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Villers-Bretonneux Town Hall
Villers-Bretonneux Town Hall
Coat of arms of Villers-Bretonneux
Location of Villers-Bretonneux
Villers-Bretonneux is located in France
Villers-Bretonneux is located in Hauts-de-France
Coordinates: 49°52′N 2°31′E / 49.87°N 2.52°E / 49.87; 2.52Coordinates: 49°52′N 2°31′E / 49.87°N 2.52°E / 49.87; 2.52
IntercommunalityVal de Somme
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Didier Dinouard[1]
14.51 km2 (5.60 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2018)[2]
 • Density310/km2 (800/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
80799 /80800
Elevation45–107 m (148–351 ft)
(avg. 91 m or 299 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Villers-Bretonneux (French pronunciation: ​[vilɛʁ bʁətɔnø]) is a commune in the Somme department in Hauts-de-France in northern France.


Villers-Bretonneux view from the Australian memorial park

Villers-Bretonneux is situated some 19 km due east of Amiens, on the D1029 road and the A29 motorway.

Villers-Bretonneux borders a particularly flat landscape towards the east, which can be considered as the western boundary of the Santerre plateau and the eastern boundary of the Amiénois.

The territory of the commune is crossed by the old national road 29 (current RD 1029), perfectly rectilinear road following the route of the ancient Roman road linking Amiens to Saint-Quentin in the Aisne. The agglomeration is located at the crossroads of the D 23 linking Corbie to Moreuil.

Villers-Bretonneux is located on the railway line from Amiens to Laon via Tergnier.


Prehistoric era[edit]

Polished flints from the neolithic era indicate that a human presence has been in the commune for a long time.


Roman coins, remains of dwelling and a sandstone mill from during the Roman Empire have been found near the town, which was on the old way linking Amiens to Vermand.[3]

Middle Ages[edit]

In 1840, archaeological excavations revealed stone coffins, vases and buckles dating from the Frankish period.

The first mention of the name Villers-Bretonneux is in a document from 1123.[3] It was not until the 12th century that the Bretoneux or Bretonneux complement was added; prior to this the town was known as Villers. The origin of this change has historians perplexed.[4] In 1200, the lord of Villers-Bretonneux, Adams de Villers was vassal of the Abbot of Corbie. In the 14th century, the village was surrounded by a wall twelve feet high and counted 140 hovels. The castle was surrounded by a wall fifteen feet high. Waleran de Rivery, lord of Rivery and Villers-Bretonneux, married Isabelle, second daughter of Jacques de Longroy (councilor and chamberlain of the Duke of Burgundy), lord of Querrieu, who was killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In the second half of the 15th century, the lord was Antoine de Rivery, knight, captain of Amiens in 1465 and lord of Rivery and Villers-Bretonneux.[5][6]

17th century[edit]

On 13 August 1636, the Spanish Army set fire to the village, as well as several villages in the vicinity. It was probably during these events connected with the capture of Corbie that the fortress was destroyed. An exact date is not known but in 1681 it was mentioned as completely in ruins.[7]

18th century[edit]

In 1700, the seigniory of Villers-Bretonneux was sold to Pierre Dufresne, lord of Marcelcave.[8] As early as 1737, the wool industry was mentioned in Villers-Bretonneux.[8] In 1778, Pierre Dottin, a native of Villers-Bretonneux, published a memoir on the "la pomme de terre" in Les Affiches de la Picardie.[8]

19th century[edit]

In 1838, records show[9] that Villers-Bretonneux is one of the richest and most commercial communes in the department and that factories producing woollen stockings and flannels are well established. In 1859, the town built a church[10] that was destroyed during the First World War. It housed a wooden Virgin from the l'école de Blasset school.[11]

On 27 November 1870, Villers Bretonneux was the scene of a battle of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) for the defense of Amiens. The French were defeated, and the population had to pay a tribute of 100,000 francs to the Prussians.

20th century[edit]

In the First World War the town was the site of the First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux and Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux. The first tank against tank combat in history took place here on 24 April 1918.

In the interwar years, the city of Melbourne in Australia was a sponsor of the town of Villers-Bretonneux and helped in its reconstruction as did as the State of Victoria more generally. On 22 July 1938, the Villers–Bretonneux Australian National Memorial was opened by the British sovereigns, George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Albert Lebrun, President of the French Republic. The names of 11,000 fighters without burial are engraved in the stone.

In World War II the British Army had Sherman tank Armoured Division passed through Villers-Bretonneux, on 1 September 1944. There is a memorial near the town dedicated to the memory of the Forces françaises de l'intérieur, shot and deported during 1939–45, located on the road to Amiens.

Twenty-first century[edit]

Today, Villers-Bretonneux is a modest village, which grew significantly thanks to the introduction of the knitwear industry in the 19th century. After the destruction of the First and Second World Wars, the town was rebuilt. The city center concentrates public buildings and most of the dwellings.

The municipality is now experiencing a new development thanks to its proximity to the Amiens agglomeration and to an exit from the A29 motorway (Saint-Quentin-Le Havre). Subdivisions of individual houses were built.

Patrick Simon, the Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux from 2008 until 2020, was a vocal proponent of Australia-France relations.[12] Simon oversaw the refurbishment of Villers-Bretonneux's Franco-Australian First World War Museum and helped to establish the Sir John Monash Centre, which opened in 2018.[12][13] He also promoted increased relations and exchanges with Robinvale, Villers-Bretonneux's twinned town in the Australian state of Victoria.[14] Simon was awarded an honorary Order of Australia (AO) in 2015 for his contributions to Australian-Franco relations.[12][15] He died in office in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic in France.[12][15][16]

Economic and services[edit]

The increase in the population of the commune was linked to the development of knitwear in the 19th century. This activity began to decline from the 1880s onwards. The decline continued after the two world wars until they disappeared completely at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Today, it is the services that constitute most of the economic activity: shopping center near the motorway exit, retail and handicrafts in the city center. Health services are represented by the presence of a nursing home and a convalescent and functional rehabilitation center in addition to the liberal professionals. The school functions are represented by nursery and primary schools and by a college.

First World War[edit]

Cross planted in France by soldiers to honour the fallen. Now part of the war memorial in Adelaide, Australia.

In the First World War, on 24 April 1918, Villers-Bretonneux was the site of the world's first battle between two tank forces: three British Mark IVs against three German A7Vs. The Germans took the town, but that night and the next day it was recaptured by two brigades of the First Australian Imperial Force at a cost of some 1,200 Australian lives.[17] The town's mayor spoke of the Australian troops on 14 July 1919 when unveiling a memorial in their honour:

"The first inhabitants of Villers-Bretonneux to re-establish themselves in the ruins of what was once a flourishing little town have, by means of donations, shown a desire to thank the valorous Australian Armies, who with the spontaneous enthusiasm and characteristic dash of their race, in a few hours drove out an enemy ten times their number...They offer a memorial tablet, a gift which is but the least expression of their gratitude, compared with the brilliant feat which was accomplished by the sons of Australia...Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for.."[18]

The Australian War Memorial in France is located just outside Villers-Bretonneux and in front of it lie the graves of over 770 Australian soldiers, as well as those of other British Empire soldiers involved in the campaign. The school in Villers-Bretonneux was rebuilt using donations from school children of Victoria, Australia (many of whom had relatives perish in the town's liberation) and above every blackboard is the inscription, "N'oublions jamais l'Australie" (Let us never forget Australia).[19][20] The annual Anzac Day ceremony is held at this village on Anzac Day, 25 April. Traditionally, Australian commemorations have focused on Gallipoli. However, Anzac Day commemorations since 2008 have also focused on the Western Front, and dawn services marking the anniversary of the battle of 24/25 April 1918 are held on Anzac Day itself at Villers-Bretonneux.[21][22]

Villers-Bretonneux is the sister city of Robinvale, Victoria, Australia.[23]


In 2017, the commune had 4,464 inhabitants, an increase of 8.5% compared to 2007.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 1,260—    
1800 1,253−0.08%
1806 1,507+3.12%
1821 1,679+0.72%
1831 2,163+2.57%
1836 2,508+3.00%
1841 2,706+1.53%
1846 3,125+2.92%
1851 3,284+1.00%
1856 3,368+0.51%
1861 3,601+1.35%
1866 4,235+3.30%
1872 4,959+2.67%
1876 5,356+1.94%
1881 5,911+1.99%
1886 5,939+0.09%
1891 5,625−1.08%
1896 5,173−1.66%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 4,967−0.81%
1906 4,636−1.37%
1911 4,438−0.87%
1921 2,533−5.45%
1926 3,552+7.00%
1931 3,631+0.44%
1936 3,397−1.32%
1946 3,304−0.28%
1954 3,326+0.08%
1962 3,342+0.06%
1968 3,474+0.65%
1975 3,473−0.00%
1982 3,347−0.53%
1990 3,686+1.21%
1999 3,952+0.78%
2007 4,116+0.51%
2012 4,210+0.45%
2017 4,464+1.18%
Source: EHESS[24] and INSEE (1968-2017)[25]

Places of interest[edit]

Delacour's château, or, as the Australian force called it, the "Red château", served as headquarters and billets for Allied generals during the Battle of the Somme. Marshal Foch stayed there. At the end of fighting in November 1918 it became the local headquarters of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) Graves Commission. Later abandoned, it was extensively cannibalised for building materials. Its skeleton, which remained as a tourist attraction until 2004, was razed in that year and all traces of it were removed to make way for a supermarket.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires"., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2018". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b Notice géographique et historique sur la commune de Villers-Bretonneux, rédigée par M. Corbin, instituteur, 1899, Archives départementales de la Somme
  4. ^ Hector Josse " Dictionnaire historique et archéologique de la Picardie ", Vol.II, Cantons de Corbie, page 95 (1912, reprint Éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1979)
  5. ^ L. Ledieu – " Dictionnaire historique et archéologique de la Picardie ", Tome I, Cantons d'Amiens, page 158 (1909, reprint Éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1979)
  6. ^ G. de Witasse et L. Ledieu – " Dictionnaire historique et archéologique de la Picardie ", volI, Canton de Conty, pages 352–353 (1909, reprint Éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1979).
  7. ^ Hector Josse, Dictionnaire historique et archéologique de la Picardie, tome II, Cantons de Corbie, page 97 (1912, reprint Éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1979)
  8. ^ a b c Notice géographique et historique sur la commune de Villers-Bretonneux, rédigée par M. Corbin, instituteur, 1899, Archives départementales de la Somme.
  9. ^ Guide pittoresque du voyageur en France, in " La Somme ", éd. du Bastion, reprint 1994 – page 40
  10. ^ villages / Villers-Bretonneux" du site perso de Marie-France et Jean-Pierre Gourdain.
  11. ^ Hector Josse, Dictionnaire historique et archéologique de la Picardie, tome II, Cantons de Corbie, page 99 (1912, reprint Éditions Culture et Civilisation, Bruxelles, 1979).
  12. ^ a b c d Shields, Bevan (14 May 2020). "Australia's best friend in France dies from coronavirus". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Tribute to Villers-Bretonneux mayor Patrick Simon". 6 July 2020. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  14. ^ Testa, Christopher (14 May 2020). "Villers-Bretonneux mayor Patrick Simon remembered by rural Victorian town". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Le maire de Villers-Bretonneux Patrick Simon est décédé du Covid-19". Le Courrier Picard. 13 May 2020. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  16. ^ Lamarre, Vanessa (13 May 2020). "Coronavirus : décès de Patrick Simon maire de Villers-Bretonneux dans la Somme". France Bleu. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  17. ^ Anzac Day: Australians flock to Villers-Bretonneux to remember diggers who died on Western Front. ABC News Perth, 25 April 2015
  18. ^ "Villers-Bretonneux and Australia- Two in France". Two in France. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  19. ^ N'oublions jamais l'Australie, ("Let us never forget Australia"). Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
  20. ^ The Western Front, Overview of WWI history,
  21. ^ ANZAC Day focus turns to Western Front, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April 2008.
  22. ^ Looking back on the battle of Villers-Bretonneux. ABC News Perth, 6 June 2014]
  23. ^ Official Villers-Bretonneux web site
  24. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Villers-Bretonneux, EHESS. (in French)
  25. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE

Image gallery[edit]

External links[edit]