FRANCE PICARDY BronzeCimetière militaire du Bois DelvilleVillers-Bretenoux (pop 4,135) is a small, nondescript town that is located east of Amiens. The town welcomes a significant tourist population despite its lack of attractions, as it is located just a stone’s throw away from the Australian War Memorial. Villers-Bretenoux was the site of a massive battle between the British and German forces during WWI. The German army had managed to capture the town by the end of 24th April 1918 and were planning to move westwards to the city of Amiens. Hence, the British revamped their strategy to recapture the town and curb the spread of the Germans. They assigned this duty to the British battalions, who were accompanied by the 4th and 5th divisions of the Australian Brigades. Over a thousand men from the Australian Imperial Forces lost their lives in this battle. However, the Australians managed to recapture Villers-Bretenoux with a well-planned ambush attack, securing the town’s borders by the 26th of April. This marked the end of the German forces’ control in the Somme.

Hence, the Australian War Memorial was erected in 1938 to commemorate the 10 982 soldiers who lost their lives and went missing during the war. The large green expanse is guarded by a 32m tall watchtower that has the names of these soldiers engraved on it. The town also expresses its gratitude to the Australian forces by commemorating Anzac Day religiously. It even bills itself as l’Australie en Picardie.

You can find out more about this significant battle in the Franco-Australien Museum [9 rue du Victoria, +33 322968079 www.museeaustralien.com ad/ch €5/3], which is located in the heart of the town. Villers-Bretenoux still has strong ties with Victoria, Australia as this museum is situated in the Victoria School that was built here, from the donations made by the children of the state. The museum features personal, evocative displays of the soldiers who fought and died here during the war. It also houses a small Anzac library.

Villers-Bretenoux can be reached via trains [rue de Melbourne] that run from Ameins. You can either walk a few kilometres or take a short cab ride from here to the memorial.

 

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