Memorial Arch on the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is famous for it’s undeniable coastal beauty. The 12 Apostles have made a name for themselves, becoming one of the most sought out destination in all of Australia. Only a day trip away from Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is on top of every traveller’s list. The attractions don’t stop with the 12 Apostles; the road is also home to the Split Point Lighthouse, the Loch Ard Gorge, and most importantly, the Memorial Arch, the gateway to the Great Ocean Road. This iconic attraction is without a doubt the most photographed image along the Great Ocean Road, this made evident by the fact that you’ll find the gateway constantly bombarded by cars on either side of you with people hopping out to take photos, eager to share with friends and family that they’ve ticked off an item on their bucket list!

The arch was built in honour of the 3,000 returned soldiers who worked on the road and its creation during World War I. They started construction on the Great Ocean Road in 1919 and completed the 243 kilometres stretch of road in 1932. There is also a sculpture that was commissioned on the road’s 75th anniversary on the side of the arch. The sculpture is of two returned soldiers working on the Great Ocean Road. During the construction of the road, some soldiers lost their lives due to the gruelling task of building a road by hand. The road itself was built as a memorial for all those who lost their lives in the war. It is the longest war memorial in the world. The Great Ocean Road extends from the town of Torquay to Allenstown.

Memorial Arch

The Memorial Arch is a popular destination to stop at, as it is the start of the Great Ocean Road. Many will take the opportunity to stop at the designated carpark to take a photo with the arch and the statue, commemorating their adventure. The Memorial Arch is made out of wood, with the sides being made out of stone and cement for support. The first arch that was erected weighed in at 50 tonnes. The arch was put up in 1939, and was replaced a few more times over the decades, including a time when a truck ran into the side of the arch, and another new arch was created in 1983 when bush fires set it ablaze ruining the monument. In the 1970’s, the government had plans to take the Memorial Arch down, as they saw it as a hazard to drivers, but it was shot down as it was considered a lack of respect for the returned soldiers of World War I. But with all of the rebuilds and tear downs, the original sign still sits on the top of the arch, for all to see.

World War I and Australia’s Involvement

The start of World War I began in 1914, and while there are a multitude of reasons that led up to the event, the one most can agree on that was a deciding factor was the assassination of Austro-Hungarian archduke Fran Ferdinand. Australia was by default directly involved in the war due to it’s relations with the motherland; Britain. The social atmosphere in Australia at the time was one of excitement for a chance to prove to England that Australia could pull its own weight. Many believed that the war would be over by Christmas time so much so was the enthusiasm for the war that over 400,000 men enlisted.

Only the best of the best was allowed entry into the army; strong Australian men who were at least 5 foot 6 and preference was given to those with military experience. Over time, as the general public back home began to see the fatalities suffered from military expeditions overseas, society became divided on whether Australian’s should be obliged to enlist. Some felt that they had to avenge their fallen brothers, while others were against the idea of conscription. While there was still a steady number of men enlisting each month, as time went on, this number decreased. It was then decided that the minimum height be dropped to 5’2 and the fighting age- which had once been till the age of 38- was now raised to 45 to encourage more men to join the fight.

Notable Australian Figures in War

  • General Sir John Monash

    Monash is a name regularly heard in Australia, as the man himself has a university named after him. During the war he was the Commander of Victoria’s branch of the Australian Intelligence Corps. He also became Corps Commander of Australian Forces in Frances. An incredibly intelligent man, he mastered both the civil engineering and law fields before his roles in the army.

  • Major General William Throsby Bridges

    Bridges job during World War 1 was to form an Australian division of soldiers to send to Europe and became the Commander of the 1st Division in the newly appointed Australian Imperial Forces. He was imperative in establishing the Royal Military College as well as being the first Australian Chief of General Staff.

  • General Sir Cyrell Brudenell White

    White acted as the Chief of Staff to Major General William Throsby Bridges during the war. White was a pivotal figure in the plan to evacuate the men at Anzac Cove and was extremely well liked by his colleagues and soldiers.

  • Lieutenant General Sir John Talbot Hobbs

    This Lieutenant commanded the artillery section of the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Forces under Bridges. After the war, Hobbs took a leading role in the construction of war memorials around Australia for soldiers who had returned home, and those who had fallen on the frontline.

Language »