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Musée Franco-Australien de Villers-Bretonneux

A little History...

The battle of Villers-Bretonneux

After the murderous campaign in the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) in 1915, the Australian Imperial Force fought in 1916 in the Somme (Pozières), in the North (Fromelles), in 1917 on the Hindenburg Line (Bullecourt), and in Flanders (Ypres and Messine), then once again in the Somme and the Aisne in 1918.

The final year of the war proved to be the most important of all, however, for it was the AIF which halted the German advance at Villers-Bretonneux on April 25th, 1918 and thereby saved Amiens from capture.

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 Place de la mairie                    La gare



It was in the Gallo-Roman period that appears the evidences of the existence of the town, situated on the western side of the plateau of Santerre. The “Villaria”, which gave the first part of its name to the town, was crossed by the roman-road between Amiens and Saint Quentin. The second part of the name refers to Breton Mercenaries brought to be posted in the town by the Romans as auxiliary soldiers.

Its geographical location, placed the town inexorably on the road of invaders. The Normans ravaged all the region in 853, it was pillaged many times by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. In 1417 it was destroyed by the Burgundians, then in 1636, the Croatians of the Spanish army set houses and castles on fire. In 1815, the Cossacks indulged in a systematic pillaging. Later to be followed by the Prussians in 1870. During the First World War the fighting of the battle of the Somme destroyed 80 % of the town.

A modest agricultural town, Villers-Bretonneux reached its economic peak at the end of the XIXth century, through its textile and hosiery industry. In 1886, a prosperous town of 6,000 inhabitants ensured the welfare of the working-class population thanks to, high paid wages, the success of about thirty thriving enterprises and the construction of luxurious houses for manufacturers of colossal wealth.

The First World War, the competition, the textile crisis and the beginning of the open market, lead to the financial collapse and closure of the enterprises, thus creating a dramatic fall in the local population: just 3,000 in 1920.

Since 1990, diverse industries have installed themselves on the inter-communal industrial estate. The closeness of the regions capital has also resulted in a harmonious development, in social, cultural and sports amenities to the benefit of the 4,300 current inhabitants.

Extract from the book « Villers-Bretonneux », in the collection Mémoire en Images,
Yves Taté et Jean-Pierre Coutiez