The final touches are being put on a new $100 million museum in France which will recognise the extraordinary sacrifices* of Australia’s World War I soldiers.
The Sir John Monash Centre will tell the story of Australia’s role in the battles along the Western Front, using the experiences of some of the 416,000 soldiers who served between 1914-1918.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will open the centre on April 24, on the eve of Anzac Day, which is also the 100th anniversary of the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, where 1200 Australians died while freeing the village from German troops.
Named after Victorian war commander John Monash, who led several successful battles on the Western Front, the museum has been carefully dug into the hillside behind the Australian National Memorial outside Villers-Bretonneux. The area includes a cemetery, memorial tower and wall engraved with the names of more than 10,000 Australian soldiers whose final resting places* were never found.
The museum is designed to be interactive, where visitors will view films and hear audio describing the war in the soldier’s own words.
Taken from journals and letters, the words paint a scary picture of the war that raged across the Western Front and claimed 46,000 young Australian lives.
Visitors will also be able to download an app which will work as an audio-guide, and take them through the cemetery, the memorial, and through the museum.
The centre will be part of the Australian Remembrance Trail, which runs along the key WW1 battlefield sites in Belgium and France and encourages visitors to reflect on the soldiers’ sacrifice.
Centre director Caroline Bartlett said early building works on the site had unearthed* about 200 significant objects.
“We had a helmet, we’ve got a Lee-Enfield rifle, we’ve got quite a few shells, exploded ordnance shells. We have inkpots which tell a very personal story, I think,” Ms Bartlett said.
A number of those items are now displayed in the museum.
As well as static displays, the museum relies heavily on multimedia, with lights, realistic battle sounds and confronting images of soldiers in battle.
Visitors to the free museum will walk through long ramps which are designed to feel like the trenches* the soldiers fought in.
- sacrifices: giving up something to help others
- resting places: grave or place of death
- unearthed: find something in the ground by digging
- trenches: long narrow ditches
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
1. Letters from home
Life must have been very difficult for the soldiers on the Western Front, but spare a thought also for the loved ones they left back home…
Write a letter to a soldier as though you are a family member back in Australia missing them and hoping that they are safe.
Extension: Write a reply to your letter, sent from the Western Front.
Time: Allow 20 minutes
Curriculum links: English, History
2. Australian Remembrance Trail locations
Find out the names of three locations on the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front. For each of the locations write a paragraph explaining what happened there, how many Australian soldiers were killed or wounded and what visitors will find there now.
Extension: Why do you think it is so important to Australians to remember the events and sacrifices of our World War I soldiers?
Time: Allow 45 minutes
Curriculum links: English, History
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.
IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THIS STORY
Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.