Villers-Brettonneux – a French town with special ANZAC memories
Villers-Brettoneux a little French town of 3,952 inhabitants takes the centre stage again this ANZAC Day. Whilst the citizens of Villers-Brettoneux have never ever forgotten the role of the ANZACs in saving their town, this year some 6,000 Australians will join them to witness the first dawn ANZAC service at the site.
ANZAC Day WWI commemorations have always been associated with Gallipoli, however 2008 is the year to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Villers Bretonneux. On 23-24 April, the Germans captured Villers-Bretonneux and advanced out of town along the railway line towards Amiens. The Australian Infantry were given the task of stopping the German advancement towards Amiens and were also told that they were on their own and that there would not be any artillery support. That night, 24-25 April, six battalions of AIF counter attacked to the south and north of the cemetery, encircling Villers-Brettoneux, and in a bloody and ferocious battle re-took the town. This famous action marked the end of the German advance of in the Somme area.
What is amazing about the involvement of Australians in WWI was that of a small nation of 4.5 million, 313,000 young men felt compelled to serve in a war that was at the other end of the globe. They suffered heavy casualties, however their courage and heroic determination will always be remembered.