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17 Military Museums to Visit in Victoria

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by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published July 23rd 2021
Travel to Australia's Military Past

When my husband and I travel, we are keen to visit local museums; there is always something to be seen that is new to us, some wonderful or interesting surprise from Australia's past. Victoria has much to offer travellers, including a surprising number of military museums, many of which are in Melbourne or are close enough to Melbourne for a day trip.

Military museums are not only the custodians of our history but take on the extra task of reminding us of the horrors of war, lest we forget, and of respecting those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They are an opportunity for the public to get up close and personal with the machinery of war; stand beside a tank, a helicopter, a plane, or an armoured vehicle. See wartime rations, field medical kits, weapons, photos, medals; the list goes on.

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A Huey Helicopter at the Vietnam Veterans Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beverdge

Greater Melbourne – City and Western

1. The RAAF Museum at the RAAF Base at Point Cook tells the story of the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force, the second oldest air force in the world. Exhibitions cover heritage, training and technology. Interactive flying displays are presented three times a week. Point Cook is the birthplace of the RAAF and was its only base from 1912 to 1925. Visit their website for more details, prices and opening hours https://www.airforce.gov.au/raaf-museum

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At the RAAF Museum at Point Cook - Photo copyright Roger Marien by permission

2. The Shrine of Remembrance is in Birdwood Avenue in Melbourne. The Galleries of Remembrance house both permanent and temporary exhibitions dedicated to Australian service and sacrifice. Permanent displays include artefacts and personal effects from pre federation to the current day. Entry is by gold coin donation. In normal times, the Shrine is open to visitors daily except Good Friday and Christmas from 10am to 5pm and guided tours run on the hour from 10anm to 4pm. Visit the Shrine's website for full details. https://www.shrine.org.au/visit

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Shrine of Remembrance - Photo by MusikAnimal (Own work)CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

3. B-24 Liberator Memorial Australia Inc. in Werribee is a WWII hangar where the only remaining Liberator in the Southern Hemisphere and is one of only eight still existent in the world is being restored by a dedicated team of volunteers. Visitors can view the restoration to date and chat with volunteers. In normal times, the hangar is open to visitors Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 9.30am to 3.30pm. More details are available on their website. https://www.b24australia.org.au/

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Image from B24 Liberator Memorial - Werribee Facebook Page

4. Fort Queenscliff Museum is a historic 19th-century coastal artillery fortress turned museum in King Street, Queenscliff. In addition to the museum's exhibitions of weapons, ammunition, decorations and memorials, documents and photographs (some of which date back to the 1880s, you can take a tour of the fort where you will see a range of guns, underground magazines, heritage buildings, and a working lighthouse. For tour times, COVID safe measures and pricing, check their website. https://www.fortqueenscliff.com.au/

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Fort Queenscliffe - Image by Paul Carmona, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Greater Melbourne – East and South

5. HMAS Castlemaine is a restored Bathurst Class Corvette, a WWII minesweeping ship at Gem Pier in Williamstown. Visitors can board and explore the ship, see the engines running, view the guns up close, check out the restored equipment and even ring the bells and try out the voice pipes. The ship also houses exhibitions which are changed regularly and guided tours are usually available. Check out their website, which has a wealth of information about the ship, her missions and her crew along with details of visiting times and pricing, https://hmascastlemaine.org.au

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HMAS Castlemaine - Image by User Bukvoed, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

6. Museum of HMAS Cerebus is housed in a 1925 building on a working naval training base at Crib Point on the Mornington Peninsula. The museum displays a large collection of Navy heritage from not only the Royal Australian Navy but also the Colonial and Victoria Navies. Artefacts, memorabilia and photographs include the stories of specific battles. In normal times the museum is open to the public Monday to Thursday and is by appointment as access to the base is restricted. Refer to their website for location and contact details to arrange an appointment. https://www.navy.gov.au/heritage/museums/museum-hmas-cerberus

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HMAS Cerberus Modern Weapons - Image by Sheba Also 43,000 photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

7. The Running Rabbits Military Museum is at the Upwey-Belgrave RSL. There are over 2,500 items on display representing conflicts from the Boer War to the current day. Amongst both the inside and outside displays are weaponry, equipment, photographs, artefacts, books and magazines. Further details can be found on their website. Entry is by gold coin donation. The museum is normally open Thursdays 10am to 2pm and Sundays 10am to 3pm. https://www.upweybelgraversl.org.au/museum/

Bass Coast and West Gippsland

8. The National Vietnam Veteran's Museum at Newhaven on Phillip Island is the largest dedicated museum of its kind in Australia it will appeal to adults and children alike. They have planes and helicopters here, tanks and guns, some astonishingly good models and dioramas, medals, artefacts, and a cafe. The sound and light show in the large army tent is a must-see in which a holographic man steps us through the history of the Vietnam War. Click here https://www.weekendnotes.com/national-vietnam-veterans-museum/ to read a full review. Visit their website for more details and costs. https://vietnamvetsmuseum.org/

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Military vehicles at the Vietnam Veterns Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

9. The Light Horse and Field Artillery Museum Nar Nar Goon is a museum in Besse Creek Road is dedicated to remembering animals in the war and is different to other museums in that it has working horses, Crystal, Darky and Drifter. Exhibits include war artifacts, memorabilia and displays. The museum offers personalised guided tours for any group size and has an on-site BBQ and kitchen facilities. Check out their website for more details and contacts to arrange tours. https://www.lighthorsemuseum.com.au/

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There is so Much to See at the Vietnam Veterens Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)

East Gippsland

10. Gippsland Armed Forces Museum at the West Sale Airport this museum represents all of the defence forces; air force, navy and army all have their space here. There are some aircraft on display in the carpark, and inside the corridors, rooms and warehouse are jam-packed with displays. Volunteers are on hand to assist and will be happy to show their current restoration project. Here they have war machinery, ammunition, aircraft components, models, uniforms, photos including a photo memorial to Gippslanders lost to war, and all manner of war memorabilia. Go to https://www.weekendnotes.com/top-things-to-do-on-a-holiday-to-sale for a more detailed review and visit the museum's website for opening times and pricing. www.gippslandarmedforcesmuseum.com

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Inside one of the Gippsland Armed Forces Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

11. Mallacoota WWII Bunker Museum was a high-security advanced operations base used by the RAAF during WWII for communications. Visitors can learn about the bunker's role during the war and view this restored heritage-listed building on Tuesday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Details of current special exhibitions are listed on their website, where you will also find opening times, costs, location and site limitations. https://www.mallacootabunker.com.au/

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Uniform displays at the Gippsland Armed Forces Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

Central and North-West Victoria

12. The Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum Bendigo is housed in a prominent and spectacular 1920's building which is in itself a museum piece. In this museum, even the method of displaying some of the photographs is in itself worth a look. There is a wide range of war-time memorabilia, which is grouped according to conflict from pre WWI onwards with a particular focus on the locals who served. It is suggested visitors allocate between one and two hours for the experience and group tours can be arranged. Check their website for more details, location and pricing. https://www.bendigorsl.com.au/museum/

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The SMI Military Museum in Bendigo - Image by Jiandong Qiu, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

13. Red Cliffs Military Museum at 12-14 Jamieson Ave, Red Cliffs. This is a small museum with military artifacts, uniforms and photos relating to the First and Second World Wars ad highlighting the contribution from people in the area. The museum is normally open on the first Sunday of the month 9.30am to 2.00pm to coincide with the Red Cliffs Country Market. Entry is $2 for adults.

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Puckapunyal Army Tank Museum Display - Image by User Bukvoed, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

14. Army Tank Museum Puckapunyal on the Puckapunyal Army Base claims to have the finest collection of Australian armoured fighting vehicles in the world. More than eighty tanks and armoured vehicles are supplemented by memorabilia from the Australian Light Horse period, uniforms and military weapons. The collection ranges from the First World War to the current time. For opening times, pricing and COVID-safe measures check their website. www.australianarmytankmuseum.com.au

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Puckapunyal Army Tank Museum - Image by User Bukvoed, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Albury/Wodonga and North-East Victoria

15. The Army Museum Bandiana is housed at Gaza Ridge Barracks, four kilometres east of Wodonga. The collections both inside and out represent the army from 1863 to the present. Glass cases house well-ordered displays of weapons, searchlights, uniforms, gas masks, eating utensils, medals, soldier's diaries, old photos and much more. Lifesize dioramas depict army scenes. Machine guns are set up behind chain barriers and an interactive display demonstrates the drip rifle. The vehicle collection includes armoured vehicles, huge trucks, heavy equipment, cars and motorcycles. Amongst these displays, you will also find historic cannons. Check their website for more details, location, opening times and pricing. https://armymuseumbandiana.com/

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'Drip Rifle' - an Interactive Display at the Army Museum Bandiana - Photo Copyright Gayle Beveridge

16. Chanter Estate Winery and Military Museum is housed behind a restored 100-year-old church at the Chanter Estate Winery and fronts the Military Museum. On display are vintage military trucks, tanks, cars, motorbikes, tractors and bicycles. There are also tools, radios, wartime newspapers, uniforms, bottles, cameras and so much more. Outside are a couple of tanks. The Chanter Estate Winery and Military Museum is at Lot 1 Chanter Street, Moama, just across the bridge from Echuca. For more details visit the Echuca Moama Tourism website. https://www.echucamoama.com/chanter-estate-winery-and-military-museum

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Historic vehicles at the Chanter Military Museum - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge

17. Benalla Aviation Museum is dedicated to Australia's military air training history. Displays include military training aircraft, some of which are operational, a restored tiger moth, working engines, a flight training simulator, period uniforms, photographs and model aircraft. The museum has a particular meaning as RAAF Pilots training during the World War 2 conflict were stationed at the Benalla Airfield and operated as 11 EFTS Squadron. In normal times the museum is open Wednesdays and Sundays. For further details including current projects, location, and opening hours, check their website. https://www.benallaaviationmuseum.org.au/

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Image from Benalla Aviation Museum and Mens Shed Facebook Page

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Why? Immerse yourself in Australia’s interesting military history, add it to a holiday or take a day trip.
When: Check websites for opening times.
Where: Locations and directions are shown on the linked websites.
Cost: These are inexpensive, some requiring only a gold coin donation.
Your Comment
A most interesting article Gayle. Have been to some of them and hoping to see the ones I haven't. Well worthy of a gold.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|3114) 65 days ago
Congrats on the gold, Gayle, good to see you back!
by Elaine (score: 3|8462) 66 days ago
Sigh.....one day we will be able to travel into Victoria. There's so much we want to see! Well done on the Gold!
by Paula McManus (score: 3|3744) 65 days ago
Well done Gayle. I am dreaming of when we can all travel again.....
by May Cross (score: 3|8029) 64 days ago
A large list. I have been to the museums in Sale and Bandiana and both are exceptional.
by betty (score: 2|635) 66 days ago
Having spent six years in the ADF, I truly respect the effort put into this article and the great effort put in by the volunteers that make these museums possible.
Lest We Forget.
Thanks Gayle
by Roger (score: 2|761) 66 days ago
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