Minister Delivers Key Address At Anzac Service In France

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26th April 2008, 08:16pm - Views: 699

Government Government Minister For Veterans' Affairs 1 image

The Hon Alan Griffin MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs


Saturday 26 April 2008  


Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, today delivered the Commemorative Address at the

Anzac Community Service held at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France.

Each year the people of Villers-Bretonneux hold an Anzac service on the Saturday closest to

Anzac Day to honour the Australian soldiers who fought to protect their town 90 years ago.

The full transcript of Minister Griffin’s Commemorative Address follows.

The Hon Alan Griffin MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Commemorative Address at the Anzac Community Service, Villers-Bretonneux, France. 

Saturday 26 April 2008.

It is my pleasure to welcome you all, people of France and of Australia, to the annual Anzac

Community Service.

C’est pour moi un honneur d’être l’invité des habitants de Villers-Bretonneux. Vous êtes des

hôtes charmants et très accueillants, et nous apprécions sincèrement votre hospitalité. 

(I would like to say what an honour it is to be a guest of the people of Villers-Bretonneux. You

have been charming and welcoming hosts and your hospitality is most appreciated.)

Yesterday we had the privilege of sharing the Australian experience of an Anzac Day Dawn

Service at this magnificent Memorial.

Today is an opportunity to share the French experience of this community service, a tradition

that has an equally proud history.

It has been a unique experience to visit France and to see here so many reminders of home.

It tells me just how strong the connection was, has been, and still is between the people of

Villers-Bretonneux and the people of Australia.

I am proud to say that the French-Australian connection has been strongly supported by my

home state of Victoria.  In the years after the war, it was the city of Melbourne that adopted

Villers-Bretonneux and raised money to help rebuild the town.

The ‘Victoria School’ reminds us that it was Victorian children who collected money to help

rebuild the school.

Government Government Minister For Veterans' Affairs 2 image

And I am pleased to say that Villers-Bretonneux continues to enjoy a ‘Twin Towns’ relationship

with Robinvale in Victoria.

As we celebrate and renew our friendship, the question could be asked, “why is there such a

strong bond between this town in France, and my home country so far away”? 

For their part, I believe the answer for the people of Villers-Bretonneux is plain for all to see.

In 1919, once the war was over, the Mayor promised that his town would keep alive the memory

of the Australian soldiers who liberated Villers-Bretonneux.

And for nine decades, the people have been as good as his word.  Your Franco-Australian

Museum, the continuing work of the France-Australia Association and services such as this

each year have made sure that Australia is never forgotten here.

As I said at our Dawn Service yesterday, you have shown great care and respect for the

memory of our soldiers, and I thank you again for your dedication.

On Australia’s part, the question remains why Villers-Bretonneux has been the focus of

Australian commemoration in France for 90 years.

Why was it chosen as the site for the Australian National Memorial and our Memorial to the


Not far from here are other battlefields of tremendous significance to Australia’s history in


Fromelles, the site of the bloodiest 24 hours ever seen by Australians in our wartime


Pozieres, where the soil is said to be “more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than

any other place on earth”;

Bullecourt, where we lost 10,000 men killed or wounded in April and May 1917;

Hamel, where our troops under the command of Sir John Monash in July 1918 defeated

the German forces in just 93 minutes; and

the land behind me leading to Mont St Quentin and Peronne, where the Australians helped

inflict a devastating defeat on five German Divisions, in what was described as one of the

“finest feats of arms in a time rich in innumerable deeds of heroism”.

All of these would be fitting locations.  So why here, in this place?

The answer is that Villers-Bretonneux was the scene of a truly Australian victory.

In their first years on the Western Front, the men of the Australian Imperial Force were part of

two Anzac Corps, each under British command.

In November 1917, the AIF Divisions were drawn together as the Australian Corps.

A few months later, the battle at Villers-Bretonneux was won by Australian troops, fighting in the

Australian Corps, under Australian leadership.

As a result, this place carries its own special significance to Australia’s wartime heritage.

It makes Villers-Bretonneux a most fitting location to remember, not only those who fought here,

but all Australians who served on the Western Front.

And so today I am honoured to welcome you to this service, and to invite you all – people of

France and Australia – to remember all of those who have given their lives in the defence of our


Mes amis, l’Australie n’oubliera pas la France. Nous nous souviendrons toujours de Villers-

Bretonneux. Cette terre restera le symbole de notre profonde amitié. 

(My friends, Australia will remember France.  We will always remember Villers-Bretonneux. 

This land will stand as a symbol of our great friendship.)

Media inquiries: Laura Ryan 0437 863 109

Minister Griffin’s Commemorative Addresses from the Villers-Bretonneux Anzac Day

Dawn Service and the Anzac Community Service are available at

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