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 battlefields and memorial sites to cover.

Between 1916 and 1918, some 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front. Over 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 trail is 250 km long, with northern, southern and central regions. Depending on how much time you have, plan which sites you'd like to visit. Our booklet, A Traveller's Guide, contains extra details to help plan your trip.

Starting your tour from the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux is ideal. It's an Australian Government museum operated by DVA at Fouilloy, in the Somme department of France.

We've suggested a route in Google Maps that you can share to your phone. There's a self-guided audio tour at each major stop that you can download or listen to online.

Stop 1 – Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Australian National Memorial.

Significance for Australians

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. Over 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 memorial walls.

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

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

Sites to visit in this area

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.

A cemetry surrounded by green fields

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

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 taken at the Thuillier house. In 2011, the negatives became public and are now on show in this farmhouse.

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

Stop 2 – Australian Corps Memorial at Le Hamel

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Australian Corps Memorial.

Significance for Australians

Australian general Sir John Monash made history at Le Hamel. His famous planning and preparation resulted in a brief and very successful action in the Battle of Hamel 4 July 1918.

The Australian Corps Memorial is at the site of the former German command post.

You can read more about this battle in our book, 1918—Villers-Bretonneux to Le Hamel.

Australian troops also played a role in stopping a major German advance at the First Battle of Dernancourt in March 1918. The town's links with Australia are evident in the street 'Rue d'Australie' and the school hall, 'Pavillon Adelaide'.

Sites to visit in this area

  • Australian Corps Memorial Park, Le Hamel
  • 3rd Australian Division Memorial, Sailly-le-Sec
  • Australian memorial places, Dernacourt (Pavilon Adélaïde, Rue d'Australie)
Australian Corps Memorial flying the American, British, Australian, French and Canadian flags

The Australian Corps Memorial at Le Hamel marks the spot of a savage fight and a quick victory. Even though a minor one, it gave Allied leaders then meeting in Paris a distinct morale boost. Image: DVA

A road sign with the words Rue D'Australie

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

Stop 3 – Second Australian Division Memorial at Mont St Quentin

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Second Australian Division Memorial.

Significance for Australians

Between 31 August and 2 September 1918, 3 divisions of the Australian Corps attacked and captured the German stronghold at Mont St Quentin. Of about 17,000 Australians involved, some 3,000 were either killed or wounded.

You can read more about this battle in our book, 1918—Amiens to Hindenburg Line.

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 Fourth Division Memorial. Some 1,200 Australians died in an action here just 7 weeks before the Armistice.

Sites to visit in this area

A colour photo looking towards the memorial. It is a misty dawn/dusk. Autumnal leaves lie on the path. Four stone steps lead up to the plynth which holds the metal statue of the 'digger'.

The Second Australian Memorial is on the Avenue Des Australiens near the Rue D'Allaines intersection and can be seen from the road. The original Memorial, a statue of a digger killing an eagle with his bayonet, was destroyed by the Germans in World War II. In 1971, it was replaced by this figure of a digger in his slouch hat. [DVA]

Stop 4 – Old Windmill at Pozières

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the old Pozières windmill.

Significance for Australians

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.

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 Second Lieutenant John Alexander Raws, who was killed in action near Pozières on 23 August 1916]

Learn more about:

You can read more about this battle in our book, 1916—Fromelles and the Somme.

Sites to visit in this area

  • First Australian Division Memorial (the Windmill)
  • Tank Corps Memorial (where tank warfare began on 15 September 1916).
Windmill Memorial site flying the Australian and French flags

The Windmill site is just outside Pozières on the D929 in the direction of Bapaume and to the left shortly after leaving the village. Cut in stone at the site are the words, "… captured on 4th August by Australian troops, who fell more thickly on this ridge than any other …"

Stop 5 – Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery

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

Significance for Australians

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 this cemetery.

Symbolically, 300 British and Empire soldiers and 300 French soldiers were buried side-by-side to mark the wartime alliance.

You can read more about this battle in our book, 1916—Fromelles and the Somme.

Sites to visit in this area

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

Stop 6 – Australian Memorial Park and the 'Digger' at Bullecourt

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Bullecourt Digger

Significance for Australians

During the Battle of Arras 9 April to 16 May 1917, Australians served in the flanking operations:

  • First Battle of Bullecourt 10 to 11 April 1917
  • German Attack on Lagnicourt 9 April to 16 May 1917
  • Second Battle of Bullecourt 3 to 17 May 1917.

You can read more about these battles in our book, 1917—Bapaume and Bullecourt.

Sites to visit in this area

Australian Memorial Park and the 'Digger' statue

The bronze 'Bullecourt Digger' stands in the Australian Memorial Park just outside Bullecourt, along the Rue des Australiens and along the side road to Reincourt-les-Cagnicourt. In April and May 1917, the AIF lost 10 000 soldiers, killed or wounded in the fields he gazes across. Image: DVA

Stop 7 – V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery at Fromelles

Follow our self-guided audio tour of V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial

V.C. Corner is one of only 2 Australian-only burial grounds on the Western Front. The other one is Toronto Avenue Cemetery at Stop 8.

Significance for Australians

The Battle of Fromelles 19 to 20 July 1916 was the first major attack by Australian troops on the Western Front. Australian and British divisions attacked a strong point known as the Sugarloaf. Tragically, Australian casualties numbered 5,500 in a 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.

Sites to visit in this area

A large block of concrete

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

Stop 8 – Toronto Avenue Cemetery south of Ieper

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Toronto Avenue Cemetery.

Toronto Avenue Cemetery is one of only 2 Australian-only burial grounds on the Western Front. The other one is V.C. Corner at Stop 7.

Significance for Australians

Ploegsteert Wood was the site of fierce fighting between the Allies and the Germans early in 1914 and 1915, before the Australians arrived on the Western Front. The Allies called the area ‘Plugstreet’.

Later on, Australians fought in the Battle of Messines 7 to 14 June 1917. At that time, the Allies tried to take enemy defences from Ploegsteert Wood through Messines and Wytschaete to Mont Sorrel.

You can read more about this battle in our book, 1917—Ypres.

Sites to visit in this area

A cemetery surrounded by green leafy vegetation

Toronto Avenue Cemetery at Plooegsteert Wood. Image: DVA

Stop 9 – the Cloth Hall at Ieper

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Cloth Hall at Ieper.

The Belgian place most damaged by the war was Ieper (Ypres). The Cloth Hall and the town itself were almost completely ruined by 1918. The Cloth Hall was reconstructed between 1933 and 1967.

The headquarters of Australian General Sir John Monash was in the ramparts of the Menin Gate. As a symbol of remembrance, the Last Post ceremony is performed at the Menin Gate every night.

Significance for Australians

In the Third Battle of Ypres from 31 July to 10 November 1917, Australians served in:

  • 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.

You can read more about these battles in our book, 1917—Ypres.

Sites to visit in this area

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

Stop 10 – Tyne Cot Cemetery north of Ieper

Follow our self-guided audio tour of the Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world, with over 11,900 war graves. Sadly, 791 of the 1,369 Australian soldiers buried here are unknown.

Significance for Australians

Tyne Cot is a former battlefield and a cemetery.

Heavy rain in 1917 had turned the Flanders' battlefields into a morass. By August, men and horses drowned in the mud.

Conditions improved during the Passchendaele campaign, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres 31 July to 10 November 1917. The 4 Anzac divisions fought together in a line for the first time at:

  • 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.

However, the campaign was costly. Nearly 6,500 of the 15,000 British casualties were Australian soldiers.

You can read more about these battles in our book, 1917—Ypres.

Sites to visit in this area

A colour photo looking down the centre of the cemetery, with rows of white headstones on either side and the Cross of Sacrifice at the top of the isle.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, a view towards the Great Cross. There are 1369 Australian graves here, 791 of them unidentified, making Tyne Cot the war cemetery with the most Australian burials in the world.

A cemetery surrounded by forest trees

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

Sir John Monash Centre

Location: Route de Villers Bretonneux, 80800 Fouilloy, Somme, France.

Email: info@sjmc.gov.au

Phone: +33 3 60 62 01 40

Plan your visit - entry is free.


Last updated:

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Australian Remembrance Trail in Belgium and France, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 20 June 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/commemoration/battlefields-and-walks/australian-remembrance-trail
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