The staff of the RSL Virtual War Memorial have had some interesting requests in the past but this one was out of the box. The Australian War Memorial are developing a new Flanders Field Memorial Garden to be unveiled in Canberra in April. The garden is a gift from the people of Flanders to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians in the defence of Belgium in the First World War.
The Garden will incorporate soil from significant sites of Australian military action in Belgium – names that resonate through our history – Messines, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Broodseinde and Poelcappelle. The AWM decided that they would also like soil from all Australian states and territories, and the VWM team were tasked with identifying appropriate locations in South Australia.
After considerable thought three locations were selected, and the consultation process began. Soil has since been extracted from the lawns of the Torrens Training Depot, in close proximity to the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. The Adelaide City Council are currently refurbishing the site and supported the extraction, completed by RSL SA President Tim Hanna.
The second site was identified as Keswick Barracks, the home of the 4th Military District, which served as an official enlistment and discharge post; a medical clearance station; a training depot and most importantly as a hospital and repatriation site for those returning from war. The final site was Outer Harbor, where thousands of Australians embarked on ships bound for the Great War. Local Mayor Gary Johanson was able to expedite both council approval and the extraction, with the soil now on its way to the capital.