Great War sacrifice saluted

TASMANIA’S significant involvement in World War I was saluted by the highest rank in the land yesterday, when Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove flew into Launceston to open a commemorative exhibition.

The former army general was special guest of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, which has put together an extensive exhibition commemorating the Great War, concentrating in particular on the experiences and anecdotes of Tasmanians who served and those left behind on the homefront.

Entitled The Great War 1914-18: Sacrifice and Shadows, the exhibition has taken 18 months to research and build and will be open for public viewing at Inveresk for three years.

Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove were given a private tour of the exhibition, accompanied by museum director Richard Mulvaney, Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic and the QVMAG’s history curator Louise James.

While Sir Peter would not be drawn on particular aspects of the exhibition, throughout the tour he congratulated curator Ms James on an ‘‘outstanding exhibition that reaches out and touches our hearts’’.

‘‘I am confident that no one who sees this exhibition will leave feeling in any way detached from the experience of this war and its impact,’’ he said.

More than 180 guests attended yesterday’s official opening, with many families of World War I soldiers in the audience.

Among them was the great-grandson of Victoria Cross recipient Sergeant Lewis McGee, as well as two daughters and four grandchildren of Launceston’s Mervyn Luck, who was wounded on the Western Front and suffered shell shock.

While Sir Peter would not comment on war in the world today, he did stand silent twice through the tour.

Once for several minutes immersed in his private thoughts as a soundscape of a poem written by a soldier was read by his niece and a barrage of machine gun fire ricocheted in a darkened void.

The other was before the ‘‘Wall of Remembrance’’, where he and Lady Cosgrove were invited to each pin a poppy.

It’s at this wall that visitors with links to Tasmanians who have fought in war can also pin poppies at $2 each in support of Red Cross.

On  farewelling Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove, Mr Mulvaney said their visit was a proud moment for the QVMAG, Launceston and Tasmania.

‘‘To hear the Governor-General speak from his heart after touring the exhibition, you could tell he was touched by the experience, he understands the impact,’’ Mr Mulvaney said.

‘‘It means a lot because he is an ex-serviceman first and foremost.’’

FACT FILE

WHAT: The Great War 1914-18: Sacrifice and Shadows.

WHERE: QVMAG, Inveresk.

WHEN: Open daily, 10am to 4pm.

ENTRY: Free.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, QVMAG director Richard Mulvaney and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten view the exhibition.  Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, QVMAG director Richard Mulvaney and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten view the exhibition. Picture: GEOFF ROBSON

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