OPENING OF THE SIR JOHN MONASH CENTRE AT VILLERS BRETONNEUX
Australia’s newest museum, The Sir John Monash Centre – a tribute to the men and women who served on the Western Front during World War I – was officially opened at Villers Bretonneux in north eastern France by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 24 April 2018.
In his opening address, Prime Minister Turnbull urged us to ‘never forget the 11,000 fallen Australians whose bodies were never recovered – their names etched on the Australian National Memorial. Brothers, husbands, fathers, sons … All volunteers, every one of them, from a population of less than 5 million. Sixty thousand never made it home .… And in the midst of the stone and steel and glass of this serene monument, we know that the best way to honour the diggers of 1918 is to support the servicemen and women, the veterans and the families of today.’
The Centre is named after General Sir John Monash, who led Australian, British and American soldiers in key battles during 1918 at Hamel, Amiens, Bray, Mont St Quentin and Peronne in a series of victories that helped cut short the war. His success in the famous victory at Le Hamel would become the template for military operations that followed.
Present at the opening was French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe who paid tribute to the Australian soldiers who defended France as if it were their own and for whom the French feel so indebted. ‘I could not help thinking of the terrible loneliness which these thousands of young Australians must have felt as their young lives were cut short in a foreign country … A faraway country. A cold country whose earth had neither the colour nor texture of their native bush… We will never forget that 100 years ago, a young and brave nation on the other side of the world made history by writing our history.’
The Monash Centre with its museum and interpretive centre, is set behind the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial and within the military cemetery. It forms part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which links sites of significance to Australians, including battlefields, cemeteries and other memorials and establishes a lasting legacy from Australia’s Centenary of Anzac 2014-2018.