For the love of Aussie heroes

We are up with the crack and check out of our hotel, it’s Merci and Au Revoir for now Paris. We load our gear into our car and head 140 kilometres through the hills to Villers-Bretonneux.

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We arrive at Robinvale-Euston, which has a proud link to the Victorian town holding the same name. History suggests that the founders of Robinvale (Victoria) were killed in an air combat near Villers-Bretonneux, in honour of this, the French town Robinvale was named.

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We drive around Robinvale, which is a town not dissimilar to the Robinvale on the Murray River in Victoria. It’s a small, quiet town with a couple of streets and shops, not many cars on the road and very few people about.

We struggle to find Viller-Bretonneux war memorial site and Anton stops at the local milk bar to seek directions. We notice the hotels and streets are named after those of Robinvale, making it obvious this is it’s twin town.

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As we drive just outside of the town to the open paddocks and rolling hills we can see the Australian and French flags flying side by side at the huge war memorial.

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We enter and walk the grounds paying our respects to almost 12,000 Australian soldiers that died in the attack on the Western front by the German Army in 1918.

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More than 180,000 Australians enlisted to fight on the Western front, that’s more than three times the number of soldiers that were in
Gallipoli during Work War I. It was very emotional to walk the rows of head stones erected in memory of those who lost their lives, including 11,000 known unto God.

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I think this stop was a real light bulb moment for me, reflecting on history and really making the connection that we must never forget that our freedom has a price.

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We walked to the top of the memorial and browsed through the names that scripted the wall, inside the bell tower was a plaque of the eulogy delivered by Prime Minister Keating, at the funeral service of the Unknown Australian Soldier on 11 November 1993.

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Reading this sent shivers down my spine, to think that we are standing on the same soil these people were killed at and the same site they have been buried. If you like (I’d encourage it) you can read the eulogy transcript: Prime Minister Keating Eulogy

The clouds and the wind began to roll in. On our way out of the memorial site we write our condolences and express our gratitude in the memorial book.

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Even though this memorial site was originally dedicated to WWI veterans it’s is scarred with the attacks from WWII. Bullet holes can be seen through the monument.

It is probably one of the most moving experiences I will ever have, standing here imagining the bloody war that took place and seeing the graves of so many unknown to God. We will forever be indebted to them. May they Rest in Peace.

Anna Owens is the founder of ownsit! A mama working in Community Development and Partnerships Education. Anna is a colour crazy, creativity enthusiast who loves to design, collect shoes, eat & travel.. x

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