John Wadsley has been a professional planning and heritage practitioner for the past 25 years, and established his own consultancy 12 years ago. He has a particular interest in military history and has worked on a number of conservation projects for some of Australia’s most significant war memorials and military facilities. He co-authored the Bicentennial history of Anglesea Barracks, Barrack Hill, published in 2011, as well as publishing a number of articles on historical topics. He has previously worked at a number of historic sites around Tasmania and at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, where he assisted researching their Great War exhibition in 2015. He currently works part-time at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania. He has been a member of the Friends of Soldiers Memorial Avenue since 2003 and has been President for a number of years. He is currently writing a history of the Claremont Army Camp and is researching his great uncle’s battalion, the 52nd, and the men who served in it during the Great War.
Unrelenting Sadness – stories from Soldiers Memorial Avenue
The Great War had a profound effect on Australia. One physical expression of this was the construction of war memorials on an unprecedented scale. There were traditional monuments in the form of obelisks, arches, honour boards and statues. Others served a broader community purpose such as halls, gardens and civic spaces. And memorial avenues would become a significant Australian response to the war. And all forms of memorial played a key role in helping communities remember those who served and died. They provided a tangible place compensating in part for the actual grave that most families would never see.
And so, in Hobart, the Soldiers Memorial Avenue came to be such a place, where private grieving and community remembrance could be expressed together. The Avenue today provides the opportunity to uncover the layers of local memories associated with the Great War: there are stories of individual soldiers; the places so far away where they fell; the hardships faced by mothers, sisters and wives left behind; and the need for the Hobart community to express its collective identity during a time of unparalleled grief, loss and upheaval. This presentation will examine a number of these stories that give real and personal insights into the direct effect of war. It will also reflect on the role of the Avenue as a place that can sustain the memory of loss, as well as being part of our social fabric, hopefully in perpetuity. The Avenue brings tangible form to the unrelenting sadness felt across Tasmania arising from the Great War.