SIMPLY arriving at the Australian National Memorial in France is a goosebumps moment.
Within the hordes of Aussies walking up the road in the dead of night is a quiet sense of camaraderie that comes from being far from home but with the same purpose.
Here is where we’ve come together to pay our respects on Anzac Day.
Down the hill lies Villers-Bretonneux: a village the Australians liberated from the Germans in 1918. In a poetic coincidence, that happened on April 25.
The victory was seen as a major turning point in the First World War.
The memorial is a stunning tribute to that achievement.
Row after haunting row of simple crosses line the well-manicured lawns.
A majestic belltower stands watch, engraved with the names of the 10,000 diggers who disappeared on the killing fields of the Western Front.
The site is surrounded by rolling fields, many in full bloom with canola.
Next year will be only the third time a major Anzac Day dawn service has been held here.
The Australian government is keen to finally draw attention to a campaign that killed a staggering 46,000 of our soldiers.
It’s also a chance to draw some of the pilgrims away from the overcrowded shores of Gallipoli.
The plan seems to be working.
This year, more than 3000 people turned out for the ceremony and it’s well-equipped to cope.
Officials are onsite the day before to give advice on parking, arrival times and, importantly, what to bring.
A warm blanket is a must.
As soon as the ceremony’s over, a coffee and tea tent is in full swing.
The Anzac experience does not need to end there.
The Somme region is a rabbit warren of former battlefields, museums and memorials dedicated to the First World War.
Here are just a few highlights.
Albert’s town centre boasts a museum that’s set in underground shelters, depicting life in the trenches.
Thiepval’s Franco-British Memorial is overwhelming in size and what it stands for. This imposing monument lists the names of more than 73,000 soldiers killed in the Somme who have no known grave.
Beaumont-Hamel was the scene of one of the most devastating battles on the Western Front. Well-preserved trenches and a beautiful memorial bring the story to life.
Arras’ impressive new museum lies inside a city of underground caves, where Allied soldiers lived in the lead-up to a battle in 1917.
It’s a special moment to stand in the same dimly-lit corner where a church service was held the night before the troops faced the enemy.
Fromelles is history in the making. The remains of 250 Australian and British soldiers have recently been exhumed from a mass grave. Their reinternment in a new cemetery nearby is due to start in late January. In the meantime, visitors can see a memorial to the battle that left more than 5000 Australian casualties.
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