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Commemorative Services on the Western Front

Last Update: 20 October 2016

Western Front Centenary 2016-2018

Australian National Memorial Dawn Service

Centenary Commemorations on the Western Front

The Centenary of the First World War provides a unique opportunity to commemorate the service of around 295,000 Australians on the Western Front, the loss of some 46,000 and to remember the impact of war on Australian families and communities.

In recognition of the anticipated numbers of Australians who may be looking for the opportunity to commemorate the service of family members who served on the Western Front, Australia will conduct Centenary services to commemorate the following battles and associated actions.

2016 – France

  • Battle of Fromelles – 19 July, Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery
  • Battle of Pozières – 23 July, First Australian Division Memorial Pozieres

2017 – Belgium

  • Third Battle of Ypres – 26 September, Battle of Polygon Wood, Buttes New British Cemetery

2018 – France

  • Battle of Le Hamel – 4 July, Le Hamel Memorial
  • 100th Anniversary of the Armistice – 11 November, Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux

Anzac Day in France 2017

The organisation of Anzac Day commemorations is made possible with the assistance of the local communities of Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt and the Australian Embassy in France.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs recommends all visitors and trip leaders register their attendance for the France Anzac Day commemorations.

Registration for the 2017 Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is now available.

The following information has been prepared to assist visitors planning to attend the Anzac Day services at Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt, France, on 25 April, 2017.

On this page:

Official Anzac Day commemorations 2017

Anzac Day commemorations in France are conducted by the Australian Government and the local communities of Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt. All the commemorative services are open to the public. Details for the services are:

Dawn Service: Australian National Memorial
Event: Anzac Day Dawn Service
Date: Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Time: 1.00 am: Site opens  
1.30 am: Pre-service commemorative program commences
5.00 am: All visitors to be seated
5.30 am: Dawn Service commences
Venue: The Australian National Memorial, (outside the village of) Villers-Bretonneux
Note: Due to the installation of technical equipment for the conduct of the Dawn Service, for safety reasons the central tower of the Australian National Memorial will not be open to the public from 22-26 April 2017.
Villers-Bretonneux Service (French Service)
Event: Anzac Day Service and wreath-laying Ceremony
Date: Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Time: Expected to commence at 8.45 am
Venue: Monument aux Morts, Town Centre, Villers-Bretonneux
Villers-Bretonneux Service (French Service)
Event: Sadlier Stokes Scholarship Presentation & Concert
Date: Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Time: Expected to commence at 9.15 am
Venue: Our Lady of Hope Church, Villers-Bretonneux
Bullecourt Town Service (French Service)
Event: Anzac Day Service
Date: Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Time: Expected to commence at 2.00 pm
Venue: The Commonwealth and French Monuments in the Bullecourt village centre – Square du Souvenir Francais
Australian Service at Digger Memorial
Event: Anzac Day Commemorative Service
Date: Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Time: 3.00 pm
Venue: The Australian ‘Digger’ Memorial on the village outskirts

Other associated events and activities

A number of other activities will take place in France in April in addition to the official services. For more information please visit the website of the Australian Embassy, Paris.

Visiting the site

The Australian National Memorial Site, Villers-Bretonneux

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is actually outside the village of Villers-Bretonneux and roughly half-way between the town of Villers-Bretonneux and the towns of Corbie & Fouilloy.

The official Anzac Day Dawn Service will commence at 5.30 am on Tuesday 25 April 2017 and is broadcast live to Australia. The site will open at 1.00 am (due to the increased security, this time may change.  Please keep checking for updates).

A commemorative program to explore the Australian experience of the First World War will commence at 1.30 am. All visitors should be seated by 5.00 am.

Entrance to the site is via the promenade – attendees will be required to walk 300 metres uphill through the cemetery to the memorial site. The surface is grass and may be slippery if damp. Safety lighting will be installed at the entrance and through the cemetery, but visitors may wish to bring a torch to assist with visibility.


Visitors approaching the Australian National Memorial (the Memorial) site from Corbie and Fouilloy on foot will be directed to the pedestrian/bike path which runs parallel to the road. Those approaching from Villers-Bretonneux will walk along the designated pedestrian/bike path to the Memorial site. At the end of the pathways you will enter the Memorial and move through security screening onto the promenade area. From here you will walk approximately 300 metres on grass, slightly uphill through the centre of the cemetery to the seating area.

Information Tent

An Information Tent will operate from 20 April until 25 April. Staff will be on hand to provide information about Anzac Day services as well as the cemeteries and museums in the towns along the Australian Remembrance Trail (ART). The tent will operate before and during the Dawn Service on 25 April. See also ‘lost property’.


Around 6,500 temporary seats will be installed at the Memorial site. Reserved seating is only available for official delegates and people requiring assisted seating. There will be standing room at the rear of the seats.


Temporary toilets, including some disabled toilets, and hand-washing facilities will be installed specifically for the service on 25 April at the Memorial site. There are no permanent toilets at the Memorial site.

Please note that access to public toilets in the towns of Villers-Bretonneux, Bullecourt, and at ‘Digger’ Memorial is limited.


Rubbish bins will be provided at the Memorial site and visitors will be asked to dispose of rubbish thoughtfully or, where possible, take their rubbish with them.

Lost Property

If you lose or find property during the service at the Memorial site, please notify the ceremony staff at the Visitor Information Tent. After 25 April 2017, inquiries about lost property can be made to


There will be media present at all ceremonies. Attendees should be aware that there will be camera operators moving around the sites, and that cables may be laid along the ground. Please take care. The Dawn Service will be broadcast live to Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. You may be filmed during the service. DVDs of the 2017 Anzac Day Dawn Services will be available from the ABC Library Sales by telephoning 1300 650 587, emailing your request to or downloading order forms from ABC Library Sales - How to Order.

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Ensuring your wellbeing at all Anzac Day services

What to expect and how to prepare


There is no permanent lighting at the Memorial site. Safety lighting will be installed at the entrance and through the cemetery for the Dawn Service, but visitors may wish to bring a torch. There will be subdued lighting around the memorial itself during the Dawn Service – at levels necessary for a television broadcast.

People walking in heavy rain in Villers-Bretonneux


The weather in the Somme region in April can be extremely cold (close to freezing). The Memorial site is exposed to the elements and is normally very cold before and after dawn. Visitors should ensure they are appropriately equipped for cold, wet, and windy weather, and that they take appropriate clothing with them (including gloves, scarves and hats) when they disembark from their coach on arrival. The ground surface of the Australian National Memorial is grass, so warm, waterproof shoes should be worn.

Visitors planning to attend later town services should note that it can also get quite hot during the day and layers of clothing are encouraged. A small day pack may be useful to carry extra clothing, a hat, sunscreen, and drinking water to avoid dehydration.

First Aid

First Aid services will be available during each of the official commemorations. Please approach a ceremony staff member or the first aid tent if you require assistance.


There are no food vendors on site.  Limited free coffee and croissants will be available before and after the service.  Please bring your own drinking water and additional snacks.  Please not that opened bottles of water may not be allowed onsite.


New security arrangements have been in place since 2016.  Entering the site may take longer than in previous years, so please plan to arrive in plenty of time.

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Traffic Arrangements at the Australian National Memorial site for 24 and 25 April 2017

Traffic management is the responsibility of, and is managed by, French Authorities.

Local Authorities advise that the road between Villers-Bretonneux and Corbie & Fouilloy will be closed between 2.00 pm on 24 April and 2.00 pm on 25 April 2017.

The walk to the Australian National Memorial from Corbie & Fouilloy is approximately 2 km and 3.7 km from Villers-Bretonneux taking 30-60 mins. Care should be taken as the road in some places is not well lit, the surface is uneven and coaches will still be using this road.

Transport Services

On arrival visitors will alight their coach and walk approximately 300 metres uphill to the seating area.

Visitors who make their own way from the Australian National Memorial to the Villers-Bretonneux town centre can return to Amiens by train, however the first train does not depart until 1:30 pm. Please refer to the French railway site (available in English).

Coach: Arrivals and Departures

To assist in ensuring a positive experience to all those attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial a coordinated passenger drop off and pick up system has been developed to aid in the smooth arrival at, and departure from, the memorial site.

On arrival at the memorial site coaches will pull up at a designated point. Once safely away from the coach visitors will be directed towards the entrance to the site by easily identifiable DVA staff.

After the service visitors will move to the front of the site. When the coach has been called forward to the pick-up point the number of the coach and the bay in the pick-up point will be will be posted on screens around the site. It is important that the flow of coaches through the roundabout is done as swiftly as possible to ensure all visitors can leave the site in a timely manner.

Buses exiting from ceremonyIMPORTANT NOTE: At the conclusion of the service up to 6,000 visitors, who arrived by coach over a three to four hour period, will be leaving the Australian National Memorial site at the same time. Visitors will make their way from the front of the Memorial to the promenade area and await pickup. The process will be conducted as safely and as quickly as possible but may take up to 90 minutes. It will be sincerely appreciated if visitors exercise patience and understanding during this time. Please keep this time in mind also when making travel and other arrangements.

For visitors travelling in private vehicles, there will be limited parking in Corbie & Fouilloy and Villers-Bretonneux. Designated car parks available in the towns in 2016 were at the following locations:

  • Town Centre, Corbie
  • Town Centre, Fouilloy
  • Casino Supermarket. Fouilloy
  • Railway Station, Villers-Bretonneux
  • Company STDN, Villers-Bretonneux

Visitors will be able to park their car and walk to the Australian National Memorial. The walk to the Memorial from Corbie & Fouilloy, and from Villers Bretonneux is approximately 2 km and 3.7 km respectively and takes between 30-60 minutes depending on the direction from which you come. Care should be taken as the road is poorly lit in some areas, the surface is uneven and buses and coaches use this road.

Transport service information is currently being finalised. When details have been confirmed they will be updated on the DVA website.

Villers-Bretonneux Town Square Wreath Laying Ceremony – Tuesday 25 April 2017 (French service)

After the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial site, visitors are invited to make their way to the French Monument, Town Centre for the Villers-Bretonneux Town Square Wreath Laying Ceremony which is expected to commence at around 8.45 am.

Visitors are reminded it can get quite hot during the day. A small day pack may be useful to carry with extra clothing, a hat, sunscreen, and drinking water to avoid dehydration. There is no shelter or seating available at this service.

Bullecourt Services – Tuesday 25 April 2017

After the ceremony in Villers-Bretonneux, the Anzac Day program continues with a French service in Bullecourt and an Australian service at the ‘Digger’ Memorial, outside the town of Bullecourt.

The Anzac Day Wreath Laying Service at the Commonwealth and French Monuments in the Bullecourt village centre is expected to commence at around 2.00 pm (French service).

Bullecourt is approximately 45-60 minutes by car from Villers-Bretonneux, and 15 minutes from Bapaume. Due to the large crowds expected, the road through the village of Bullecourt will be closed for local Anzac Day commemorations. Visitors may need to park outside the village and walk into the town for the French service in the town centre, and to the service at the ‘Digger’ Memorial on the village outskirts. Local police and ceremony staff will be present should attendees require assistance.  It should be noted that there is no shelter or seating available at this service.

March to DiggerThe Australian Service at the ‘Digger’ Memorial on the Bullecourt village outskirts is expected to commence at around 3.00 pm.

The 2017 service will commemorate the centenary of the battles of Bullecourt.

Please note that there will be no vehicle access to the ‘Digger’ Memorial. The walk from Bullecourt to the ‘Digger’ Memorial is approximately 800 metres. There is no shelter and limited seating available at this service.

Visitors are again reminded it can get quite hot during the day. A small day pack may be useful to carry extra clothing, a hat, sunscreen, and drinking water to avoid dehydration.

No public transport is available to Bullecourt – visitors should make their own arrangements.

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Assisted Seating

Assistance will be available for visitors at the Dawn Service who have registered a health or mobility issue via a written application, well in advance of the service period. Evidence from your General Practitioner may be required to support your application.

Those requesting assisted seating are able to have one carer with them to provide assistance. Consideration may be given to accompanying guests. Unfortunately due to seating capacity, it is not possible to extend this service to others travelling with their tour groups. Further information about the application and assessment process can be obtained by emailing You may also write to:

Western Front Section
Department of Veterans Affairs
GPO Box 9998

Visitors should be able to walk 300 metres unaided uphill through the cemetery to the Memorial site (this is the approximate distance from the entrance to the assisted seating area) and a further 200 metres from the coach drop-off point to the entrance. Those visitors registered for assisted seating will be able to access the assisted mobility van from the coach drop-off point and be dropped at the front of the memorial close to the assisted seating area.

Musical support for Anzac Day services on the Western Front, France 2017

Musical support for Anzac Day commemorative services in France in 2017 will be provided by the Australian Army Band and the Voices of Birralee choir.

Resonance, one of many vocal ensembles from Brisbane based Voices of Birralee was selected following a competitive expression of interest process conducted by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

More information may be found at the Voices of Birralee website.

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Laying a wreath

Family members of those who fought and those who died on the Western Front and in all conflicts, may lay a wreath at the end of the Dawn Service. The Master of Ceremonies will invite those who wish to do so to move forward and lay the wreath. Similarly members of the public may also lay a wreath and will be called forward to do so. Please note – DVA has no capacity to receive wreath deliveries at the Australian National Memorial. If you do plan to lay a wreath, you will need to organise the wreath in advance and bring it with you to the Australian National Memorial. Please consider carefully the size of your tribute as the areas in which wreaths may be laid are quite small and there are likely to be many hundreds of tributes presented.  A single flower, a photo, a bunch of flowers or small wreath are all acceptable.

At the completion of the Dawn Service, after the public wreath laying component is completed, a large number of visitors move forward to the front of the memorial wall and the steps where the wreaths have been laid to take photos.

Extreme care is recommended to all visitors as there may be trip hazards or other obstacles (chairs, podium, wreath stands) in this area.  Please do not climb on podiums or other infrastructure to take photographs.

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Locating graves of deceased relatives

France War GravesMany visitors to the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux are keen to locate the graves of deceased relatives who fought on the Western Front, or their relative’s name on a memorial to the missing if they have no known grave.

There are around 1,000 Commonwealth war cemeteries on the Western Front in France and Belgium, including the cemetery at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux.

The walls of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux carry the names of 10,765 Australians who died in France during World War I and have no known grave. The names are engraved on the memorial in order of battalion, then alphabetically under rank.

A further 1,294 Australians who died in battle and have no known grave are commemorated on the walls at the VC Corner Cemetery near Fromelles in northern France. Those who died in Belgium and who have no known grave are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing.

Visitors wishing to locate a particular grave or name on a memorial to the missing should consult the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to identify the exact location of the grave or name on a memorial to the missing prior to travelling to France or Belgium.  Limited assistance may be available on the day.

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Register Your Attendance

DVA requests that you register your intention to attend on the DVA registration system. This assists DVA with planning for the commemorations. It also allows visitors to receive updates should there be any changes to the arrangements for traffic or the commemorative service.  It is important for visitors to register the mobile phone number they will use while travelling overseas to ensure they receive updates.


DVA is unable to assist with accommodation bookings or advice, however, you may wish to visit the Somme Tourisme website for more information.

Safety and security

  • For the latest travel advice on the security situation in France please visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) smartraveller website
  • Visitors are responsible for your own safety, welfare and security of belongings at all times.
  • Security and crowd management are the responsibility of French security personnel with airport-style screening of visitors at the entry point to the commemorative site, including bag searches.
  • You should follow the instructions of French security personnel at all times.
  • It is recommended that you register your travel plans with DFAT in case of an emergency.

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Further Information

Emergency contact details

Australian Embassy, France
4 Rue Jean Rey, Paris 75724, Cedex 15, France
Telephone: +33 1 4059 3300 / Fax +33 1 4059 3315

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Canberra
R.G. Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221 Australia
Telephone: +61 2 6261 3111 / Fax +61 2 6261 3111

Emergency helpline
Consular Emergency Centre 24 Hour Phone Service:
Telephone: 1300 555 135 within Australia (local call cost) or
Telephone: +61 2 6261 3305 from outside Australia

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