accounts, open source information.

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The Fromelles Project: Another 9 Australian soldiers identified

The Fromelles Project is a joint Australian Army and UK Ministry of Defence project to identify the remaining unidentified Australian and British soldiers buried in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in France.

The bodies of 250 Australian and British soldiers were buried in the cemetery after being recovered from burial pits adjacent to nearby Pheasant Wood in 2010. The bodies were buried by German forces after the disastrous Battle of Fromelles fought on 19/20 July 1916.
 
The project’s 2012 Joint Identification Board (JIB) recently convened in London and confirmed the identification of another nine Australian soldiers buried at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.

The nine Australian soldiers identified by name
3013 Private Leonard Broadhurst 55th Battalion
4779 Private Robert Carrington Forland 53rd Battalion
3046 Private John Robertson Forrest 54th Battalion
555 Private John Joseph Goulding 31st Battalion
2144 Private William Alexander Jamieson 31st Battalion
2203 Private Arthur Joseph Johnson 29th Battalion
1252 Corporal Alfred George Tuck 29th Battalion
2154 Private Claude Ward 30th Battalion
2485 Private John Cyril Wynn 30th Battalion

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Headstone Dedication Ceremony


Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, 20 July 2012

The replacement headstones for the nine Australian soldiers recently identified by name will be dedicated at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery on 20 July 2012 – the 96th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles (19/20 July 1916).

The Australian Army and the Mayor of Fromelles will co-host a dedication ceremony and the details are:

  • What: Headstone dedication ceremony for the nine Australian soldiers identified on 23 March 2012.
  • Where: Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, rue de la Basse Ville, Fromelles, Nord/Pas de Calais, France.
  • When: 7pm, Friday 20 July 2012. 

More details can be found at the Australian Army’s website at: www.army.gov.au/fromelles

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Hellfire Pass Audio Guide available online

For the first time, OAWG is making the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum audio guide available to the public on the DVA web site. The guide was previously only available at the Museum itself.

The Museum is dedicated to the Allied POWs and Asian labourers who suffered and died at Hellfire Pass and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region during the Second World War. The site incorporates part of the Burma-Thailand Railway, which the Japanese built using forced labour from 1942-1943.

Since the audio guide was introduced in 2005 it has become an integral part of the Hellfire Pass experience. The guide takes visitors through the Museum, down the walkway access and along the route of the Railway to Pack of Cards Bridge, passing through Hellfire Pass (Konyu) Cutting, and returning to the Museum’s contemplation deck. The audio guide was amended in 2009 when the new walkway access was installed and includes some areas currently closed to visitors.

The guide incorporates first-hand testimonies from POWs who worked on the Railway and is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in this vital part of Australian history. It can be downloaded and listened to in the Audio Tour site

The audio tour is available in Thai, English, Dutch and Japanese. A similar audio tour is planned to be released for the Sandakan Memorial Park in May 2011.

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Restrictions on access to the end of the walking track at Hellfire Pass

The Hellfire Pass Museum, Hellfire Pass itself, and the associated walking track are located on land controlled by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Development Command (AFDC).

On 7 August 2010, AFDC fenced off an area of land to the west of the Hintok River Road, which intersects the walking track 2.5km from the Museum.  The section of the walking track from the Hintok River Road to Compressor Cutting (approximately the last 1.5km) now has restricted access.

A control point has also been established at the southern end of the Hintok River Road.

Tourists are still allowed access to the area where the walking track from Hellfire Pass meets the Hintok River Road. The restrictions imposed by the AFDC do not affect access to the Museum, Hellfire Pass or the walking track from the Pass to the Hintok River Road.

AFDC have explained the reason for the restrictions is to prevent illegal logging and control unrestricted access in an area of land that has been set aside for a project sponsored by the Princess of Thailand.

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