Fathi, Romain: ‘A piece of Australia in France’: Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneux

Fathi, Romain

‘”A piece of Australia in France”: Australian authorities and the commemoration of Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneux in the last decade’, Shanti Sumartojo & Ben Wellings, ed. Nation, Memory and Great War Communication, Peter Lang, Bern & Oxford, 2014, pp. 273-90

(Publisher’s website; University of Queensland repository for those who have access.)

The article looks at how Australian war remembrance since 2008 has driven out the local version in this part of Northern France. Australian authorities have ‘taken advantage of an Australian popular craving for First World War memory-related activities’.

The Western Front example ‘suggests that it has become impossible for an Australian government in office to disregard the legend, so popular and significant it has become within the Australian community’.

Australian commemorative diplomacy … serves the domestic Australian community as the town [of Villers-Bretonneux] is transformed into a pedestal to assert an Australian national identity. Here, commemoration is politics in action.

The article is drawn from the author’s extensive study of Australian commemorative practice in France. (Two related articles will be linked soon.) The material is of particular interest, given the Australian commitment to build the Sir John Monash Interpretive Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, which can be seen as the culmination of the story described in Fathi’s work.

Details of the complete Sumartojo-Wellings book; review for Honest History by Richard Thwaites.


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