In 2009 I completed a commission for the Australian War Memorial and the RSPCA to design a Memorial to Animals in War. Situated in the Sculpture Garden at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra it is an official recognition of the sacrifice’s animals have made in Australian warfare. The design features a bronze horse head, the last remaining fragment of Charles Web Gilberts Desert Mounted Corps Memorial which stood at Port Said in Egypt. It was destroyed during the Suez crises in 1956.

A period of research conducted at the Australian War Memorial informed a greater understanding of the service animals and their relationships with Australians in times of war. It allowed the design of the memorial to evolve from a flowing tear shape.

In 2020 I completed the Military Working Dogs Memorial, called Circling into Sleep to accompany the Memorial to Animals in War. It is dedicated to the remembrance of all the dogs who have performed a wide range of duties in the Australian Defence Forces. Many of these dogs are heroes. They laid their lives on the line to save others in peacetime and in war. Over their lives they formed deep connections with their trainers, handlers and carers. They became best friends.

The dog’s memorial is low to the ground and humble. A paw print track circles into the centre of the memorial where the ashes of a Military Working Dog called Aussie is laid to rest. The paw prints were made by another Explosives Detection Dog called Billie and her handler Corporal Shane Kerswell, who trained Billie to walk in a tight circle on a bed of soft clay.

In the centre of the Memorial is a tear shaped stone. It is a copy of a piece of stone left over during the construction of the nearby Memorial to Animals in War. The tear stone and the paw prints symbolise the remembrance of the military dogs. Through their playfulness and curiosity, their intelligence and insight, their bravery and their faithfulness, they made a profound impact.
Visitors to the memorial are encouraged to walk on the bronze paw prints. Over time as the metal becomes polished, it will serve as a record of people walking in the steps of a Military Working Dog, on its path, circling into sleep.

Here is a link to the dedication ceremony that took place on National Animals in War Day, 24 February 2020.

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Steven Mark Holland


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