Australians on the Western Front 1914–1918
The Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium
World War I, 1914–1918
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.
Take the journey across 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 that was 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 6405 Australians died and a further 19,194 were wounded. 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.