I have seen a lot of memorials. In Delhi, it is difficult to walk a kilometre without stumbling upon a memorial or two. But a memorial for a memorial? Overkill, isn’t it? But when you get to know the circumstances, it seems quite justified.
The Great Ocean Road, a 234-kilometre long road along the south-eastern coast of Australia, is dedicated to the soldiers killed during World War I (WWI). As such, the Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial.
When the WWI started in 1914, Australia as a dominion of the British empire got involved in the war automatically. Initially, the outbreak of the war was greeted with enthusiasm. However, as the war progressed and the number of fatalities rose, enthusiasm for the war dropped and the number of Australians enlisting for the war declined. Still, over 400,000 Australians enlisted in the war between 1914 and 1919. By the time WWI drew to an end in 1919, more than 60,000 had died and around 150,000 were injured or taken prisoner.
When the war ended, thousands of ex–servicemen had to be re-integrated into society. One looming problem was unemployment. The Great Ocean Road project was envisioned not only as a means of employing the soldiers who had returned but of creating a lasting monument to those who had died in the war.
3000 ex-soldiers started construction of the road in 1919. It was gruelling work with only picks, shovels and horse-drawn carts to help. No heavy machinery was available. Dynamite was used to clear areas. Several soldiers lost their lives due to the back-breaking task of building a road by hand. The 243-kilometre long Great Ocean Road was finally completed in 1932 and extended from the town of Torquay to Allansford in Victoria.
When WTB McCormack, the chairman of the Country Roads Board and honorary engineer for the Great Ocean Road Trust died, it was decided that a memorial arch should be built in his honour spanning the width of the road on the Eastern View. The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch was erected in 1939 as a tribute to Mr McCormack and to the 3,000 returned soldiers who had toiled on the Great Ocean Road. So that’s how this memorial for a memorial came into being!
The Memorial Arch serves as the gateway to the Great Ocean Road and is quite popular with tourists.
The arch is made out of wood, with cement and stone supports on each side.
On the Great Ocean Road’s 75th anniversary, a bronze sculpture of two ex-soldiers working on the road was added on the side of the arch.
Since it was first put up in 1939, the Memorial Arch had to be replaced a couple of times over the decades, once due to bush fires and once due to a truck accident. Despite these rebuilds, the original sign still sits on the top of the arch.
The arch has commemorative plaques for the arches built and the 50th and 75th anniversary of the road.
I do hope this arch does not need to be replaced any time soon as there isn’t enough space left for any more plaques.
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