In April 2009, the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, The Hon. Alan Griffin MP announced the concept of an integrated trail of commemoration on the Western Front to foster a deeper appreciation of what Australians achieved and endured in the main theatre of conflict of the First World War. Mr Griffin has now announced details of plans for a new museum and commemorative facility at Mont St Quentin, France as part of the Western Front Remembrance Trail.
The Minister’s media release of Saturday 30 January 2010 stated:
Commemoration of Australian service on the Western Front will be enhanced with plans for several new interpretive facilities at major battles sites as part of the Australian Government’s $10 million Western Front Remembrance Trail.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Alan Griffin today announced he was working with French authorities for a new museum and commemorative facility at Mont St Quentin.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of all Allied forces in France, spoke of the seizure of Mont St Quentin and Péronne as one of the ‘finest feats of arms in a time rich in innumerable deeds of heroism’. The battle involved vicious close quarter fighting that cost some 3,000 Australian casualties.
Eight Victoria Crosses were awarded for the four day action, more than in any other battle in which the Australians fought and only one less than the number they had won during the entire eight months of the Gallipoli campaign.
Plans are underway at Mont St Quentin to transform an old church into an interpretive facility which will also include walking trails to remnants of a trench network and the nearby 2nd Australian Division memorial. This project is being developing in partnership with the L’Historial de la Grande Guerre museum in Peronne and with the assistance of Péronne authorities.
“The new facility will honour the Australian capture of Mont St Quentin, recognised as one of Australia’s finest military achievements,” Mr Griffin said.
Remnants of an original communication trench captured by the Australians during the attack on Mont St Quentin will be restored and become part of an educational battlefield experience. Agreement has just been reached allowing access to the land on which these trenches lie, and with this foundation in place development of the new facility can proceed with some certainty.
“I am pleased to be working with local French communities to make the Western Front Remembrance Trail a reality and demonstrate our commitment to preserving our shared wartime history for future generations,” Mr Griffin said.
The Australian Government has committed $10 million over four years to work in partnership with local communities on the Western Front to develop and upgrade facilities at seven sites in France and Belgium where Australians fought together. In addition to Mont St Quentin, planning for a new facility at Fromelles is underway and existing facilities at Villers-Bretonneux, Bullecourt, Pozieres, Ypres and Zonnebeke will also be enhanced.
The announcement appeared in the following media reports:
Memorial site planned as Fromelles Diggers reburied: Click here to read the report by Paola Totaro which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times.
World War I trench siezed by diggers to be restored: Click here to read the report by Belinda Tasker which appeared in The Courier Mail, The Herald Sun and Perth Now.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF applauds the joint Australian–UK decision to conduct a full DNA testing program on the remains of Australian and British soldiers found in mass graves at Pheasant Wood (Fromelles), and for their continuing commitment to identify as many of the fallen as is possible. We also thank the Australian, UK and French governments for affording dignified individual reburials for these soldiers, buried by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916, in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery with services commencing on 30th January 2010.