The Villers-Bretonneux Memorial by Claudia McPherson
Contrary to most early wake ups, this morning when my alarm went off at 2:40am I was buzzing with
excitement. I quickly got ready and rushed downstairs, then braced myself against the cold of
the morning as I headed into the bus with everyone else. As I stared out the window into the
inky black sky pierced occasionally with street lights, I couldn't help but feel
apprehensive about the service ahead. As the bus approached the imposing memorial tower, we
rushed out briefly into the cold and took our seats.
I stared up at the tower, with wonder and pride. The memorial tower for me highlights the
beautiful aspect of human nature that lets us forgive, to commemorate, and to make something
beautiful out of terrible events. Still, it was crazy to think that in that peaceful morning,
101 years ago, one of the biggest massacres in Australian history had taken place. The service
started with the hush of the crowd and the light patter of rain, and then images of fallen
Australian soldiers began to flash on the memorial tower, their stories being read out to the
sound of the eerie choir chords.
It was extremely emotional to see the faces of so many men who had died unfairly, their mournful
faces gazing across the solemn crowd, as if to get a last glimpse of humanity. One by one their
faces flashed as the choir voices rose in waves, and before I knew it I had tears in my eyes and
on my cheeks. A letter was then read out from a fallen soldier to his mother, begging her not to
cry and helping her get over his loss. The most emotional part of the letter was the fact that I
feel like many of the audience, including myself, could relate to it. The combination of
patience, understanding, kindness, grief, acceptance and the overwhelming feeling of love
emanating from the letter was extremely emotional and very relatable to me as a child, as if I
was in the same situation I feel like I would want the same message for my mum.The last post
rang out shortly after, as well as the ode and some French and Australian speeches.
Our group placed down the wreath, and the ceremony ended shortly after at the rise of the sun.
Once we got back on the bus, we visited some important cemeteries and memorials like the
Dernancort Cemetery, Heath Cemetery, the Ulster memorial tower and the Thiepval Memorial and
Museum. We witnessed some beautiful eulogies by Doug and Peter, and saw equally beautiful
memorials, like the Ulster Tower, the horse memorial and the Thiepval Memorial.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the day left us exhausted, reflective, and
ultimately peaceful. I know I will definitely be visiting the Villers-Bretonneux Dawn Service
some time in the future!
Claudia McPherson paying her respects at Villers-Brettoneux to Eric Joseph
Trestrail Foote, a researched soldier
Students check out the view from the top of Villers-Bretonneux Memorial
Chontelle Harris, Claudia Maher, Atticus Solomon, Maddy Francis and Douglas
Gemmell commemorate fallen Queensland soldiers at Villers-Brettoneux
Claudia Maher at Villers-Bretonneux
Premier’s Anzac Prize recipients honour Private Robert George Aitken