August 2017 Muriel and I were privileged to visit Villiers Bretenoux and the Australian National Memorial. On the walls the battle honours awarded to the Australian Imperial Force for service on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. Beneath these inscriptions are the names of more than 10,700 Australians who died in France and have ‘no known grave’.
On the 25th April the Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli. This was a bloody campaign with both sides,the Anzacs and the Ottoman Turkish Defenders with heavy casualties.On the 25 April 1915 , 16,000 Anzacs landed on narrow beach in Turkey. By the time the sun sets roughly 2,500 lay dying or wounded.
This lasted for 8 months. Over 8,000 Australians died in this campaign and many more wounded. They went through severe hardship in those 8 months. Even though this failed its “military objectives” April 25 and Gallipoli became the day that Australians remember the sacrifice these men gave their country
In 1916 on the 25th April, the first Anzac Day commemorations were held around Australia.
Today is a day of reflection. To remember those that gave their life so we could live ours.
We also remember those who served and lost their lives in the Second World War. Services are held around the nation at Dawn, the time of the first landing. Later on in the morning there are marches in all major cities and country towns. This is where former servicemen and women meet up. Many thousands of people watch and wave flags as they all march by. It’s a time when we as Australians come together as one.
Services are held also at Gallipoli and many thousands of Australians make the pilgrimage to be there for this very moving service. There is also a service at Villiers Bretonneux to remember the fallen of the 1918 Battle to recapture Villers-Bretenneux.
On Anzac Day and also Remembrance Day – November 11th, we wear poppies. November 11th 1918 is Armistice Day, the end of the first World War. The red poppy is the first flowers to grow on soldiers graves in Flanders. We also wear Rosemary as this signifies remembrance and it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.
In Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae (1872–1918)
2,144 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery, 605 of whom remain unidentified at Villiers-Bretonneux.
Row upon row of white headstones. As one walks amongst the fallen, the silence of our tour group was felt.
We visited many memorials this day to pay tribute to the Australians, the New Zealanders, Canadians, British and the French.
The new Sir John Monash centre that has just been opened was being built when we visited. One day I want to go back and visit this centre.
Our Dad George Donald Adams served in the Second World War. He was in the 2/11 AIF. He was stationed in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. From our dads notes:
“Early March 1943 I was sent with our battalion the 2/11 to the 51 Mile Peg out of Darwin. We had taken over that post vacated by the 2/2 Pioneers. The Japs were bombing day and night. On some manoeuvres we had up to 40 Jap bombers and fighters passing up to 30,000 feet above. ”
Lest we forget.