The Australian National Memorial near Villers-Bretonneux is hosting its biggest Australian commemorative event this year, with a capacity crowd of more than 8,000 guests booked to attend the Dawn Service.
This year marks exactly 100 years since the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, when the Australians enveloped the town and liberated it from the Germans.
This battle was integral in a broader effort by the Allies to halt the German spring offensive and eventually turning the tide of the war.
The plan to recapture the town was simple, but difficult and dangerous.
A surprise night attack involved five battalions of men from the Australian Imperial Force, assisted by some British units, encircling German forces in the town.
It was a do-or-die mission, a remarkable achievement led by Brigadier-General William Glasgow and Brigadier-General Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott, whose descendants will be in Villers-Bretonneux this year.
The commemoration at the Australian National Memorial honours this remarkable action, as well as the 103rd anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.
Coinciding with this year’s commemoration, the Australian Government officially opened the Sir John Monash Centre— built to educate future generations on Australia’s role in the First World War, and as a lasting legacy for the Anzac Centenary 2014-2018.
Three other services are being held in the region on 25 April 2018.
- The Villers-Bretonneux Anzac Day town Service (French) begins 8.30am at the Monument aux Morts in the town centre. This includes presentation the Sadlier-Stokes Memorial Scholarship for children of the Somme and Nord Pas-de-Calais, to further their experience and knowledge of Australia through education.
- The Bullecourt Town Service (French) starts at 2.30pm at the Commonwealth and French Monuments in the Bullecourt village centre – Square du Souvenir Francais.
- After the service, visitors march to the Australian Digger Memorial to conduct the Australian service (English) which begins at 3.30pm.
In addition to these services, events are organised by local French communities in the Somme. For details go online to the Australian Embassy in Paris.
The Sir John Monash Centre (which is free to visit) opens to the public at noon today. Group bookings (for more than 12) are essential, and general bookings are strongly encouraged, as they will provide priority entry. To book, visit the Sir John Monash Centre website.
For more information about the Australian commemorations visit the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website.