Walking with the diggers

Published on November 25, 2015
  • Peronne Historial de la Grande Guerre ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

    Peronne Historial de la Grande Guerre ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

  • Villers Bretonneux mémorial australien ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

    Villers Bretonneux mémorial australien ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

  • Pozieres Gibraltar ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

    Pozieres Gibraltar ®Nicolas Bryant

    © ®Nicolas Bryant

Walking with the diggers 80000 fr

For Australians, the SOMME harbours some particularly poignant sites.

Named after the river that runs through it, the Somme is part of the Picardy region in Northern France. It is fast becoming known for its picturesque seaside resorts, pristine scenery and vibrant local arts scene.

Nevertheless, most of us will always remember the Somme as the site of the bloody battles of 1916 in which 1.2 million men, including many thousands of Anzac soldiers, were killed, wounded or lost in action. One of the most important destinations for Australian visitors is Villers Bretonneux (affectionately known as “VB”). The town found fame in 1918, when Australian troops recaptured it in late April and forced a German withdrawal – an achievement that effectively ended the prolonged German offensive on the Somme.

The diggers forged strong bonds with the local people, and later helped rebuild Villers-Bretonneux. Having renovated several important sites recently, with the assistance of the Australian Government and Somme General Council, the town will host numerous events during the centenary.

The Australian National Memorial: This memorial, with its 32-metre-high tower, is engraved with the names of more than 10,000 Australian soldiers who died in France during the First World War and have no known grave. The Somme’s annual ANZAC Day Dawn Service takes place here at 5.30am every 25 April, the anniversary of the day the Anzacs liberated Villers-Bretonneux in 1918. Book your place online at www.anzac-france.com.

The Franco-Australian Museum: Housed in the Victoria School and bearing the sign “Do Not Forget Australia”, the museum tells the story of the battles in and around the Somme and the valiant contribution made by the diggers. Important renovation work will be undertaken here this year. The new, completely renovated museum will officially reopen on 24 April 2016. The magnificent Victoria Hall will remain open while work is in progress.

Adelaide Cemetery: Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, Adelaide Cemetery is the final resting place of many soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions. In 1993, an unknown Australian soldier was exhumed from this cemetery and reinterred at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Visitors to the nearby villages of Pozières and Mouquet Farm can see the sites of remembrance where three Australian divisions suffered more than 23,000 casualties in just over six weeks of fighting in 1916. The Pozières memorial is built on the site of a windmill on the northern edge of the village, a place described by official historian Charles Bean as “a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.”

The Australian Corps Memorial Park at Le Hamel commemorates the successful battle of Le Hamel on 4 July 1918, where General Monash led his Australian and American troops into a tactical battle that lasted only 93 minutes.

In 2015, visitors can also experience a new exhibition area at Péronne’s Historial Museum of the Great War, about the Battle of Mont Saint Quentin in 1918, which led to the liberation of the town of Péronne by Australian troops.

Things to see

Point of interest