Following Australian Footsteps on the WW1 Western Front

Villers-Bretonneux to Mouquet Farm

Finding the exits out of Amiens during peak hour traffic was an experience, but I made it and headed East to the Australian National Memorial on the ridge above Villers-Bretonneux.

This impressive Memorial overlooks the surrounding countryside. The commemorative panels flanking the central tower list 10,982 Australian soldiers who died in France and have no known grave. Each year an ANZAC Day ceremony is held here.

Under the listing of the names of the Officers and Men of the 44th Battalion who died in France and have no known grave. I was pleased to find the names of Monaghan and McGrath were listed. In his diary, Pop mentions :

“Monday, 44th had a daylight raid, 36 over the top & brought back 3 prisoners. 6 of ours killed. Monaghan and McGrath killed poor beggars both married”.

I had been looking for these names throughout my trip so I was glad I finally found and remembered them.

I understand there is a self guided Australian 1918 battlefield tour available from the Anzac Museum located in Victoria School, Villers-Bretonneux. Apparently this package includes maps, guidebooks and audio-tape. Unfortunately I did not obtain one but will look out for it the next time I visit. The Victoria School in Villers-Bretonneux is a memorial to Victorian soldiers of the First World War. The plaques on the wall one in French and one in English read:

“This school building is the gift of the school children of Victoria, Australia to the children of Villers-Bretonneux, as proof of their love and goodwill towards France. Twelve Hundred Australian soldiers the fathers and brothers of these children gave their lives in the heroic recapture of this town from the invader on 24th April 1918 and are buried near this spot. May the memory of great sacrifices in a common cause keep France and Australia together forever in bonds of friendship and mutual esteem.”

After a very full day I returned to “Les Galets” for a great meal and a comfortable bed.

My final day in Europe was to be a busy one. I wanted to have a quick look at the local British Memorial sites on the Somme Battlefield, visit the remaining AIF Memorials and drive to Frankfurt to join my plane back to Perth.

I could not do justice to my location without taking a pre-breakfast walk. I walked up to Auchonvillers, then back via the very moving Newfoundland Beaumont-Hamel Memorial, 51st Highlanders Memorial, several British cemeteries, Hawthorn Ridge Crater and Sunken Road, all of which will forever be stark reminders of the futile Battle of the Somme.

Prior to my visit I was honestly unaware of the carnage that took place here. I still find it hard to comprehend how the hierarchy, through their stupidity and ignorance let the slaughter continue for so long.

Just above the Ancre River, on the road back to Pozieres lie the ruins of Mouquet farm, the scene of fierce fighting in July – September 1916. The Australian battle exploit plaque positioned on the side of the road overlooking the Mouquet Farm commemorates the AIF’s effort and its 6,300 casualties. On a lighter note the Australian colours of Green and Gold brighten the fields of France.

Continue: Pozieres to Bellenglise