France bound by history to Australia

France bound by history to Australia

Visit the Australian war memorial in France and discover a town indebted to The Lucky Country. Apparently if you tell the locals you’re Australian, you can even score free beer!

Translated from French, ‘N’oublions jamais l’Australie’ means ‘Never forget Australia’. It is an inscription above every blackboard in schools in Villers-Bretonneux which was rebuilt after donations from school children in Victoria.

That is just one example of the of the bond the small French town has with Australia.

In WWI, on 24 April 1918, Villers-Bretonneux was the site of the World’s first battle between British and German tank forces.

Germans took the town, but that night and the next day it was recaptured by ANZAC troops at a cost of 1200 Australian lives.

Ever since, the people of Villers-Bretonneux remain indebted to Australia for its liberation.

The town maintains a war memorial to honour the troops and conducts an annual ANZAC Day service.

The Australian War Memorial in France is located in Villers-Bretonneux and in front of it lie the graves of over 770 Australian soldiers, as well as those of other Commonwealth soldiers involved in the campaign.

The school in Villers-Bretonneux was rebuilt using donations from school children of Victoria, many of whom had relatives perish in the town’s liberation.

“The first inhabitants of Villers-Bretonneux to re-establish themselves out of the ruins of what was once a flourishing little town have, by means of donations, shown a desire to thank the valorous Australian Army, who with the spontaneous enthusiasm and characteristic dash of their race, in a few hours drove out an enemy ten times their number,” the town’s mayor said when unveiling a memorial in honour of the Australian Soldiers on 14 July 1919.

“They offer a memorial tablet, a gift which is but the least expression of their gratitude, compared with the brilliant feat which was accomplished by the sons of Australia…soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for.”

The annual ANZAC Day ceremony is held at this village on the Saturday nearest to the 25th of April.

Traditionally, Australian commemorations have focused on Gallipoli. However, the 2008 ANZAC Day commemoration focussed on the Western Front, and a special dawn service marking the 90th anniversary of the battle of 24/25 April 1918 was held on Anzac Day itself at Villers-Bretonneux.

Australian traveller Larissa Clarke has toured through the area and said travelling to Villers-Bretonneux for ANZAC Day was a meaningful adventure and a pilgrimage Australians should undertake while in the UK.

“The tour included the ANZAC Day dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux which was attended by over 5,000 people,” she said.

Larissa booked her tour with Pillow Adventure Travel Company Ltd, who specialise in festivals and events across the UK and Europe. To learn more about Pillow, and find details about their “ANZAC Day on the Western Front Tour”, visit or email

Australian Times

Australian Times

For, by and about Aussies in the UK.