How is it possible not to be moved by the amazing story of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who travelled away from their home to the other side of the world? To join a battle they could reasonably say was not their fight, but to defend a commonwealth and to make world peace.
They fought valiantly and are remembered in particular for the Liberation of Villers-Bretonneux 24th/25th April 1918.
Many never went home and are laid to rest near were they fell.
Their story is nothing less than amazing.
The story is maybe best told by the Australians themselves and here is an extract from –
Private Reginald Malligan, 33rd Battalion (New South Wales), lies in Plot XII, Row D, Grave 5. The Battle of Villers–Bretonneux, fought on 24–25 April 1918, in which the AIF retook the town from the Germans is famous and commemorated. However, Reginald Malligan was killed by a bullet as he went into action on 30 March 1918 in a less–known battle – the First Battle of Villers–Bretonneux fought to hold the advancing German Army from 30 March to 4 April.
Private Cecil Walsh, 33rd Battalion, remembered Malligan, aged 18, as ‘slim, dark, clean shaven and a good singer’.
The date on the headstone of Private Albert Macklan, 59th Battalion (Victoria), in Plot XI, Row C, Grave 4 is 26 April 1918. It recalls the more well–known AIF action at Villers–Bretonneux, the recapture of the town from the Germans on the night of 24–25 April, fought across the ground on which the cemetery now stands.
Macklan would most likely have advanced with his mates over this countryside to where the 59th reached its ultimate objective just beyond the town and north of the main road leading to Lamotte–Warfusée. There they dug in and he was wounded by a shell, carried out by stretcher–bearers and died at a dressing station. Macklan was remembered as ‘cheerful’ and one who had enlisted against his parents’ wishes.
Headstone of Private Albert Macklan, 59th Battalion (Victoria),
Villers–Bretonneux Military Cemetery
Walking along the rows of headstones, the 1918 dates roll on: 4 July, the Battle of Hamel; 8 August, the Battle of Amiens; 9 August, Lihons; 12 August, Proyart. After 11 August there was a temporary halt in the British advance across the plains of the Somme east of Villers–Bretonneux. But Australians continued to die.
To read the whole story see the official web-site:
While in the area, a great museum well worth a visit is the:
The best way to visit to attend the ceremony is by an organised tour, which tends to be very good value with everything included.
We found this excellent tour:
Day 1: Lille – Ypres
From our meeting point in Lille, we travel from “Plug Street” up the line along the Messines Ridge, where the New Zealand and Australian troops played a crucial role in capturing the ridge
Our ANZAC experience continues with a walk on Hill 60’s moonscape. We visit Polygon Wood, where the monument to the 5th Division towers over the fallen and Tyne Cot, where the ANZACs played such an important role in the Battle of Passchendaele
We visit the Hooghe Crater Trenches and Museum in Ypres. Our first day finishes with the moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres
Day 2: Ypres – Artois – Amiens
Our first visit today is to the newly-dedicated Pheasant Wood Cemetery where 250 Australian soldiers, discovered in a mass grave nearby, have recently been laid to rest
Close by we find one of the most inspiring of the Australian memorials – the Digger carrying his mate to safety after his cry, “Don’t forget me, Cobber!” We continue our day exploring the Wellington Tunnels in Arras, a city beneath the city and vastly expanded by the New Zealand Tunnelling Company
We follow the push east with the capture of Bapaume and the battle at Bullecourt. We visit many sites in the area, including the evocative Digger memorial
Day 3: Anzac Day Dawn Ceremony
Anzac Day Dawn Ceremony
It’s a very early start as we leave our hotel in time for the Dawn Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux
The service will be an unforgettable and emotive experience, which we share with the locals and fellow Australians and New Zealanders who have journeyed here to pay tribute to those brave ANZAC soldiers who fought for the town
After such an early start the rest of the day is at leisure for you to explore the town or relax as you choose
Day 4: Amiens – The Somme – Amiens
Today we tour the front line on the battlefields of the Somme. On the 1st July 1916 the British Army suffered its greatest losses, with nearly 60,000 soldiers becoming casualties
We visit the battlefields of Pozières, the famous Windmill site and Mouquet Farm. New Zealanders will find the monument at Longueval, honouring the New Zealand efforts during the autumn battles for Flers, very moving
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing will leave an everlasting impression by its sheer size
Day 5: Amiens – Villers-Bretonneux – Lille
Today we return to Villers-Bretonneux, where the great German push during the Spring Offensive was countered and broken
We see the inspiring Australian National Memorial, honouring all those who died in France during the war who have no known grave. The Franco-Australian Museum at the Victoria School, with the words “Never Forget Australia” still proudly displayed, will not leave you untouched
We continue in the footsteps of the ANZACS via the Memorial Park at Le Hamel, recalling Monash’s victory of July 1918, before making our way back to Lille
We found this tour and thanks to them, at www.bestvaluetours.co.uk