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Villers-Bretonneux is a commune in the Sommemarker department in Picardiemarker in northern Francemarker.

Geography

Villers-Bretonneux is situated some 19 km due east of Amiensmarker, on the N29 road and the A29 motorway.

History - World War I

Main articles The first battle of Villers Bretonneux and Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux




In the First World War, on 24 April 1918, the small town of Villers-Bretonneux was the site of the world's first battle between two tank forces: three British Mark IV against three German A7Vs. The Germans took the town, but that night and the next day it was recaptured by ANZAC troops at a cost of over twelve hundred Australian lives. The people of Villers-Bretonneux remain indebted to Australia for this feat. The town's mayor spoke of the Australian troops on 14 July 1919 when unveiling a memorial in their honour:

"The first inhabitants of Villers-Bretonneux to re-establish themselves in the ruins of what was once a flourishing little town have, by means of donations, shown a desire to thank the valorous Australian Armies, who with the spontaneous enthusiasm and characteristic dash of their race, in a few hours drove out an enemy ten times their number...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 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, Australia (many of whom had relatives perish in the town's liberation), and above every blackboard is the inscription "N'oublions jamais l'Australie" (Never forget Australia). The annual ANZAC Day ceremony is held at this village on the Saturday nearest the 25th April. Traditionally, Australian commemorations have focussed 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.

Population

Population history
1969 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2006
3342 3474 3473 3347 3686 3952 4135
Starting in 1962: Population without duplicates


Places of interest

Delacour’s château, or, as the Anzacs called it, the "Red château" served as headquarters and billets for the Generals during the Battle of the Somme. Marshal Foch stayed there. At the end of fighting in November 1918 it became the local headquarters of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) Graves Commission.Later abandoned, it was extensively cannibalised for rebuilding materials. Its skeleton, which remained as a tourist attraction until 2004, was razed in that year and all traces of it were removed, allegedly to make way for a supermarket.

See also



References

  1. N'oublions jamais l'Australie, (Never forget the Australians), Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
  2. The Western Front, Overview of WWI history, anzacday.org.au
  3. ANZAC Day focus turns to Western Front, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April 2008.


Image Gallery

Image:Australian War Memorial in France VILLERS BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY IMG 3020.JPG|The Australian War Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux - in front of it lie the graves of over 770 Australian soldiers, as well as those of other Commonwealth soldiers.

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