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Published April 15th 2018
Sound & light shows with full-sized tanks & planes
Anzac Hall is located inside the Australian War Memorial in Campbell, just a 5 minute drive from Canberra's city centre. The memorial is a tribute to all the Australian men and women who have fought in every war and conflict in this country's history. When you first walk inside the memorial, there are different exhibition spaces which reflect each war, with videos, photos, original machinery, art, clothing and displays telling real stories from people who fought in each war. Each exhibition takes a long time to walk through, so ensure you dedicate at least a few hours to exploring the memorial, to get the most out of the sobering experience.
As you walk further into the museum, there are signs pointing towards Anzac Hall, at the back of the museum. When you first walk through the doorway, the sheer size of the hall takes your breath away as your eyes take in the sounds and sights of large aircraft and wartime relics - highlighted in the dim and moody lighting. Prepare your senses before you walk into this spacious - and often loud - wartime experience.
Walk through the Australian War Memorial to Anzac Hall
On the upper level there is a horizontal platform so that visitors can walk along and look down to the various exhibitions from above. If you feel like break, the Landing Place Café is located to the right, which you can sit inside and enjoy a coffee or lunch, whilst looking out through the large windows and down into the hall below. If you walk straight ahead and across the bridge, you then walk out onto a platform and then down a set of stairs to the floor below. This is where you really feel you are immersing yourself into the Australian wartime story.
Walk out onto the platform and down the stairs to view the exhibitions
There are three main sections in Anzac Hall in which to discover. Sydney Under Attack is located in the centre of the hall and on a personal note, I found this to be the most fascinating. One side of the exhibition explains the night that Sydney Harbour was under attack from three Japanese midget submarines on 31st May, 1942 - where 21 soldiers were killed. Two of the midget submarines were destroyed before they did any damage and the third disappeared. On display in the hall is an impressive midget submarine, which was built and re-created from two of the three submarines. There is also a torpedo, which was the same type that was used in the attack. Another interesting feature of this display is seeing the photos and hearing the stories about the four Japanese soldiers who were inside the submarines. Read the signage and be swept away in this wartime story which changed the city of Sydney in 1942.
The other side of this exhibition is Our First Naval Victory which shows the story of HMAS Sydney in 1914 when it was under attack from the German raider SMS Emden. All throughout the day, there are sound-and-light shows in each exhibition, to bring to life the story in a compelling assault on the senses. See here for the current times for the sound-and-light shows in this exhibition.
Read about the midget submarines in Sydney Under Attack
At the far end of the hall is Over The Front - The Great War in the Air, which tells the stories of the pilots who flew over the Western Front in France and the conflicts of the first World War. Their planes were flimsy in many instances, made of wood, linen and wire, however they were a large part of the war effort. At first, the pilots were used to send back information about where the enemy were camped, but soon they had a more serious role to play with dropping bombs and aerial combat. Plane designers were then designing planes with machine guns built into the plane, so they were synchronised with the revolution of the engine. It changed how each country fought the war. See here for current times for the sound-and-light shows in this exhibition.
Also in this area, under the platform, there is a tank used in World War 1, with a history of the technology of these fearsome weapons.
A must for all plane-enthusiasts at the Over The Front - The Great War in the Air exhibition
The last exhibition, G For George, has a large Lancaster Bomber plane on display called George, which took part in 90 operations between 1942 and 1944. Walk under its wings and marvel at the size of this stoic wartime machine, before walking around the outside of the exhibition and learning about other planes in World War 2. You really get a sense of how large this space is, with so many planes located in the one area and it doesn't feel crowded. See here for current times for the sound-and-light shows in this exhibition.
Also, under the platform, there is Japanese tank on display from the Battle of Milne Bay (1942) and also a display of jungle warfare worn by Australians in the Second World War.
This is just a small taste of the information, stories and exhibits that are located within Anzac Hall. As the hall is dimly lit and the sound-and-light shows are so striking and real, the whole experience of walking through this exhibition is a memorable one. When you walk around Anzac Hall, you notice that the people around you are quiet. The impact of the realistic sounds, lights and stories you read, makes it feel like you are part of the experience and it can leave you feeling deeply moved.
Anzac Hall is a highlight for many people who visit the Australian War Memorial, however it is just one of the many exhibitions and moments, which will touch you during your visit. Whether you can only spend an hour or a whole day, it is a visit which will stay with you, long after you've gone.