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Anzac on the Somme

sunny 20 °C

So we hired a car to drive up to the dawn service at Villers Bretonneux, near Amiens. Getting the car out of Paris was quite an experience, so I left that to L. I had after all rented the car and worked out our route, fair division of labour I thought. Headed up to Amiens, about 90 minutes.
We rehearsed the drive out to the memorial so as to be on top of game in the morning. It is a very solemn place, in a beautiful setting. The surrounding land is quite flat and slightly rolling; you can see it would be slaughter attacking in these areas, and it is no surprise so many lives were lost if men were marched across here against machine guns.
P1000348

P1000348


We went around to view some of the head stones. It is possible to see how few of the soldiers were identified when recovered. It was also a stark reminder of how many soldiers in units could be wiped out in a single blow – we saw a group of 70+ Canadians who had all died on the 8th August 1918 in the battle of Amiens.
Australian Memorial

Australian Memorial


The cemetery in front of the Memorial holds the remains of soldiers of all Britains allies, not just Anzacs. The remains of Aussies are spread about on the Western Front from Ypres to Fromelles and Bullecourt to V-B. The site at V-B was chosen as it marks the site where the Anzacs stopped a massive German advance threatening to get through to the Channel ports, and more decisively, pushed them back a few hours later on 25th April 1918, two years to the day after Anzacs had landed at Gallipoli. Even knowing that, it is truly impressive to see the depth of feeling in the local community for their Anzac brothers. It is well known that after the Great War Victorian school children donated pennies to help with the rebuilding of the V-B school. The town hall always flies the Australian and French flags together.
Af the Australian Memorial

Af the Australian Memorial


After the visit to the memorial, we headed back to find some food in Amiens. The pickings on the road into town were very slim, so we ended up eating in the tourist area beside the canal in the shadow of the Amiens Cathedral. Back to the plastic box motel and a quick sleep.
At 4 am all up and gone. We are out at the site by 4:30, well L & G are as I drop them off then go and park and walk back. Sign into the Memorial book, then head up to meet the others. It is not too cold but sitting still you are glad you rugged up.
V-B before dawn

V-B before dawn


At the Anzac day dawn service

At the Anzac day dawn service


The service starts at 5:30 after an introduction by the MC. The procedure for the service has been well set over the years, but it remains quite moving. There was the catafalque ceremony, welcomes from the V-B mayor, replies from our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the local Army Commander, Australian school children got up to read extracts, National Anthems and hymns, a reading from the British Army Padre who had also sanctified the Australian graves at Fromelles (it was supposed to be an Aussie but that volcano...) To me the most moving part though was the bugler playing the mournful last post followed by a minutes silence. it is this point when you are all alone with several thousand other people and your thoughts of what people went through then and still are now around the world. It is good to be alive. The reveille comes with the dawn and the raising of the flags to full mast. The ceremony is completed with the laying of wreaths (in a very specified hierarchy).
Villers Bretonneux dawn service

Villers Bretonneux dawn service


Being in France, the local region (the Somme) have provided us with coffee and croissants to warm us as we leave...
Anzac Day dawn

Anzac Day dawn

Posted by lostagain 14:26 Archived in France Tagged events

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