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Villers-Bretonneux
Villers-Bretonneux mairie 1.jpg
Population 4,135

Villers-Bretonneux is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.

Geography[edit | edit source]

Villers-Bretonneux is situated some 19 km due east of Amiens, on the D1029 road and the A29 motorway.

History - World War I[edit | edit source]

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

Cross planted in France by soldiers to honour the fallen. Now part of the war memorial in Adelaide.

In the First World War, on 24 of April 1918, the small town of Villers-Bretonneux was the site of the world's first battle between two tank forces: three British Mark IVs against three German A7Vs. The Germans took the town, but that night and the next day it was recaptured by 4th and 5th Division of the AIF at a cost of over twelve hundred Australian lives. 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 people of Villers-Bretonneux continue to express gratitude to Australia to this day. The Australian War Memorial in France is located just outside Villers-Bretonneux and in front of it lie the graves of over 770 Australian soldiers, as well as those of other British Empire soldiers involved in the campaign. The school in Villers-Bretonneux was rebuilt using donations from school children of Victoria (many of whom had relatives perish in the town's liberation), and above every blackboard is the inscription "N'oublions jamais l'Australie" (Let us never forget Australia).[1][2] The annual ANZAC Day ceremony is held at this village on ANZAC Day, 25 April, each year. Traditionally, Australian commemorations have focused on Gallipoli. However, the 2008 ANZAC Day commemoration focused 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.[3]

Population[edit | edit source]

Historical population of Villers-Bretonneux
Year 1968196919751982199019992006
Population 3474334234733347368639524135
From the year 1962 on: population without double counting—residents of multiple communes (e.g. students and military personnel) are counted only once.

Places of interest[edit | edit source]

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 to make way for a supermarket.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  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[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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