I am a stay at home mum trying to be a freelance writer - or a freelance writer trying to be a stay at home mum. I enjoy getting out and about with my two little girls and am Chief Editor of Perth Mums Group perthmumsgroup.com.au
Published August 2nd 2020
See and hear the stories of the ANZACs in Albany
Over 100 years ago on the shores of Albany's Mount Clarence, Australian soldiers from throughout the country stood, awaiting their departure to a world well away from the comforts of home. Some would return to a life that would never be the same, while some just didn't come home at all.
In that very spot where hundreds of soldiers awaited their fate in Gallipoli in World War I, now stands the National Anzac Centre, a facility dedicated to telling the stories of the soldiers who returned, and those who didn't.
See the spot where the ANZAC troops departed for Gallipoli.
Opened in 2014 to commemorate 100 years since the first ANZAC troops departed, the National Anzac Centre provides visitors with an interactive look at what frontline life was like in the words of those who were there.
The National Anzac Centre is located at the heritage-listed Princess Royal Fortress, a pre-federation fortress built to protect trade routes. Along with the centre, the fortress features original gun batteries, officer barracks and defence equipment.
Before entering the exhibit, visitors are provided with a small card containing the name and image of a real-life identity, such as Private John 'Jack' Dunn, pictured below. Using historical artefacts and audiovisual, interactive multimedia, visitors will 'follow' their identity's journey through the war. You can view their records along the way, including their pre-war life, deployment and what happened to them.
Visitors are given a real-life identity to follow throughout the exhibit.
This was my second visit to the centre after a first visit in early 2015. Although this time around I had my two little girls with me and didn't absorb as much information as I would've liked, the exhibit has lost none of its appeal.
Along with the identity card, visitors are also provided with an audio device so you can listen to stories or letters along the way. There are audio markers throughout the exhibit. There is also plenty of information about the first world war, notable people and the role of the ANZACs.
My daughter is 5, so she enjoys hands-on activities. Her favourite activity was the interactive service person search table. You can enter a name and look for a service person - you may even find a distant relative by looking up your surname. This is another spot where you can find information about your given identity.
The exhibit makes for a fascinating, yet sombre experience. Dotted throughout the centre are the faces of the Anzac spirit - ordinary Australians who became soldiers, prisoners of war and casualties. It is this aspect that really helps you feel a connection to the people involved, and their plight, although hopefully, their sacrifices mean we will never have to suffer as they did.
I approached that final interactive marker with my identity card with apprehension - did Private Dunn survive? Whatever the outcome, there is a real sense of sadness as you learn that they either didn't survive the war, were injured or returned home undoubtedly a changed person than the one who left Mount Claremont during the four years prior.
Those who returned from war were rarely the same as before.
Once back outside the centre in the Princess Royal Fortress, you can view original gun batteries, take a walk through rambling nature trails and look for hidden lookouts or view a cannon up close. You can also grab a coffee from the cafe, or browse the Forts Store for commemorative memorabilia, gifts and plenty more.
To get the most out of your visit, I would suggest going without the youngest members of the family, if that is possible. Although my five-year-old has learned about the ANZACs in kindergarten and pre-primary, a lot of the information was lost on her, and my three-year-old was very restless after the first half an hour. As we visited in the school holidays, there were plenty of older children in attendance, engrossing themselves in the exhibit so I have no doubt my children will appreciate the messages more as they grow.
If you want to see the faces of the ANZACs, hear real stories and 'meet' the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, this sombre, yet engaging exhibition is one that should not be missed. You can also read more about the ANZAC troops' departure from Albany here.