Taken some time between 1914-18, the photograph depicts an aerial view of Villers-Bretonneux in France, a region which was part of the Western Front during World War I. The image mostly shows rural landscape.
The Western Front was the main theatre of war during World War I. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The German advance was halted with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both the French-British and German armies dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France.
The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux occurred between 30 March - 5 April 1918. It took place during Operation Michael, part of the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front. The offensive began against the British Fifth Army and the Third Army on the Somme, and pushed back the British and French reinforcements on the north side of the Somme. The capture of Villers-Bretonneux, close to Amiens, a strategically important road and rail-junction, would have brought the Germans within artillery-range. In late March, troops from the Australian Imperial Force were brought south from Belgium as reinforcements to help shore up the line. In early April, the Germans launched an attack to capture Villers-Bretonneux. After a determined defence by British and Australian troops, the attackers were close to success until a counter-attack by the 9th Australian Infantry Brigade and British troops late in the afternoon of 4 April restored the situation and halted the German advance on Amiens.
The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux occurred between 24 - 27 April 1918, during the German Spring Offensive to the east of Amiens. It is notable for being the first occasion on which tanks fought against each other.
A counter-attack by two Australian brigades and a British brigade during the night of 24 April partly surrounded Villers-Bretonneux, and on 25 April, the town was recaptured. On 26 April, the role of the Moroccan division of the French army was crucial in pushing back German units. Australian, British and French troops nearly restored the original front line by 27 April.
The record is historically significant due to its connection to World War I. This conflict is integral to Australian culture as it was the single greatest loss of life and the greatest repatriation of casualties in the country's history. Australia’s involvement in the First World War began when the Australian government established the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in August 1914. Immediately, men were recruited to serve the British Empire in the Middle East and on the Western Front.
Additionally, the record's significance is enhanced by its depiction of Villers-Bretonneux. The battles that occurred in this town during World War I are especially historically significant to Australia as this is where the Australian Imperial Force had one their greatest World War I victories. An Australian flag still flies over Villers-Bretonneux in the present. Furthermore, a plaque outside the Villers-Bretonneux Town Hall recounts the battles fought to save the town in 1918. Kangaroos feature over the entrance to the Town Hall, and the main street is named Rue de Melbourne.
More officially, recognition of the significance of the battle in Villers-Bretonneux is found at the Australian National Memorial, which was built just outside the town. It commemorates all Australians who fought in France and Belgium and includes the names of 10,772 who died in France and have no known grave. Each year, a small ceremony is held at the memorial to mark the sacrifice made by the soldiers.
Lastly, the record has strong research potential. This is due to the ongoing public and scholarly interest in war, history, and especially the ANZAC legend, which is commemorated annually on 25 April, known as ANZAC Day.
Sepia rectangular photograph printed on matte photographic paper.
yAE.2.35. / 125 /
military album, wwi, world war i, villers-bretonneux, australian imperial force, aif, france, war, army, conflict, germany, 1918, battle