A 15th anniversary service for the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial was held on Sunday at the site on the corner of Carlton Street and Wendouree Parade in Ballarat.
After welcoming everyone, City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh launched into the history of the memorial, saying that in 2004, on a day much like today, over 11,000 people gathered for the unveiling of the first monument of its kind to mark the sacrifice of Australian prisoners of war.
“The importance of what this memorial represents cannot be under-estimated,” she said.
“Over 36,000 young Australians were taken captive between the Boer War at the turn of the 19th century and the Korean War in the middle of the last century.
“There is a story behind each one of those 1000s of names inscribed on the granite wall behind me.”
Memorial Trustee William (Bill) Bahr acknowledged the six POW’s who were at the service today and thanked them for their service and commitment to Australia.
“I have had the honour of being one of the five trustees of this memorial for the past 20 years,” he said.
“It is difficult to believe that this memorial, to all Australian ex-prisoners of war, was opened by General Peter Cosgrove 15 years ago – it was great to see 11,000 odd chairs going right back to the tramways.”
The granite walls on which names of Australian ex-prisoners of war is still not complete, with further names of prisoners to be engraved.
“There are 60 new WWI prisoners of war names that need to be engraved. Sadly the memorial can’t hold nay further names as the four blank panels that were available in 2004, have now been filled,” Mr Bahr explained.
“At this time these names will be recorded on our website with a notification ‘not yet engraved on the memorial’. An extension into the future will allow their names to be immortalised in stone along with their brothers and sisters.”
In 2008 the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial received national status as the first military memorial of national significance and is also listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, the Ballarat Treasures Register, the Pandora Project for web archiving, the Victoria War Heritage Trail and the National Register of War Memorial, in Canberra.
“With the assistance of a number of ex-service organisations and other dedicated to make sure the prisoner of war story remains alive, the Australian War Memorial, the Trustees and other interested parties are working towards obtaining approval to construct an interpretive centre to tell the 36,000 stories of our Australian ex-prisoners of war,” Mr Bahr said.
“Sadly we have lost the three remaining prisoners of war in Ballarat”
Vale David Manning (RAN), William Wilkie (RAAF) and Bruce Clifton (RAAF).