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Defence on display

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Canberrans flocked to the Australian War Memorial Open Day on Saturday 6 April, for the unique opportunity to discover some of Australia’s rarely displayed military history.

The open day was part of Canberra’s centenary celebrations with rare military artefacts, vehicles and weapons on show. There were many activities during the day, including: Performances from Australia’s Federation Guard Precision Drill Team; tethered flights in the RAAF Hot Air Balloon; an aerial display by the Roulettes, and museum talks and tours by staff.

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Karl James, a historian at the War Memorial spoke about Australia’s involvement in the Second World War, Australia’s involvement at Kokoda and how it changed us as a nation.

“It’s great to see such a captive audience wanting to learn about our military history and the open day is such a great opportunity for that,” Mr James said.

This was the Museums first open day in six years and it definitely drew the crowds Family activities including: war craft model making, arts and crafts, military uniform dress ups, and a chance to see and hold the weaponry used by soldiers during World War I & II, kept the kids entertained.

A highlight was also the chance to taste some of the canned foods eaten by soldiers. This included bully beef and tin ham which were very salty, as the meat was cured to preserve it, and also hard, plain, very dry and  flavourless biscuits. There was also a chance to see the full kit of equipment put on horses, demonstrating the role that the Australian Light Horse played during war.Australian War Memorial Open Day 044

Local man, Bill Rodgers brought his grandchildren for the day and was very impressed with the display.

“It’s a really good day to get a glimpse of what war was like then and the kind of conditions Australian soldiers had to live through… It’s also great that there are activities for the kids to get involved with because it’s important for them to learn about their history, Mr Rodgers said.”

After the demonstrations of tanks, planes, submarines, soldiers and guns ceased the day went out with a bang as a fireworks display filled the skies accompanied with a performance by the Band of the Royal Military College of Australia. Directed by Major Dan Hiscock, the band played a traditional beating retreat ceremony and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

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