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Tuesday 25 April 2017 - Anzac Day

Anzac Day! A very early start this morning as they returned to the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux where they gathered with thousands of other Australians to pay their respects to our 45,000 countrymen who were killed during fighting on the Western Front. As the sun rose over the imposing memorial, the strains of the Last Post echoed across the countryside, peaceful now, but the scene of a monumental Australian victory on Anzac Day 1918.

Following the dawn service the students and chaperones were welcomed by the mayor and townsfolk of Le Hamel for morning tea. This town was liberated by Australian troops in July 1918. A visit to the town of Villers-Bretonneux and Victoria School completed their morning.


Photos of Anzac Day have been added to the gallery

Student views

Anzac Day

The Villers-Bretonneux Dawn Service this morning required colossal numbers of tissues, and numerous amounts of warm clothing. As one of the biggest, most significant events of the year, I am honoured to represent not only my school but my state in being a part of this magnificent service. This service has shown me that no matter what part of Australia or even the world you come from, the Anzac Spirit inside you is ignited and is shared amongst thousands of other people.

I was very moved by the beauty of the Villers-Bretonneux Dawn Service this morning. The whole service was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before, and I loved that I was able to commemorate the contributions of the Anzacs in such a significant place. Laying a wreath at the Australian Corps Memorial Park after attending a special breakfast held by the Mayor of Le Hamel was truly something special and I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity. Being able to sing both the Australian and French national anthems alongside the sweet voices of local school children was an invaluable experience and something which I will remember forever.

I was expecting the Villers-Bretonneux Dawn Service from the start to be a moving moment of the tour and I was completely right. The sheer pride I felt during the ceremony was unexplainable; pride for my state, my soldiers, my family and most importantly, my nation. Laying the wreath was also an exceptionally proud moment. The Last Post echoing around the space and the silence moved me beyond belief, and the national anthem brought me to tears. It was a beautiful reminder that wherever I go, no matter how far I go, Australia will always be home.

From the moment that I stepped foot on the soil of the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery ready for the dawn service, I immediately experienced a wave of numerous emotions that had been building up throughout the trip. As we chronologically advanced through the key sites, learning about the different battle fields that the Anzacs fought at, I felt that I had a better understanding and appreciation when I was at the Dawn Service as I understood what happened during the different battles and how this affected the outcome of the First World War. Today I had the privilege, along with Marissa, Chase and Bella, to lay a wreath at the Le Hamel service which was very special because I felt proud to be able to commemorate the Australian soldiers that fought for our country. Today was very special for me as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I had the privilege to participate in and I will never forget this Anzac Day.

Today was the best day of the trip hands down. The dawn service was the most moving experience of my life. Looking around and seeing so many different people from foreign lands all gathered together to honour the same ideal, really set an amazing atmosphere. As the bugle echoed throughout the beautiful Villers-Bretonneux memorial and the crowd fell silent, I couldn't hold back the tears and I forgot about the fact that I couldn't feel my toes. In that moment, I felt incredibly proud to be an Australian standing where Australian soldiers once stood and fought for what we share, our country. It was a life defining moment and I am so grateful that I got to experience that.

It's difficult to put into words the emotions I experienced attending the Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux this morning, but I'll do my best. Ever since I attended my first Anzac Day Dawn Service as a little girl, I have tried to put myself in the shoes of the Anzacs. I have tried to imagine what it would be like to watch day break in a foreign land, to hear the last post sound as you run head-first into battle, knowing that you may be living out your last moments on earth. I don't think I ever fully understood this feeling until today. As the last post sounded and the crowd fell silent I looked out across the lush green fields of France that was once the bloody scene of so much suffering. I thought of the soldiers I have been researching and commemorating, men who I have come to regard as friends. I thought of members of my own family, who fought in the First and Second World War and the impact their service has had on their own lives. Finally, I thought of all the stories of mateship, tragedy, pride and pain that I have heard in the last two weeks that have helped me understand what it meant to be a soldier fighting in the First World War. As though out of John Macrae's poem, I could hear little but the larks singing and the wind whistling. The enormity of the Anzac tradition seemed so clear in this moment that I could not stop the tears from flowing. As the sun peaked over the horizon, thousands of voices came out of the silence, joining together to sing our national anthem, an unwavering symbol of our country's determination to honour and remember the Anzac sacrifice. Never before had I sung my anthem louder. Never had I felt more proud to be an Australian. As the chorus of Amazing Grace resounded through the crowd, my thoughts wandered to all those soldiers listed as missing on the wall behind me. Their bodies may be lost to us, but their spirit is found now in the actions of every Australian, like us, who attended an Anzac service today wherever we may be in the world. As I stood at the foot of the memorial steps with my fellow tour participants and laid the wreath on behalf of Queensland I felt incredibly privileged to be a part of a ceremony so significant to our nation's identity. It's an experience quite unlike any other. A perfect climax to an overall experience that has helped shape me as a person - one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Lest we forget.

All I can say is that I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to witness such an incredibly heartfelt and moving address of the Anzac soldiers. Not only did the eerie setting of the dawn service compliment the serenity of the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, it also perfectly described both the beauty and tragedy of war. The making of forever lasting bonds between men, but also the horror and rawness that is modern warfare. Attending the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux was a life-changing experience and I cannot put into words the emotions I felt, but the mix of the bitter cold, terrific choir and interwoven stories of Australian service persons was just so beautiful that the tissues had to be kept close by. Overall, the experience of the dawn service was the perfect ending to such an amazing tour and has forever changed my outlook on war and the fine service men and women of Australia.
"Their name liveth forever more"
Lest we forget

This morning we attended the Villers-Bretonneux dawn service, which required quite an early start meeting in the foyer at 12.30am. Upon arrival at the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, I was astonished with the sheer beauty of this memorial. Even though we had been at Villers-Bretonneux the day before, the memorial looked completely different in the early hours of the morning. While walking up the centre of the cemetery, I noticed how much effort and determination had gone into this service, this can only be defined as the Anzac spirit which the soldiers possessed during World War One. These courageous men and women have passed on these traits to the current and hopefully future generations. This initial glance set the mood for the morning to a great start. The pre-service performances made me wonder how the morning could get any more emotional and meaningful. Seeing the choir sing like angels definitely began the roller coaster of emotions that I was going to experience throughout the day. Listening to the last post echo around the hundreds of headstones gave me shivers down my spine; the enormity of what the Anzacs did for us was definitely very prevalent here. To conclude the dawn service: Hannah, Matisse, Brooklyn and I had the amazing opportunity to lay the wreath in remembrance of the soldiers that fought for our country. Overall, this service changed my life in the way that I will pay my tributes to the service men and women that fought and are still fighting for our country.
"We will remember them.
Lest we forget."

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This page was last reviewed on 25 Apr 2017

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