Classic Dioramas Depict The Horrors Of War

Classic Dioramas Depict The Horrors Of War
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Last week, I took my family to the Australian War Memorial. If you’ve never been (chances are you haven’t!), it’s a lavish, cutting-edge facility which aims to both catalogue Australia’s military history and teach present (and coming) generations about the deeds of their forebears.

It’s got all kinds of amazing exhibits, from fully-restored WW2 aircraft to laser and light shows, but for me the most effective means of getting the place’s point across are a range of dioramas that are nearly 100 years old.

Built during the 1920s, these exquisite recreactions bring the heroism and horror of the First World War to life better than any movie or “interactive experience” has managed in the decades since.

I remember seeing them as a small child and being captivated by the craftsmanship. It was like the world’s greatest action figure playground come to life. Then, as I got older, their significance changed, each diorama able to capture a moment in time more evocatively than a photo ever could.

They don’t pull any punches, either. While there are obviously depictions of triumph, such as a cavalry charge at the Battle of Magdhaba or Australia’s breaking of the German lines at Mont Saint-Quentin, there are also images of horror, of corpses clogging the mud at the Somme and men frozen in their moment of death during the futile offensive at Gallipoli.

The dioramas do exactly what the building itself sets out to achieve, in other words. Captivate and entertain, yes, but also educate and, most importantly, give pause for thought that behind all the plaques and medals and waving flags we like to celebrate are a lot of tragic, needless deaths.

These images capture just about all the dioramas present in the AWM’s Great War exhibit. If you’re ever in Australia, it should definitely be on your list of places to visit.


  • I will never forget my visit to the Australian War Memorial and I would encourage every Australian to visit at least once in their lifetime.

    • Agreed. Been there twice and it’s just a great place to pay your respects to those who fought for what we have. Although, I’m not sure they would like what they see if they were alive today…

    • Yeah, where are the articles about the totally true-to-life military man-shoots that accurately portray the realities of war? Who needs to go to museums and see how wars really work when we can play games to experience them instead like Call of Duty whatever or Battlefield something? /sarcasm

      Just be glad that Luke actually acknowledged Australia was in a war…

      • “Just be glad that Luke actually acknowledged Australia was in a war…”

        I thought the same thing when I read this article. Perhaps he’s atoning for previous mistakes.

  • The AWM is the must-see if you ever visit Canberra, and give yourself at least half a a day. Be sure to take up the free tours, twice I’ve been taken around by returned service men who must have been in their seventies. It’s moving to see the museum through their eyes, and you’ll get to appreciate small but fascinating details you’d miss on your own.

  • The AWM is brilliant. Both as a rememberance of our soldiers, but also for military nuts. They’ve got some real rarities, like for example, the German rocket fighter and jet fighter. Only a small number still in the world, yet we have some.

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