Both expats living in Europe and Australians on a war history pilgrimages in France come together in their thousands to hear the stories of the men and women that gave their lives protecting their country as well as France for the French people. The service is broadcast live on Australian television networks and the minister of Foreign Affairs is always in attendence.
Situated on a hill, as you approach it in the dark, the monolith of a tower that rises in the middle of the memorial looks much taller than its 30 metres. Aided by a bright light shining upwards that can be seen from miles around, it acts as a beacon summoning those that have journeyed to pay their respects.
Attendees clambering to get a photo with former Australian Prime Minister and 2011 Minister of Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd.
It was at Villers-Bretenoux in 1918, coincidentally on April 25, that the Australian contingent of the Allied Forces halted the German invasion by liberating the city for the local people. From that point onwards Germany proceeded no further into France during World War I and the Australians were heralded as heroes. Even today any Australian that finds him/herself in The Somme region may be bestowed with extra friendliness from the local townsfolk as the children are taught from a young age N'oublions jamais l'australie (never forget Australia), as this is what graces plaques and murals throughout their primary schools.
After the service the local people serve breakfast of tea/ coffee and croissants to all the 7000 odd attendees before most head into the town centre for more services.
For future information on the dawn service and subsequent services in the area keep your eye on the Somme Anzac site.
|Photo: Diane Robertson Photography|
*Anzac stands for 'Australian and New Zealand Army Corps'
*RSL stands for 'Returned Services League'