Residents of Albury-Wodonga had the privilege of being the first in Australia to see the extensive array of artefacts from the Australian War Memorial after the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience travelling exhibition was officially opened on 4 September.
Then Prime Minster Tony Abbott opened the exhibition at the Sports and Leisure Centre in Wodonga - the first of 23 towns and cities that will host it until April, 2017.
Mr Abbott said it was fitting that Albury-Wodonga was the first stop on the exhibition’s journey because the city had held a significant place in Australia’s military history.
“Within weeks of the declaration of war on 4 August 1914, men from Albury and Wodonga and from all around the district had enlisted - men like Archie Rapsey, a farmer from Bonegilla,” Mr Abbott said.
“Private Rapsey was killed in action at Pozieres on August 18, 1916. He was 24 years old. This exhibition tells his story.”
Mr Abbott also spoke of Private Tom Snowden, of the 8th Infantry Battalion, who came back from the war and went on to serve as the President of Wodonga Shire.
“To us, the men of the Great War are legends. But in their day they were parents, children, cousins, mates and friends - and we should never forget that,” he said.
The exhibition offers Australians living in cities and regional areas the opportunity to see an extensive collection of military artefacts and interpretive materials from the Memorial.
The exhibition is highly interactive and includes more than 200 artefacts normally housed in Canberra.
It has a community zone that enables communities in the regions visited to uncover the contribution from local men and women - both those who served and the families and loved ones who remained at home.
The exhibition follows the path the Anzacs took from Albany to Egypt, Gallipoli and eventually the Western Front.
As you walk in, the stories of the men and women who served are told in a progressive manner.
You are met by a sailor in 1914 uniform and travel through to the end of the war, where you see the word 'Anzac' written in poppies.
Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett said he was glad to be at the launch.
“There are many Australians who are unable to get to any centenary of Anzac events and so this exhibition takes these events to them and I am pleased we are able to do that.”
Vice Admiral Barrett said the exhibition served a couple of purposes.
“One is to show people a little of what the men and women endured during the First World War,” he said.
“Also, it does more than just put on display static artefacts. It is an interactive display that contributes more to the public’s understanding of the Great War.”
As the flagship community event of the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary national program, the exhibition aims to improve understanding of Australia’s wartime experience, its impacts and its lessons, to carry forward the Anzac spirit and values.
It is a free event, but bookings are essential as places are limited.
Entry times are scheduled at intervals to ensure visitors can view the exhibits in an uncrowded environment.
For exhibition locations and dates, and bookings, go to http://www.spiritofanzac.gov.au.
Imagery is available on the Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20152478.