The emotion of the Western Front

A visit to Villers-Bretonneux on the Western Front is a moving and educational experience.

The emotion of the Western Front

A visit to Villers-Bretonneux on the Western Front is a moving an educational experience.

Although it’s often overshadowed by Gallipoli, most Australians are aware of the participation of Australian forces on the Western Front in World War I. However, for many, the details are sketchy. So my wife and I journeyed to the Western Front, to see what it was like and the role that was played by the 1st AIF and other nations.

Our arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport was late, due to a French air-traffic controllers’ ‘dispute’, and our first drive in the rental car involved braving inclement weather and even more inclement peak-hour traffic. We reached our first base camp very late, in the pitch black of night, at a farm B&B at Aumont, just west of Amiens. We were now in the Somme – a name that, for me, had been evocative since my school days.

Refreshed by our host’s luxurious lodgings and generous, late, but not so petit déjeuner, we travelled east for an hour to Villers-Bretonneux. This is a town of 4000, which we had read still holds a close attachment for Australians; Victorians in particular. I must confess to harbouring a healthy scepticism that, almost a century after the fighting had ceased, the locals would still retain this affinity. But we were not disappointed.

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