The records of more than 11,000 men and women from Warrnambool and district who served Australia in every overseas conflict since World War I can now be searched by families and friends with an interactive digital memorial database.
A packed house attended the official unveiling of the new war memorial at the Warrnambool RSL sub-branch on Tuesday afternoon.
The memorial’s active database includes the names of those who served, service records including rank and defence force unit and photographs of the service personnel.
Project coordinator Duncan Stalker said Warrnambool RSL members began discussing the new memorial, which cost over $700,000 to design and construct, more than a decade ago.
“We have had all these other conflicts since World War I and yet no acknowledgement of the people from this city and district who participated,” he said.
“But when we considered this memorial, we realised that with in between 8000 and 13,000 names, there was no way we could build a wall and put them all on it.”
Mr Stalker said given he expected a two per cent error rate in the names of defence personnel, the digital element of the memorial, which allowed regular updates, was vital to the project’s success.
“As families provide us with details and our research teams bring forth more material, we’ll have a full picture of all the people there,” he said.
Warrnambool RSL sub-branch president John Miles paid special tribute to the organisation’s former secretary and treasurer, Alex Gannaway, who originally suggested a new memorial, but died before the idea was fully developed.
“Without the foresight of Alex Gannaway, we may not have been able to develop this beautiful and lasting war memorial at Warrnambool,” he said.
“This memorial will be unique to Warrnambool and district as a permanent reminder to all present and future Australians of what the men and women of our country sacrificed to enable current and future generations of Australians to be able to live together in a peaceful country.”
Project planning committee convenor Vern Robson said the partnership between the Warrnambool RSL, Warrnambool City Council, Moyne Shire Council, Deakin University and the Victorian Government enabled the new memorial to be established as a “fitting tribute” to defence personnel.
The memorial’s touchscreen can be accessed between 8am and 5pm every day and the database can be accessed inside the RSL and on its website.