Australian Remembrance Trail in Belgium and France

 

Travelling along the Australian Remembrance Trail is a popular way of making a commemorative visit to the Western Front. Plan your journey well because there are many important battlefield and memorial sites to cover.

Plan your trip

Between 1916 and 1918, some 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front. More than 46,000 died and 134,000 were wounded or captured during this time.

The Australian Remembrance Trail links the most important sites for Australians along the Western Front. It includes battlefields, cemeteries, memorials and museums.

The Australian Remembrance Trail is 200km long, with northern, southern and central regions. Depending on how much time you have, plan which sites you'd like to visit. Many tour companies operate in the region, although you might instead decide to hire a car and self-guide.

The booklet, A Traveller's Guide, contains the details you'll need to plan a trip to the Western Front.

Explore online

If you can't travel to the Western Front, you can explore some sites online.

You can use an app called Anzac 360 to explore the Australian Remembrance Trail. With virtual reality technology, interactive videos and stunning 360-degree drone footage, the app explores eight key sites and battles. It's free to download:

Sites in Belgium

Ieper (Ypres)

The Cloth Hall, Ieper
The belfry of the Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) on the main square (Grote Markt) of Ieper with the steeple of St Martin's Cathedral beyond. The Cloth Hall and the town itself were almost completely ruined by 1918. The Cloth Hall was reconstructed between 1933 and 1967. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

The Belgian city most damaged by the war was Ieper. The headquarters of Australian General Sir John Monash were in the ramparts of the Menin Gate. As a symbol of remembrance, the Last Post ceremony is performed at the Menin Gate every night.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Cloth Hall at Ieper (Ypres)

Messines

A stone monument surrounded by steel fencing

A memorial to the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company at Hill 60 Battlefield Memorial Park near Zillebeke. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

The Battle of Messines involved the largest and loudest man-made non-nuclear explosion of all time. Around 10,000 German troops were killed when 19 underground mines exploded. Australian Captain Oliver Woodward detonated two of them. Soldiers from both sides died while constructing the mines.

A monument was erected at Hill 60 to commemorate men of the 1st Tunnelling Company, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE), who died during mining operations during 1916 and 1917. This structure replaced an earlier one constructed in 1919 by the Company.

Ploegsteert

A cemetery surrounded by green leafy vegetation

Toronto Avenue Cemetery at Plooegsteert Wood. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

Ploegsteert was known as 'Plugstreet' by the Australians during the war. The Plugstreet 14-18 Experience is a museum that tells the story of the 1917 Battle of Messines. Nearby is Toronto Avenue Cemetery, one of only two Australian-only burial grounds on the Western Front (the other being VC Corner in France).

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Toronto Avenue Cemetery at Ploegsteert Wood

Polygon Wood

A cemetery surrounded by forest trees

Buttes New British Cemetery and 5th Australian Division Memorial at Polygon Wood. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

In 1917, heavy rain turned the battlefields of Flanders into a morass. By August, men and horses would drown in the mud. Conditions improved for the first three of the Australians' five battles during the Passchendaele campaign (or Third Battle of Ypres). More than one-third of the 15,000 British casualties were Australian.

Zonnebeke

Tyne Cot Cemetery near Zonnebeke. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

  • Battle of the Menin Road 20 to 26 September 1917
  • Battle of Broodseinde 4 October 1917
  • Battle of Poelcappelle 9 October 1917
  • Battle of Passchendaele 12 October 1917

Tour highlights

Tyne Cot is a former battlefield and a cemetery. Here in 1917, the four Anzac divisions fought together in a line for the first time. Nearly 6500 Australian casualties made the action a costly victory.

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world, with over 11,900 war graves. 791 of the 1369 Australian soldiers buried here are unknown.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Tyne Cot Cemetery at Zonnebeke

Sites in France

Amiens

People in a large hall all facing the front of the hall

A ceremony in Amiens Cathedral dedicating two turf graves to symbolise the thousands of Australian and French soldiers who were killed in France, 1918. AWM A01066

Tour highlight

  • Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières (Amiens Cathedral)

Thousands of soldiers passed through Amiens on their way to the Somme battlefields. The belfry tower was known locally as 'Prison des Australiens' because so many were briefly locked up there for disorderly behaviour. The Amiens Cathedral, built in the 13th Century, was shelled by the Germans in May 1918.

Beaurains

Tour highlight

The CWGC Experience is a unique attraction that highlights the remarkable work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. You'll get a close and intimate look behind the scenes at the teams who still work painstakingly to care for the fallen.

Bullecourt

The bronze Bullecourt Digger in the Australian Memorial Park gazes across fields where the AIF lost 10,000 soldiers, killed or wounded, in April and May 1917. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

The battles at Bulletcourt were disastrous. The casualties were so high that they influenced the conscription debate back in Australia.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Bullecourt Digger

Dernacourt

A road sign with the words Rue D'Australie

The street 'Rue d'Australie' is a commemoration of the Australians at Dernacourt. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

  • Spring Offensive 21 March to 18 July 1918

Tour highlights

  • Pavilon Adélaïde
  • Rue d'Australie

In 1918, Australian troops played a role in stopping a major German advance at Dernacourt. Dernancourt's links with Australia are evident in the street 'Rue d'Australie' and the school hall, 'Pavillon Adelaide'.

Fromelles

A large block of concrete

Remains of a German blockhouse in the Australian Memorial Park near Fromelles. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

Fromelles is the site of the first major attack by Australian troops on the Western Front. On 19 July 1916, Australian and British divisions attacked a strong point known as the Sugarloaf. Australian casualties numbered 5500 over one night. The Australian Memorial Park on the old German front line features 'Cobbers', the bronze sculpture of an Australian soldier carrying a wounded mate from the battlefield.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles

Le Hamel

Flags of Allied nations fly above the Australian Corps Memorial at Le Hamel. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

  • Australian Corps Memorial Park, Le Hamel
  • 3rd Australian Division Memorial, Sailly-le-Sec

Australian general Sir John Monash made history at Le Hamel. His famous planning and preparation resulted in a brief and very successful action. The Australian Corps Memorial is at the site of the former German command post.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Australian Corps Memorial at Le Hamel

Mont St-Quentin

The Second Australian Memorial of a digger in his slouch hat was installed in 1971 to replace an earlier memorial that was destroyed in World War II. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

  • Hundred Days 8 August to 11 November 1918

Tour highlights

  • 2nd Australian Division Memorial, Mont St-Quentin

The Battle of Mont St-Quentin is commemorated by the 2nd Division Memorial. The statue is located on the avenue des Australiens.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Second Australian Division Memorial at Mont St Quentin

Naours

Tour highlights

The first Australian soldiers arrived in France in July 1916. They left their mark with graffiti in the tunnels of Naours. Thousands of soldiers wrote their names in pencil here. So far, 731 names have been identified as Australian.

Péronne

Steps leading up to a monument surrounded by metal chain barricades on concrete posts

The empty pedestal of the Second Australian Division Memorial after the removal by the Germans of the stature by Charles Webb Gilbert showing an Australian 'digger' bayoneting an eagle, Mont St Quentin, France, 1961. AWM A03748

Significance for Australians

  • Hundred Days 8 August to 11 November 1918

Tour highlights

Péronne was held by the Germans from 1914. It was devastated by Allied shelling. The Grande Guerre museum at Péronne features 70,000 artefacts from all sides.

Nearby is the hamlet of Bellenglise and the 4th Division Memorial. 1200 Australians died in an action here just 7 weeks before the Armistice.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Fourth Australian Division Memorial at Bellenglise

Pozières

The Windmill site near Pozières has the words "… captured on 4th August by Australian troops, who fell more thickly on this ridge than any other …"

Significance for Australians

Tour highlights

  • 1st Australian Division Memorial
  • The Australian Memorial (the Windmill)

More Australians died here than on any other battlefield in France. Australians entered the Battle of the Somme on 23 July 1916 at Pozières. By the time they arrived, the village had been obliterated. It was the first experience of war for many of the soldiers.

The Windmill represents the place where most Australians died. Opposite is the Tank Memorial, where tank warfare began on 15 September 1916.

We are lousy, stinking, ragged, unshaven, sleepless. Even when we're back a bit we can't sleep from our own guns. I have one puttee, a dead man’s helmet, another dead man’s gas protector, a dead man’s bayonet. My tunic is rotten with other men’s blood and partly splattered with a comrade’s brains…. Courage does not count here. It is all nerve. Once that goes, one becomes a gibbering maniac.

[From a letter by Lt JA Raws, who was killed later in the same battle.]

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the old Pozières windmill

Thiepval

Rows of grave stones facing towards a large monument cross

Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery is near the Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, built across the front lines of 1 July 1916, a day when the British Army suffered nearly 20,000 men killed and 40,000 wounded. Image: DVA

Significance for Australians

  • Somme Offensive 1 July to 18 November 1916

Tour highlights

The British Memorial to the Missing is the largest Commonwealth War Memorial in the world. It accommodates the 72,243 names of the British and Empire soldiers who were missing after the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Ten Australians, six of them unknown, are buried in the cemetery here. The cemetery has 300 British and Empire soldiers and 300 French soldiers buried side-by-side. This symbolises the alliance between Britain and France during the war.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery

Vignacourt

Studio portrait of 3 soldiers, 2 standing behind one seated in a chair

Group portrait of three unidentified members of the 2nd Australian Division, taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France, during the period 1916 to 1918. AWM P10550.571

Significance for Australians

  • Village where Australians went to rest and recover behind the front

Tour highlights

The small town of Vignacourt was a temporary refuge for Australian soldiers. It was close to the battlefields but far from German artillery. Many of the men had their photos take at the Thuillier house. In 2011, the negatives became public and are now on show in this farmhouse.

Villers-Bretonneux

A cemetry surrounded by green fields

Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneux. Image DVA

Significance for Australians

  • Spring Offensive 21 March to 18 July 1918

Tour highlights

  • Adelaide Cemetery
  • Australian National Memorial
  • École Victoria
  • Franco-Australian museum
  • Sir John Monash Centre

The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux was an important action. It marked the limit of the German advance towards Amiens on this part of the Somme. Just over 3 months later, the British launched their part of a major Allied offensive north of Villers-Bretonneux. Known as the Battle of Amiens, this engagement marked the beginning of an Allied advance that ultimately resulted in the end of the fighting on the Western Front.

Annual commemorative events take place at the Australian National Memorial. More than 10,700 Australians were killed in France and Belgium during the war with no known grave. The names of those listed as missing in France are etched on the walls of the memorial.

Nearby is the Adelaide Cemetery from where the body of the unknown soldier was exhumed.

The town of Villers-Bretonneux has a number of symbols of its links with Australia. This includes the Victoria School, rebuilt by funds donated by children in Victoria, Australia.

Follow our self-guided audio tour for the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux


Last updated: 13 March 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Australian Remembrance Trail in Belgium and France, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 25 September 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/commemoration/battlefields-and-walks/australian-remembrance-trail
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