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Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

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Villers Bretonneux Mémorial australien HEADER©Nicolas Bryant (6)
Le mémorial Australien de Villers-Bretonneux. Crédit : Nicolas Bryant

The German Attack

On 21st March 1918, the Germans launched one of the most successful battles of the Western Front, in the aim of taking Amiens and its vast communication lines. Only the town of Villers-Bretonneux, located just 15 kilometres before Amiens, was in their way. The Germans failed in their initial attempt to take Villers-Bretonneux on 4th April, but supported by tanks, they broke through British lines on 24th April and captured the position.

This attack also resulted in the very first tank versus tank battle, seeing three British tanks battle against three German tanks in the fields south of Villers-Bretonneux.

The Counterattack

In the quest for Amiens, the Germans' next aim was to capture Hill 104 (where the Australian National Memorial stands today), making it vital for the Allies to recapture Villers-Bretonneux as quickly as possible. Two Australian brigades were rapidly brought in to assist the remaining British troops, and, that same evening, the 15th Brigade swept around the north side of the town, while the 14th Brigade covered the left flank.

To the south of Villers-Bretonneux, the 13th Brigade attacked near Cachy and by dawn the Australians had Villers- Bretonneux almost completely surrounded. By the 26th, most of the ground captured by the Germans had been retaken and the threat to Amiens was over.

The Australians suffered over 2400 casualties, the British lost 9500 men, mostly captured during the German attack of the 24 April, while the Germans lost approximately 10,000 men.

Australian National Memorial

Designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and inaugurated on the 22nd July 1938 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, this imposing memorial was the last of the Great War national memorials to be built in France or Belgium. The white stone memorial is composed of a central tower, two corner pavilions and walls that bear the names of 11,000 missing Australian soldiers who died in France. In front of the memorial is a Commonwealth Military Cemetery. The top of the tower provides panoramic views of the Somme countryside the Australians helped defend in 1918 and an orientation table points the way to other Australian sites of remembrance.

At the bottom of the staircase, a large wall-plaque displays a map of the Western Front and the emplacement of the five Australian divisional memorials in France and Belgium: 1st Division at Pozières, 2nd Division at Mont St-Quentin, 3rd Division at Sailly-le-Sec, 4th Division at Bellenglise and the 5th Division at Polygon Wood in Belgium.

Anzac Day
An Anzac Day Dawn Service is held every 25th April at 5:30am at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. The poignant ceremony honours and remembers all the servicemen and women involved in the Great War, particularly those who fought in the Somme.
Australia Week
To accompany the ceremonies of Anzac Day, the village of Villers-Bretonneux and the Australian Embassy organise a week of commemorative activities: sporting events, commemorative walks, concerts, etc.

Adelaide Cemetery

The remains of the Australian Unknown Soldier were exhumed from this cemetery (located at the entrance to Villers-Bretonneux, when coming from Amiens) in 1993 and reburied in Canberra. A new headstone marks the former grave (Plot III, Row M, Grave 13). It reads:
“The remains of an Unknown Soldier lay in this grave for seventy-five years. On 2 November 1993 they were removed and now rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.”

Useful information

Longitude 2.50799 | Latitude 49.8861

Memory place type: 
Aside bloc: 
Villers Bretonneux Mémorial australien HEADER©Nicolas Bryant (6)
Location Lat/Long: 
POINT (2.50799 49.8861)