A remarkable tribute to our hero aviators
It is a sacred place: a monument to the ultimate sacrifice; an enduring symbol of remembrance.
It is also an educative place; a repository of priceless memories and unique memorabilia. To step inside its Galleries is to be consumed both by a sense of awe, respect for the commitment that drove its foundation, and an understanding of its place in the hearts of millions who have been there over the years.
The Shrine, the National War Memorial of Victoria, has dominated Melbourne’s King’s Domain since its construction between 1928 and 1934, funded through public appeal despite the endemic poverty familiar to so many in the 1920s and ’30s in the wake of the depravity of the Great War.
It was created as a place for people to grieve for their loved ones; a place close to home where they could commemorate their own loss and the loss of 19,000 Victorian compatriots on the other side of the world between 1914 and 1918.
According to the Shrine’s official history, so great was the gratitude of the people to the concept “that the huge amount required to build the Shrine was raised or promised within six months from the opening of the appeal in 1928.”
A crowd of 300,000 turned out for the opening in 1934 by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.
Since then, of course, the Shrine’s purpose has developed as Australia’s role in other historic and more contemporary conflict evolved and it now has a key place in commemoration of the sacrifice of all those who have served in the armed conflicts and peacekeeping operations involving the nation.
It also offers an opportunity for visitors to not only share the solemnity but to delve into the Shrine’s complementary role: as an exhibition space, holder of some unique collections of biography, memorabilia and other artefacts relevant to our military history.
That means it should be a prime focus of aviation enthusiasts visiting the Avalon Air Show and staying in or close to Melbourne.
Visitors have the chance to explore the remarkable stories of aviators whose names and feats have stood the test of time. Among many others, according to the Shrine’s dedicated collection curators:
When he died in 2003, Flight Lieutenant Harry Markby was the last Australian to have taken part in Operation JERICHO—the audacious air raid on Amiens Prison on February 18, 1944, which famously sought to free jailed members of the French resistance.
Markby joined the RAAF in June 1941, at the age of 18, gaining his wings and a commission in March 1942. Markby was a Hawker Typhoon pilot with No. 174 Squadron RAF when he was tasked with escort duties for the de Havilland Mosquito which carried the film photographic unit recording the raid.
Markby later flew missions in support of the Allied invasion of Europe, Operation OVERLORD, and was acting commanding officer of No. 174 from July to October 1944. Markby was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and after the war co-founded the Royal Victorian Aerobatic Club.
Memorabilia includes his flying helmet and gloves.
Squadron Leader Tony Gaze, DFC and Two Bars OAM, was Australia’s 10th-highest scoring ace of the Second World War, credited with 11 confirmed victories and three shared. Gaze and his younger brother Scott joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 while both were studying at Cambridge University. They were posted to No. 610 Squadron, RAF in March 1941. Scott did not survive the month.
Gaze’s own luck held on September 4 1943 when Luftwaffe ace Gerhard Vogt shot him down over Dieppe, France. He escaped with minor injuries after crash-landing. Evading capture, Gaze fled to neutral Spain with help from the French resistance and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.
On February 14 1945 Gaze became the first Australian to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter jet in his Mark XIV Spitfire.
His story is part of a current exhibition Resistance: Australians and the European Underground 1939–45
Items on display include his DFC and log book.
Flight Lieutenant Allan Hammet was a veteran of more than 30 combat missions and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal when he embarked on a second tour in July 1944. His new role was flying supply-drop missions with No. 178 Squadron RAF out of Foggia, Italy. The unit was one of five squadrons which, collectively, flew 182 sorties in support of the Polish Home Army during the 63-day Warsaw Uprising.
Hammet’s aircraft, Liberator KG 933, was shot down near Kracow during its third supply-drop mission on August 16 1944. Home Army fighters rescued Hammet, tended his wounds and gave him false papers, identifying him as a deaf mute. He fought alongside them for six months.
Hammet married resistance fighter Jadwiga Wielowiejska, whose first husband had died fighting the Nazis in September 1939. Wielowiejska had risked her life rescuing dozens of Allied and Jewish fugitives. At war’s end Soviet officials selected Hammet to lead a party of 900 Allied prisoners and escapees to the port of Odessa and a waiting British transport. The Hammets subsequently settled in Australia with Jadwiga’s daughter and had two sons together.
Items on display include his Distinguished Flying Medal, mittens worn while on the run in Poland, and fragments salvaged from the wreckage of Liberator KG 933.
These are just three stories among multiple other biographies and exhibits at the Shrine including uniforms, medals, period photographs, historic aviation equipment plus a host of original art.
Shrine CEO, Dean Lee encouraged all visitors to the Avalon Air Show to include the Shrine on their itinerary:
“The Shrine honours more than a century of service and sacrifice of the men and women who have supported Australia in armed conflicts and peacekeeping operations throughout our nation’s history,” he said.
“Within our substantial collection we are honoured to include personal stories of Victorians who played their part in our proud history of military aviation.”
This Sponsored Article is presented by The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne. Visitors can tour the Shrine independently or as part of a guided tour available at 11am or 12.45pm daily.
To find out more or to book a tour go to shrine.org.au/tours