Australian War Memorial – AU$500M Expansion Plans

The Australian War Memorial's Avro Lancaster B.I W4783 'G for George' flew 90 missions over Europe. The Museum has just received a massive expansion grant, so it will be exciting to see what the possibilities are for including more such historic aircraft in the upgraded facility. (photo by Paul Hastings)

Australian War Memorial – AU$500M Expansion Plans

by Paul Hastings

Australia’s largest collection of artifacts from more than a century of conflict, the Canberra-based Australian War Memorial (AWM), is to undergo a massive expansion of its display galleries, at a cost of just under AU$500 million.

On Thursday November 1st, 2018, the institution’s director, Dr. Brendan Nelson, announced with detailed plans in Parliament House that over a period of nine years, the Memorial’s display space will expand by 83 per cent, adding approximately 10,000 square metres of covered display space, and allowing many of the museum’s larger pieces, such as armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft, to come out of storage and go on public display for the first time. The expansion plans have broad political support including from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who also spoke at the unveiling of AWM’s plans.

The AWM’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 163824 still wears its original wartime paint (photo by Paul Hastings)

The biggest expansion since the Memorial opened in 1941 will see an increased emphasis on the commemoration of Australia’s post-Vietnam War conflicts such as East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan,

Announcing the expansion on 1 November 2018, AWM Director Dr Brendan Nelson said just a fraction of the collection is currently on display. “In crowded galleries, the stories of Australian military service from the Boer War through to the First and Second World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam are all largely told,” he said. “Yet, the service of 70,000 young Australians in the Middle East Area of operations of the past two decades currently covers only two per cent of available space. We must tell these stories not years or decades after they have occurred, but now. It is also the stories of families who love and support them.”

Albatros D.Va D.5390/17 is one of only two original examples of this charismatic and potent German WWI fighter plane still extant. It has a colorful history, having been shot down in a tussle with an Australian Flying Corps R.E.8 on December 17th, 1917. Her pilot, Leutnant Rudolf Clausz of Jasta 29, landed the stricken fighter behind enemy lines where he and his aircraft were captured by members of the 21st Infantry Battalion of the 2nd Australian Division, AIF. The fighter came home to Australia as a war prize. (photo by Paul Hastings)

Part of the expansion will see redevelopment of existing galleries, such as ANZAC Hall where the Bomber Command themed “Striking at Night” and First World War aviation themed “Over the Front” displays have proved very popular since opening last decade.

Although at this stage no specific aircraft have been identified as forming new displays, significant aircraft such as Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) Beaufort MK VIII A9-557 and Lockheed Hudson MK IV A16-105, which have largely remained in storage since their restoration, may finally go on permanent display.

The Australian War Memorial’s Lockheed Hudson Mk.IV A16-105 is currently displayed at Canberra Airport. It has spent little time on display at AWM. (photo by Paul Hastings)
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