Commemorative sites in Villers-Bretonneux
Australian National Memorial
On the road to Corbie (D23).
Designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled on July 22nd, 1938 by the King George VI of England, this imposing white stone monument, with a Commonwealth Cemetery in the foreground, consists of a tall central tower with two corner pavilions linked to the tower by plain walls that bear the names of 11,000 Australian soldiers who fell in France, and whose graves are not known.
ANZAC day is celebrated there every year.
French Civilian War Memorial
At Charles de Gaulle Square, near the Town Hall.
Inaugurated in 1929, it consists of a red granite stone on a blue granite base and a statue of a tearful woman who holds a wreath in her right hand and a palm in the left hand.
On the base of the monument a plaque is situated, bearing the following inscription in French: “souvenir aux amis australiens morts pour la libération de Villers-Bretonneux” (In remembrance of Australian friends who died for the liberation of Villers-Bretonneux).
On the road to Amiens (D1029).
It was here, in 1993 that the remains of an unknown soldier were exhumed and which now lie in the chapel of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
An engraved stone commemorates this event.
"Touring Club" Demarcation stone
During the years following the end of the First World War, the French and Belgian Touring Club decided to mark the front line as it was in the victorious offensive of the second battle of the Marne on July 18th 1918, from the North Sea to the Swiss border; there are 119 of them covering over 750 kilometres.
No more than one metre high, these pink granite stones are the work of the sculptor Paul Moreau-Vauthier. They are covered with a laurel wreath surmounted by a helmet of the nation that stopped the invader (Belgian, British or French). Everyday equipment of the soldiers at this time are sculpted on each side: grenades, water bottle and case for gas mask. Palms are engraved on each corner while you can find the inscription in French on one of the sides “Ici fut repoussé l’envahisseur” (Here the invader was brought to a standstill).
You can find the demarcation stone on the road to St Quentin (D1029).
Situated at the entrance of the small garden in front of the Town Hall, is an engraved bronze commemorative plaque (in French and in English) made by the Australian Dr Ross Bastiaan, to commemorate the battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
You can also find numerous references to Australia in the street names of Villers-Bretonneux: Victoria Street, Melbourne Street, Robinvale Square.
On the road D168, direction Cachy, a small monument reminds us of the first battle in the history of war between German (A7V) and British (mark IV and Whippet) tanks, April 24th, 1918.
For this battle, thirteen A7V’s were divided into three groups of attack:
- The first, composed of 3 A7V’s, in Villers-Bretonneux
- The second, composed of 6 A7V’s on the south boarder of Villers-Bretonneux and the woods ”bois d’Aquenne”
- The third, composed of 4 A7V’s, in the village of Cachy.
At the end of the battle two tanks were abandoned; the “Elfriede” and the” Mephisto”.
After the fall back of the Germans in the area, the “Mephisto” was recovered by the Australians troops and sent to Australia as a war trophy. It is now on exhibition in Queensland at the Museum of Brisbane. It is the only tank A7V to have survived the scrape yard.
A small scale model (1/12.5) of the Mephisto is on exhibition at the Franco-Australian Museum in Villers-Bretonneux.
In the small garden behind the church is a stone copy (presented on ANZAC day 2008) of the wooden cross erected by the 51st Australian Battalion on the battlefield on April 24th, 1918. The original, taken to Australia in 1956, is now in the Saint George Cathedral in Perth.
Crucifix Corner cemetary
On the road to Démuin (D23).
In this cemetery, where graves of soldiers from the Commonwealth and French Empire are brought together, you can find a stone plaque with the following inscription in French: “Aux Héros morts pour la defense de Villers-Bretonneux. 24-25 avril 1918. Les habitants reconnaissants.” (To the Heroes who died for the defense of Villers-Bretonneux, April 24th-25th, 1918 from its grateful inhabitants).
Croix de Villers-Bretonneux