Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial
|Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial|
|Commonwealth War Graves Commission|
View of the memorial tower (left) and Cross of Sacrifice (right)
|For Australian Imperial Force|
|Unveiled||22 July 1938|
|Designed by||Sir Edwin Lutyens|
The Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial is a World War I memorial, located near the commune of Villers-Bretonneux, in the Somme département of France. The memorial lists 10,773 names of soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force with no known grave who were killed between 1916, when Australian forces arrived in France and Belgium, and the end of the war. The location was chosen to commemorate the role played by Australian soldiers in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. The memorial also serves as the Australian National Memorial to all the Australian dead during the Western Front of World War I.
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial consists of a tower within Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, which also includes a Cross of Sacrifice. The tower is surrounded by walls and panels on which the names of the missing dead are listed. The main inscription is in both French and English, on either side of the entrance to the tower.
The site for the memorial had been selected by Lieutenant General Sir Talbot Hobbs, commander of the Australian forces that had participated in the battle. A competition was held in 1925 to choose a design for the memorial. The competition was won by the Australian architect William Lucas, but both Hobbs and the head of the Imperial War Graves Commission, Sir Fabian Ware, disliked Lucas's design. Lutyens was approached after economic difficulties had led to the original memorial project being halted. Hobbs, who was himself an architect, contributed to the design process, but died of a heart attack at sea while journeying to see it unveiled.
The memorial was unveiled on 22 July 1938 by King George VI, whose words were broadcast directly to Australia. Other dignitaries present included the French President Albert Lebrun, who also gave a speech, and the Australian deputy prime minister Earle Page. Accompanying the King was his wife Queen Elizabeth, whose brother was killed at the Battle of Loos. This memorial was the last of the great memorials to the missing of World War I to be built, and the Second World War broke out just over a year after its unveiling. Every year on 25 April, an Anzac Day Dawn Service is conducted at the memorial by the Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The service commences at 5.30am and is followed by community services in Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt.
During the unveiling ceremony, the King closed his speech with the words:
|“||They rest in peace, while over them all Australia's tower keeps watch and ward.||”|
—King George VI, 22 July 1938
Footnotes and references
- The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme (Gavin Stamp, 2007), page 94
- Villers–Bretonneux, Australian National Memorial, Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918, Department of Veterans' Affairs and Board of Studies NSW - accessed 31 December 2009
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission details of the Villers–Bretonneux Memorial
- Villers–Bretonneux, Australian National Memorial - history and description of the memorial and pictures of the unveiling ceremony and of details of the memorial (Department of Veteran Affairs, Australia)
- British-Pathé Newsreel report that includes the unveiling of the memorial, unveiling is at 2:14 to 2:51 (Adobe Flash)
- Australian National War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France (William Lucas, 1930, Argonaut Press) - book by Lucas on his rejected plans for the memorial (catalogue entry from the National Library of Australia)