The people of Bullecourt in northern France have never forgotten the Australians who lived, fought and died alongside them during the First World War.
The legacy of that shared experience of war has been carried into the modern day by the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those whose homes and fields were occupied in 1917, when allied forces penetrated the Hindenburg line at Bullecourt. At the first battle of Bullecourt, on 11 April 1917, more than 3,000 Australians were killed or wounded; at the second battle, just over a month later on 17 May, there were some 7,000 Australian casualties.
Mr Jules Laude, former Mayor of Bullecourt and president of its veterans’ association, has led a dedicated group of locals to ensure that the service of those Australians is not forgotten. He has worked alongside many DVA and DFAT staff, in Australia and France, to build strong relationships and contribute to the development of the Australian Remembrance Trail – a trail linking sites of the most significant Australian battles of the First World War.
As a veteran, Mr Laude understands the value of commemoration. He and other residents of Bullecourt regularly welcome visitors, especially Australians, and walk them through the once devastated town, pointing out the positions of the combatants and stopping to pay respects at the memorial in front of the town’s church, where the Australian flag flies over a bronze slouch hat.
In 2012, Mr Laude oversaw the final stages of a long-term project that he and his late neighbours Jean and Denise Letaille had worked to fulfil. Their vision of a collection of memorabilia and artefacts, for sharing the stories of soldiers and civilians of Bullecourt during the war, was carefully realised in the Jean and Denise Letaille Museum – Bullecourt 1917.
On Anzac Day 2014, in a special addendum to Bullecourt’s Anzac Day service, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Julie Bishop MP, on behalf of the Governor-General of Australia, appointed Mr Laude an honorary Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia. The award recognises his ‘contribution to preserving the memory of Australian World War I veterans’.
Mr Laude is committed to continuing the commemorative work he and his neighbours have undertaken over many decades. Such work not only helps people to better understand war, but also safeguards the lessons and the relationships that result from war.