It’s not widely known, even in Australia, that the first Anzac fleet, made up of the Australian Imperial Force and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, departed Australia from King George Sound, near Albany on Western Australia’s southern coast, bound for the First World War.
The convoy of Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) ships from around Australia and New Zealand assembled in relative secret within the harbour before departing on 1st November 1914, initially not knowing they were bound for the Middle East.
“It was the coming together of the forces from Australia and New Zealand for the first time,” says Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, National RSL president, “Really it was the beginning of the word Anzac.”
Of the 41,000 troops that left from King George Sound, one third would never return.
The National Anzac Centre, high on a promontory overlooking Ataturk Entrance, through which the ships departed, was built to honour the Anzacs from the First World War and opened on the centenary of the fleet’s departure, on 1st November 2014.
It is a superb museum, from the stunning location, with huge picture window framing the view of Ataturk Entrance, to the expertly curated content. The collection of artefacts, images, film, audio and use of multi media offers a deeply personal connection to the servicemen and women, their horses, war correspondents and photographers.
Most poignant is the way in which all visitors assume the identity of one of 32 Anzacs and follow their personal war experience, from recruitment through to post-war – for those that returned.
It is a deeply moving experience, one which brought tears to my eyes on more that one occasion.
So if you are visiting Western Australia, it is definitely worth a trip to the museum. It is well-designed museums such as this that ensure the first Anzacs will always be honoured and remembered.
Lest we forget.
The National Anzac Centre is located within Albany Heritage Park.