Australian National Memorial

By Doug Slowski

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is the main memorial to Australian military personnel killed on the Western Front during World War I. It is located on the Route Villiers-Bretonneux, between the towns of Fouilloy and Villers-Bretonneux, in the Somme département, France.

There are currently 10,729 Australian servicemen officially commemorated by this memorial.

Villers-Bretonneux became famous in 1918, when the German advance on Amiens ended in the capture of the village by their tanks and infantry on 23 April. On the following day, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, with units of the 8th and 18th Divisions, recaptured the whole of the village and on 8 August 1918, the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions advanced from its eastern outskirts in the Battle of Amiens.

The memorial is the Australian National Memorial erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, to their dead, and especially to name those of the dead whose graves are not known. The Australian servicemen named on this memorial died on the battlefields of the Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bapaume 1917, Arras 1917, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Avre, Ancre 1918, Villers-Bretonneux, Lys, Hazebrouck, Hamel, Marne 1918, Amiens, Albert 1918, Albert 1918 (Chuignes), Mont-St. Quentin, Hindenburg Line, Epehy, St. Quentin Canal and Beaurevoir. Both the cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

The memorial was unveiled by King George VI on 22 July 1938. Of the 10,982 names displayed at the unveiling of the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial the burial places of many have since been identified and this continues to this day. As a result, there are currently 10,729 Australian servicemen officially commemorated by this memorial.