Hyde Park War Memorial
The first time I saw the inside of the War Memorial in Hyde Park Sydney, I was overcome by the peacefulness of it, its internal architecture. The gradations and steps, and the semi circular lines, all tapering, all echoing the lines of a slain soldier who is commemorated in bronze statue form, lying in the centre, struggling in his last moments.
I had seen old grey pictures of the crowds that had gathered to celebrate its completion in the early 1930s – huge numbers filling the park, wearing hats and dressed in respectful suits, whole families. In the ‘thirties the Great War was still close to everyone – the names and numbers of the dead still lined up, themselves like soldiers, on war memorials throughout the country – it was the time when Australian soldiers first became famous as brave and very skilled soldiers.
The sacrifice of war
We all know war is not fine or good – no argument – and I have interviewed soldiers from both the Korean War (a very few are left) and also from the Vietnam War – and they agreed too. The lucky ones are the ones who died, they had both said separately, echoing each other although they did not know each other at all – one was addicted to Panadol to help him sleep, the other to alcohol.
But there is a wonderfulness, a finery, to sacrifice, to those who go into battle. Something primeval stirs up in people when they remember, and they weep for those they do not know, and for the sons (because they were mostly boys) that have been lost. And for the unknown soldiers – wow – the unknown soldier, found and unidentifiable, that has met that final fate too early, too soon, with courage. Fallen. So maybe that is what those tapering lines mean – upward and spiraling – and somehow pointing to eternity. And what those massive crowds filling Hyde Park were seeing and commemorating as they took off their hats and looked up at the finished War Memorial; the unknown, the unforgettable, and the slain.