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Anzac Day: France to honour soldiers of Australia and New Zealand

For the second year running, a smaller-than-usual ceremony will be held due to Covid-related restrictions

24 April 2021

A building in Val de Somme decorated to commemorate Anzac Day Pic: valdesomme-tourisme.com

France will commemorate Anzac Day tomorrow (April 25), an occasion that honours all Australians and New Zealanders who have died in military operations.

Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in World War One. 

April 25 represents the day in 1915 when the Allies landed in Gallipoli in the Ottomon Empire, now western Turkey. 

A ceremony will take place at dawn on Sunday at the Sir John Monash Centre in Villers-Bretonneux (Somme), with about ten people attending due to Covid-19 rules. 

The Sir John Monash Centre is a museum and interpretive centre that commemorates Australian servicemen and women who served on the Western Front during World War One.

Two “operations” have been launched in a partnership between the Sir John Monash Centre and the Val de Somme tourist office as alternatives to the usual grand ceremony. 

As last year, the residents of Villers-Bretonneux and the surrounding area have been invited to participate in operation “l'Australie à vos fenêtres” (Australia at your windows). It involves them decorating their houses, windows and gardens in the colours of Australia and the other nations that took part in the campaign. 

This year there is also an operation “dear Australia”. Residents, young and old, were asked to send a drawing, poem or letter to Australian veterans associations. A total of 80 contributions have been sent to Australia. 

France’s little-known involvement

The Gallipoli Campaign produced huge losses on both sides. 

Ian Reed, director of the Allied Forces Heritage Group in France, said that the involvement of French soldiers is still little known.

Around 79,000 French soldiers participated in the campaign and they suffered 27,200 casualties, Mr Reed told The Connexion

“The plan was for the Allies to secure supplies through the sea route to Russia to enable them to continue to fight across the front against the Central Powers,” he said.

“The Ottoman Empire was allied to the Germans and the narrow straits into the Black Sea were threatened.

“The Allies barely got off the landing beaches and the conditions were terrible.”

Casualties of the Gallipoli Campaign:

  • Ottoman Empire: 250,000
  • Britain: 75,485
  • Australia: 28,150
  • France: 27,200
  • New Zealand: 7,991
  • India: 4,779
  • Newfoundland: 142
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