The Sir John Monash Centre near Villers-Bretonneux, 120km north of Paris, tells the story of the more than 295,000 Australians who served on the Western Front, and the enduring relationship between the Allied nations.
While you tour France for the Rugby World Cup this autumn, why not take the opportunity to pay tribute to the Australians who fought in France? Just 90mins from Paris and Lille, both host cities for rugby games, and east of Amiens, this impressive remembrance centre and museum is free to visit.
Named after General Sir John Monash, the commander who led the Australian Corps with outstanding success on the Western Front in 1918, the Sir John Monash Centre tells the full story of Australians on the Western Front battlefields of the First World War. It is part of the Australian Remembrance Trail that spans 200km across Belgium and France.
Discover the experiences of ordinary Australians in extraordinary circumstances, brought to life like never before.
Immersive digital storytelling
Using state of the art technology, stories are available on each visitor’s mobile device via the Sir John Monash Centre app, available for free download via the on-site Wi-Fi network or by loan devices. The app works as a virtual tour guide, allowing visitors to experience the site at their own pace and in their choice of English, French or German language.
Beacon technology throughout the site offers a seamless and deeply personal experience for visitors as they journey through the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, the Australian National Memorial and the Centre itself.
Stories are told through powerful use of light and sound, with an impressive centrepiece in the form of an immersive gallery with more than 180 screens on the walls and ceiling delivering content simultaneously and offering a moving insight into life and death on the Western Front.
A rugby man and a soldier
As visitors walk up the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery towards the Australian National Memorial, they will see the graves of 2,146 Commonwealth soldiers, over 700 of whom are Australian. One of the men that lies at rest here is Gunner William George Tasker who served with the 13th Australian Field Artillery Brigade.
William had been a successful rugby player since his school days and in the period 1913-14 played six tests with the Wallabies. Tasker served in Gallipoli in 1915, where he was badly wounded and discharged from the army. However, six months later he reenlisted into the artillery. William was wounded by shellfire on 8th August, on the first day of the Battle of Amiens. He died the following day of his wounds. He was 26 years old.
The Sir John Monash Centre is highlighting the stories through a temporary exhibition on rugby and the First World War, hosted from September to October 2023 at the Centre. Visitors will learn the stories of amateur and professional rugby men who served in the war and how matches were organised behind the lines for serving soldiers to take their minds off the hardships of war for an instant or two.
The Sir John Monash Centre is located Route de Villers-Bretonneux 80800 Fouilloy, 20km east of Amiens and halfway between Villers-Bretonneux, Fouilloy and Corbie. Open every day from 10am to 5pm. Free entrance but booking is advised for individuals and required for groups.
Lead photo credit : The Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery © Simon Patching
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