Sunday, April 25, 2010
The best Anzac Day ever....
Did you see us? Did you see us?
We got on the bus at 3.30am this morining to get us over to the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
There would have been about 3000 at a guess, to pay our respects to our 48,000 countrymen who were killed during fighting on the Western Front. As the sun rises over the imposing memorial to Australia's 11,000 missing from France, the strains of the Last Post will echo across the countryside, peaceful now, but the scene of a monumental Australian victory on Anzac Day 1918.
Paul and I laid our wreaths for the 1 Commando Company and the Katoomba RSL Sub-Branch respectfully: I hope you saw us It was amazing and everything we both expected.
Paul met one of the guys from his unit that went over to Afghanistan - lots of medals on his chest. Most of the bus group didnt recognise Paul in his get up but then everyone wanted photos with him...
After this moving ceremony, the highlight of our tour, we went a little piece of Australia in the heart of the Somme - breakfast at 'Le Kangourou' (The Kangaroo) cafe, named in honour of Villers-Bretonneux's strong connection with Australia. The cafe is being opened exclusively for Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours.
After breakfast we visited the battlefield of Hamel, where General John Monash orchestrated one of the great Australian attacks of the war in July 1918. We then began our tour of the 1916 battlefields of the Somme. Our first stop was the imposing Lochnagar Mine Crater - huge - which was detonated beneath the German lines on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Even though erosion has reduced the size of the crater it is still enormous - more than 100 metres across and 30 metres deep.
We then visited the village of Pozieres, scene of the most costly battle in Australia's history. 23,000 men were killed or wounded in six weeks' fighting, and we visited the scenes of their heroic sacrifice at the 1st Division Memorial and the Windmill. Michael, our historian walked the battlefield, gaining a better understanding of the fighting that led to more Australian casualties than any other battle in our history. We then returned to our hotel where our afternoon is free to enjoy to rest after a memorable morning. I had a catnap and now Paul has gone out with the rest of the group into town - I was too tired - it was a huge day!!!!!
Back to Paris tomorrow and then hopefully on a plane to Istanbul on Tuesday.....
Villers-Bretonneux Western Front History Website