History and Context

Located next to the small town of Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France, the Sir John Monash Centre is a key site of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front.

Villers-Bretonneux was the site of a highly successful battle involving Australian troops which took place during the First World War, from 24 to 26 April 1918, three years to the day after the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. It is today an important place for Australian remembrance.

In March 1918, the German Army launched a large-scale attack on Allied lines in an attempt to take the city of Amiens, a vital logistical hub. By the end of March, they had reached the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux.

After failing to capture the small town during the first battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 4 April 1918, the Germans launched a second attack on 24 April 1918. German infantry, supported by tanks, seized the town, forcing the British defenders to withdraw. The Germans now threatened the city of Amiens. If they captured Amiens and advanced to the coast, they would divide the British and French armies. Villers-Bretonneux could not remain in German hands.

The counterattack began late on 24 April, and despite heavy casualties, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions along with units from the 8th and 18th British Divisions swept on towards their objectives. By the morning of 25 April 1918, Australian and British troops had almost encircled Villers-Bretonneux. A day later, the town was secured and a new front line established. The immediate German threat to Amiens was over. This decisive action is said to have turned the tide of the First World War.

Visitors today can walk in the footsteps of the Diggers who fought in this battle, pay their respects in the Commonwealth cemeteries and at the Australian National Memorial, and learn more about the role the Australians played on the Western Front at the Sir John Monash Centre and other sites along the Australian Remembrance Trail.