The Trail links sites of the most significant Australian battles of the First World War. Developed by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs in partnership with local French and Belgian communities, councils and regional governments the Trail project will be completed in time for the centenary of the First World War. Find out more about the ART Trail...
Where did Australians fight on the Western Front?:
The Western Front stretching 750 kilometres from the Belgian coast, through France to the Swiss border, was bogged down in trenches and mud. More than 295,000 Australians served here. It was a baptism of fire for the new nation of Australia. View a map of where Australians fought Go to the Western Front map feature...
Australians reinterred at Fromelles:
Almost a century after the Battle of Fromelles; and after two years of painstaking excavation, recovery and identification work, 250 Australian and British Soldiers killed on the night of 19-20 July 1916 were reinterred with full military honours in individual graves at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. More about the reinterment...
On This Spot: Your personal guide:
At twelve key locations on the Western Front listen to a four minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary story of Australian soldiers ‘on this spot’. Each audio-cast can be downloaded to phone, tablet or laptop on location, or at home, and played as you tour the Australian Remembrance Trail. More about the on this spot guides...
What happened here?:
As you visit the twelve key locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail on this site, view illustrated summaries of each of the main battle action in which Australians took part. Through maps, animations and contemporary images, you will step back in time to the battles on the Western Front More about the illustrated battles...
Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918
The Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium
World War I, 1914-1918, was the 'Great War', the 'war to end all wars'. In that conflict, the most important battleground was the 'Western Front' in France and Belgium where great battles were fought with names that were once household words in Australia — Fromelles, the Somme, Bullecourt, Messines, Passchendaele and Villers–Bretonneux. Of the more than 295,000 Australians who served in this theatre of war in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 46,000 lost their lives and 132,000 were wounded.
Dotted across the landscape of France and Belgium are hundreds of war cemeteries and memorials where these soldiers lie buried or where their names are listed among those thousands who have 'no known grave, the 'missing'. This website is dedicated to their memory and to those who served with them and returned to Australia, many of them wounded in body and spirit.
What is the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front?
The aim of the Trail is to improve visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the achievements and sacrifices of Australians in the main theatre of conflict during the First World War. The Trail will link the sites of the most significant Australian battles of the war. It is being developed by the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs in partnership with local French and Belgian communities, councils and regional governments.
The Australian Remembrance Trail project builds on the remarkable efforts of many local people, over almost a century, to honour and commemorate the service of Australians on the Western Front.
This site is also available in French.
The locations in Belgium are also available in Dutch.
Take the journey along the Australian Remembrance Trail
Between March 1916 and November 1918 more than 295,000 Australians served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in France and Belgium. Of these, some 132,000 became casualties and 46,000 lost their lives. As the centenary of the First World War (1914–1918) approaches, more and more Australians are travelling to places along the old Western Front associated with the AIF. They go to Pozières, where in a little over six weeks in 1916 the AIF suffered 23,000 battle casualties; or the fields of Belgian Flanders, where in October 1917 alone 6673 Australians died and a further 13,328 were wounded, missing or made prisoners of war. Everywhere the memorials and cemeteries mark locations of loss to nation and family.
To help visitors appreciate the contribution of Australia to the Allied war effort along the Western Front, and the stories of those who served there, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is developing the Australian Remembrance Trail. The Trail highlights twelve sites, and other significant locations, from Passchendaele in Belgium down to the area of some of the AIF’s last actions in France around Péronne in 1918.
Each site will be interpreted in a unique way. At Bullecourt in France, for example, where the AIF fought in two battles with great loss in April and May 1917, there is now the ‘Jean and Denise Letaille Museum’. For many years, Jean Letaille, a farmer, collected relics from his fields associated with those battles and stored them in his barn. He also established a collection of smaller objects and, together with his wife Denise, he welcomed visiting Australians to his home and shared with them his understanding of what had happened to their ancestors at Bullecourt. Sadly, both Jean and Denise passed away before the opening of the refurbished museum on Anzac Day in 2012.
The remaining interpretive displays along the Trail will be developed and opened to coincide with the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. Once completed, it will be a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of the Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front.
Ieper (Ypres) – Belgium
During the First World War the Belgian town of Ypres (Ieper) was devastated by shellfire and deserted by its inhabitants. Unforgettable images of this destruction were made by the Australian official photographer, Captain Frank Hurley, who also captured the lives of the Australian soldiers who inhabited these ruins during the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), which was fought to the east of the town between 31 July and 10 November 1917. The tragedy of wartime Ieper is told at the In Flanders Fields Museum in the Cloth Hall, a site on the Australian Remembrance Trail which includes stories of Australians associated with the town and its determined defence. More about Ieper...
Tyne Cot Cemetery – Zonnebeke, Belgium
Towering over the headstones in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, is a Great Cross. Hidden beneath the cross’s stone pedestal are the remains of a German concrete bunker which, an inscription relates, was captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4 October 1917. In this countryside was fought one of the most costly and horrific battles of the First World War – Passchendaele. In the mud of Passchendaele, in the month of October 1917 alone, the AIF lost 6673 dead. The Australian story at Passchendaele will be told nearby in the Memorial Museum Passchendaele in Zonnebeke, where a new gallery will open on 12 July 2013 as a site on the Australian Remembrance Trail. More about Tyne Cot Cemetery...
Toronto Avenue Cemetery – Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium
On the night of the 6–7 June 1917 gas shells rained on Ploegsteert Wood. The soldiers of Australia’s 3rd Division fumbled for their gas masks; dozens of pack horses and mules gasped for air; and men collapsed retching by the side of duckboard tracks. They struggled on and were soon in trenches ready to attack in the opening moments of the Battle of Messines. At the edge of the wood is Toronto Avenue Cemetery, an exclusively Australian burial ground, and the Battle of Messines will be brought alive at the Ploegsteert Interpretive Centre to be opened on 9 November 2013 as part of the Australian Remembrance Trail. More about Toronto Avenue Cemetery...
VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial – Fromelles, France
On 11 November 1918 Charles Bean, Australia’s official war historian, stood on the battlefield of Fromelles: ‘We found the old no-man’s-land simply full of our dead’. These men died on 19–20 July 1916 assaulting the German lines, and their remains lie buried in VC Corner Australian Cemetery. In 1998, an Australian Memorial Park was dedicated on the old German front line and at its centre stands ‘Cobbers’, a statue showing an Australian soldier carrying a wounded mate from the battlefield. The story of this catastrophic event for Australia will be told in the Battle of Fromelles Museum to be opened in early 2014 as part of the Australian Remembrance Trail. More about Fromelles...
The Bullecourt Digger – Bullecourt, France
Helping his mother to see what the battlefield of Bullecourt in May 1917 looked like, Private John Ware wrote: ‘if ever you saw a sheep camp in time of drought you will know how many sheep [die] in one night our men are lying about just the same’. Today at Bullecourt a statue, the ‘Digger’, stands in the Australian Memorial Park gazing out towards the enemy trenches which had cost so many Australian lives to capture. In the village, the story of the battles fought by Australians here in April and May 1917 is told in the Jean and Denise Letaille Museum. More about the Bullecourt Digger...
Thiepval Memorial – Thiepval, France
Private George Lewis Grant, Australian Imperial Force, was killed during the Battle of the Somme at Pozières on 29 July 1916. His body lies in one of the most unusual cemeteries on the old Western Front, the Anglo-French Cemetery at Thiepval. Here, on two sides of the cemetery, are the graves of 300 French and 300 British Empire soldiers, symbolising the alliance of the French Republic and the nations of the British Empire in World War I. Over them towers the great Thiepval Memorial with more than 73,000 names of soldiers of the British Army who went ‘missing in action’ in the Somme region. More about Thiepval Memorial...
First Australian Division Memorial – Pozières, France
During the last week of July 1916 shells fell in their thousands on Australian soldiers in a village they had captured from the Germans – Pozières. I had not the slightest idea where our lines or the enemy’s were, and the shells were coming at us from, it seemed, three directions, wrote Australian Lieutenant John Raws. Pozières was reduced to rubble and shattered earth, but here the men of the First Australian Division later built their memorial in France. They remembered the tenacity with which they had held their ground and the comrades who had perished in the horror of those bombardments. More about the First Australian Division Memorial...
The Windmill – Pozières, France
The Australian War Memorial owns a little piece of France – the Windmill site at Pozières. Australia’s official war historian, Charles Bean, suggested the purchase because ‘The Windmill site ... marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’. Over seven weeks in 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, the Australian Imperial Force suffered 23,000 casualties, more than 6700 of whom died, in the countryside around the Windmill. On 11 November 1993 soil from the Windmill site was cast over the coffin of Australia’s Unknown Soldier during his funeral at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. More about the Windmill – Pozières...
Australian National Memorial – Villers-Bretonneux, France
On 22 July 1938, Queen Elizabeth laid a bunch of poppies, given to her by a local schoolboy, at the unveiling of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. Was she thinking of her own brother, Fergus Bowes-Lyon, ‘missing’ at the Battle of Loos in 1915? Around the walls of the Memorial were the names of some 11,000 Australians ‘missing’ in action in France. On the night of 24–25 April 1918, Australian soldiers recaptured Villers-Bretonneux from the Germans, a battle also remembered in the Franco-Australian museum at the Victoria school in the town. In the playground is a sign: ‘Never Forget Australia’. More about the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux...
Australian Corps Memorial – Le Hamel, France
The Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, it is usually claimed, took 93 minutes. According to one source in their official ‘War Diary’ the 44th Australian Infantry Battalion required only 85 minutes to take all their objectives. Starting at 3.10 am, then moving around Le Hamel village, the Western Australians advanced uphill, and by 4.35 had driven the Germans from a series of trenches and dugouts on top of the hill. There today stands the Australian Corps Memorial, with sweeping views across the valley of the Somme, a fitting place at which to remember the victories of the Australian Corps in France in 1918. More about Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel...
Second Australian Division Memorial – Mont St Quentin, and Péronne, France
Between 31 August and 2 September 1918, Australia’s Second Division attacked and captured the German stronghold of Mont St Quentin, the key to the strategic town of Péronne on the Somme River. Tired and under strength, units such as the 21st Battalion skilfully drove the enemy from their well-established positions, and for his courage and leadership during the battle Sergeant Albert Lowerson, 21st Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross. It was a costly action: twenty-three men of the battalion lost their lives that day. Today the Second Australian Division’s Memorial stands at Mont St Quentin, the scene of one of the division’s greatest victories. More about the Second Australian Division Memorial...
Fourth Australian Division Memorial – Bellenglise, France
Between 18 and 20 September 1918, the 48th Battalion, Fourth Division AIF, fought its last successful action on the Western Front. Advancing on the Hindenburg Outpost Line near Bellenglise, they suffered 65 casualties but captured 500 prisoners, ‘nearly one per man of the battalion’. Holding the line they got into a ‘bit of a fight’ for which Private James Woods was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Division, achieving all its objectives, took more than 4300 prisoners for 1260 casualties. Today the Fourth Division’s memorial in France stands on the heights above Bellenglise. It is little visited. More about Fourth Australian Division Memorial – Bellenglise...