The Australian Government has created a solemn and thought-provoking experience for those attending this year’s dawn service for the centenary of Polygon Wood.
From 0100 on 26 September 2017, visitors will be able to walk in semi-darkness along a Reflective Trail in the forest to the Buttes New British Cemetery, site of the commemorative service.
They will be guided by a series of installations, lighting displays and realistic re-creations of the frontline 100 years ago.
Each station will convey different aspects of the experiences of Australian soldiers, using lighting, sound, music, images and re-enactments.
This will be, without doubt, one of the most evocative and memorable experiences of the commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac.
The Reflective Trail follows the line of advance of the attacking Australian soldiers, passing through the Australian and German frontlines, and includes significant sites of the battle such as Scott’s Post.
For those not capable of walking 1km along a dirt and gravel trail under low-light conditions, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is able to offer some assistance on the site. To find out more contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs before you travel.
Commemorating a dark time in Australia’s military history, the Reflective Trail will be a one-off commemorative event and experience for visitors.
To book for Australia’s commemorative service, go to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website .
The Battle of Polygon Wood and the Battle of Menin Road were part of the Third Battle of Ypres, the major British offensive in Flanders in 1917, which was designed to break through German defences and into submarine bases on the Belgian coast.
Ypres, however, was fought in waterlogged conditions and became a series of limited and costly offensives, claiming 38,000 Australian casualties over eight weeks.
Artist Paul Nash, a Flanders veteran, depicted Menin Road as a shattered countryside with flooded craters, tree trunks stripped by shelling, mud and debris.
The Battle of Menin Road took place from 20-25 September 1917. The attack was successful along its entire front, but it claimed the lives of 5,013 soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force.
The next day, the Battle of Polygon Wood was fought by the Australian 4th and 5th Divisions, in partnership with British and other dominion forces.
Its objectives were won but it too had a large casualty rate, with more than 5,700 Australians lost.
A key hill, Butte de Polygone, was captured by the 4th Division, while other objectives to the south were secured by the 15th Brigade of the 5th Division.
The name “Polygon Wood” comes from a young forest plantation that was wrecked along the Allied axis of advance. A Wood of Peace is now being created as part of the Taking Care of Flanders Fields project.
Descendants of the fallen soldiers are being invited to plant a tree as a sign of remembrance and hope.
To register with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 go to http://passchendaele2017.org/