Australians in France: WWI Centenary

The Australian flag blowing in the wind

On October 23rd, 2014, representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs came to speak with Paris Diderot MIIC students about the Australian Embassy’s organization of ANZAC World War One centenary events in France and Belgium.

2014 is going to be a very busy year for the Australian Embassy in Paris; working with governments near and far, the Australian Department of Veteran’s Affairs is charged with the monumental task of helping coordinate the ANZAC Centenary commemoration of the First World War. Between 2014 and 2018, a series of events will be progressively arranged in France and abroad to honor Australia and New Zealand’s Army Corps (ANZAC) for their service during the Great War, and more generally in all conflicts where they have been present.

It is perhaps easy to forget that Australians served in the First World War a scant fourteen years after their country’s birth as a self-governing nation. Their participation was therefore pivotal in shaping the Australian sense of national identity and solidifying their international image. With this in mind, the ANZAC program was crafted to, “engage, educate and enable Australians to commemorate the Anzac Centenary and, in doing so, create a legacy of participation, understanding and capacity.” This commitment to memory and engagement is one of time, effort and certainly of financial resources, with over 140 million dollars dedicated to the program’s elaboration.

Perhaps the most ambitious venture of all is the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, a historically-minded tour along the old Western Front running through France and Belgium. Interacting with past battle fields in this way invites participants to, “interpret the Australian experience of war” along 750 kilometers, with visits to sites in Ypres, Fromelles and Pozières, among others. The trail’s brochure reminds us that a staggering 295,000 Australians served in the Imperial Force in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918, during which time 46,000 were killed and another 131,000 wounded. With the combined efforts of the Australian government and local French and Belgian communities, the Remembrance Trail will allow visitors to justly commemorate and honor their sacrifice.

For those interested in participating in ANZAC’s Centenary commemoration events in France or abroad, please visit the official centenary program website at: http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/index.htm

For more information on the Australian Remembrance Trail, please visit the official website at: http://www.ww1westernfront.gov.au/.

by Robin Nichols

Credit photo : mad monarchist

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