The Australian Remembrance Trail gains an interpretation centre
In April 2018, on the centenary of the recapture by the Australians of the town of Villers-Bretonneux, the Sir John Monash Centre is set to open, forming part of the Australian Remembrance Trail.
►Resources to download online (French)
In 1914, when the First World War broke out, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders flocked to enlist as volunteers to fight alongside the French and the British. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) carried out its first offensive on 25 April 1915, in Gallipoli, Turkey, and saw its first action on the Somme on 23 July 1916, at Pozières. Between March 1916 and November 1918, over 295 000 Australians served on the Western Front. 132 000 of them were wounded and 46 000 killed.
On 21 March 1918, the German army reached the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux and threatened Amiens, a key logistical hub for the Allies. The German capture of Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April led the Allies to launch a counter-offensive, in which Australian, British and French troops fought side by side and eventually recaptured the town. The event took place three years to the day after the Australians’ first battle in Gallipoli, and marked the end of the major German offensive on the Somme, which had got off to a successful start on 21 March 1918.
Ever since, 25 April is celebrated as Anzac Day. Every year, at Villers-Bretonneux, an official ceremony is held at the Australian National Memorial, unveiled on 22 July 1938 by King George VI and French president Albert Lebrun. This symbolic site, Australia’s only national memorial on the Western Front, honours the memory of the 11 000 Australian soldiers who died or went missing in the conflict. The memorial and the Villers-Bretonneux Commonwealth military cemetery are also among the 11 Somme sites which are candidates for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
On 18 January 2016, the first stone of the Australian interpretation centre was laid, as an extension of the current national memorial, in the presence of the French Minister for War Veterans and Remembrance and his Australian counterpart. The future Sir John Monash Centre is named after the general of the Australian forces who led operations on the Somme and triumphed by his innovative tactics. The aim of the centre is to encourage the younger generation to remember this important period in history. It tells the story of the Australian experience on the Western Front through the words of those who took part in it, and as such is a key site on the Australian Remembrance Trail.