External Bas Reliefs

Surmounting the east and west portals are great bronze bas relief panels which tell in graphic form the activities of the 1st AIF. That on the eastern face illustrates the Eastern campaigns of the Australians, from the landing at Gallipoli to the campaign in Sinai and Palestine.

In a similar manner the panel on the western side of the building depicts Australian soldiers on the Western Front, in France and Belgium.

Each of the bronze panels is over 10 metres long and over 1 metre high.  The style is realistic and matter-of-fact, and neither pathos nor heroics are invoked when the wounded, gassed and dying men fall. The reliefs are probably inspired by Roman Victory Columns such as Trajan's. Hoff had studied in Rome.

Photo by Rob Tuckwell

The Western Front, 191618

Depicted left–right:  a soldier of a cyclist's company; an RE-8 biplane with pilot, observer and machine-gun; an air mechanic of the flying corps; a dispatch rider with pigeon basket leaving signals HQ; a pioneer with duck board; infantrymen marching from a rest area; field telephone mechanics laying telephone wire; gassed and wounded soldiers leaving a casualty clearing station; a 9.2-inch Howitzer gun in action (firing); stretcher-bearers going forward with a stretcher; a bomber throwing a 'Mills' grenade; and a Lewis gun and infantry team in attack against posion gas, accompanied by a tank.

Photo by Rob Tuckwell

The Eastern Campaigns, 1914–18

Depicted left–right: a naval landing party; a chief petty officer of the A.N.&M.E.F.; a surgeon, nurse, stretcher-bearer and ambulance driver at railhead depot; wireless signallers in the field; infantrymen of the A.I.F., the Australian Camel Corps; railway engineers laying light lines (Palestine); mule transport with water containers; dismounted light horseman; a pioneer; part of a crew of a Hotchkiss gun; an 18-pounder gun battery in action (loading); T-model Ford cars with mounted Lewis guns and light horsemen in attack with mounted Hotchkiss gun; and a section registering casualties.

On this day

On this day
16 February

1942— BANKA ISLAND MASSACRE. Following the sinking of the SS Vyner Brook, many of the survivors, including 22 Australian nurses, reached the shore of Banka Island. Realising that their position was desperate, an officer from the ship set out with most of the women and children to surrender the group to the Japanese. The officer returned with 20 Japanese soldiers who ordered all the men capable of walking to move to hidden part of the beach and killed them. They then returned to the beach and ordered the 22 nurses and 1 British civilian woman to walk into the water. They were machine-gunned in the back. All the immobile survivors were then killed. Sister Vivian Bullwinkle pretended to be dead and was the only survivor