Australia’s permanent memorial to the fallen in the Middle East was given some poignant additions in the lead-up to Remembrance Day.
Fifty-four metal poppies were added to Camp Baird’s black marble cenotaph and military working dog memorial, providing a lasting commemoration to all those whose names are inscribed.
Leading Aircraftman Kyle Buckley and Leading Aircraftman Matthew Kohl worked together to make the poppies.
Leading Aircraftman Kohl said the pair's tribute to the fallen was special for both men.
“Our work is now a tangible part of the history of Australian operations in the Middle East,” he said.
“We are now part of that legacy and that is pretty extraordinary.”
The pair had been approached to make the poppies as they had previously crafted a gavel for use in dining-in nights.
“We were approached by Warrant Officer Korey McGregor after he and Warrant Officer Allan Wilkes came up with the idea to replace the memorial’s plastic poppies with something more durable,” Leading Aircraftman Buckley said.
Leading Aircraftman Buckley trained as a blacksmith before he joined the Air Force and Leading Aircraftman Kohl said he was an eager student during the project.
Working over five weeks, the pair handcrafted each flower.
“We worked the flowers over an anvil and hand-cut the details into the petals,” Leading Aircraftman Kohl said.
The result was 54 metal poppies which are all unique.
“We didn’t want the flowers to all look exactly the same,” Leading Aircraftman Buckley said.
“Working the poppies by hand ensured each one was as individual as the person or animal whose name they were going to be placed against.”
The metal blooms were finished in appropriate colours, with 44 painted red for the cenotaph and 10 painted purple for the service animals’ memorial.
The pair affixed the poppies over three days, making sure they didn’t damage the memorials.
“Drilling into the black marble of the cenotaph was pretty nerve-wracking,” Leading Aircraftman Kohl said.
“We worked very slowly and went through a large number of drill bits to ensure the holes were clean and didn’t crack or score the surface.”
The airmen both said they felt enormous pride in the end result.
“We set out to better our previous effort with the gavel, and go from doing good work to better work,” Leading Aircraftman Buckley said.
“I’m happy to say we succeeded.”