We have now set foot at one of the locations which will be a huge part of Anzac Day, the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt.
We set off early this morning to the town, not far from Amiens, for the official rehearsal.
Travelling on the bus, we were further exposed to the beauty of the region, with its lush terrain and beautiful buildings, of course, complete with the Australian flags.
It’s difficult to think that 100 years ago this part of the world was destroyed by war.
The Digger Memorial commemorates the lives lost in WW1, while honouring the bravery of our Australian soldiers during the two Battles of Bullecourt.
To explain briefly, in 1918, Germany had taken Bullecourt, and Australia needed to drive them out. To do this, they decided to go in with infantry and tanks and not artillery (it was the first time they’d used tanks – on this occasion, they were supplied by the British). The Aussies’ efforts in the first battle failed; the Australian troops were driven back to where they had started, with 3,000 men killed. Three weeks later, Australia tried again, this time, with artillery support (with no tanks). By 17 April, Germany had admitted defeat in Bullecourt.
(More info here…or just ask our resident historian for the trip, chorister Andy).
Walking from the town hall, we met at the Digger Memorial where the Australian Air Force Band, catafalque party, and representatives from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs were getting ready to begin rehearsals to ensure a smooth running of events on Anzac Day.
It was a great chance for us to rehearse our repertoire for this service, Amazing Grace, La Marseilles (the French National Anthem) and Advance Australia Fair with the band, while meeting their soloist and the musicians.
Between rehearsing, choristers Kerry, Yazmin and Jessica were interviewed by Channel 7 News journalist Chris Reason (with a possible feature on Saturday night’s programme). It was a great opportunity for them to talk about their ancestors who fought in the Somme, and the importance of Anzac Day.
Overall it was a successful morning and we left feeling confident for next week, while being able to absorb the solemnity of the setting.
Next stop was lunch in Péronne, before exploring the Museum of the Great War. The museum features a section dedicated to Australia’s efforts. This was highlighted by the Australian troops liberating the town from German occupation on September 1918 (more here).
From historic photos of the Anzacs, to the marketing used to recruit Australians to enlist, the museum was incredibly interesting detailing how WW1 began, and how it ended, with fascinating stories in between.
We then drove back to Amiens and straight to a rehearsal for tomorrow night’s (Friday’s) Grand Anzac Concert with various local musicians and choirs, as part of Australia Week.
The concert will be at northern Europe’s largest cathedral, La cathédrale Notre–Dame d’Amiens. Having visited Notre Dame, Paris, we were surprised at how impressively huge, and architecturally amazing this cathedral in Amiens is. It is possibly even more impressive than Paris’.
One of the songs we rehearsed was Earth Song, a beautiful a cappella piece, signifying the importance of music. Here’s a snippet from rehearsal…oh and the church may be built for awesome acoustics, but not so much for warmth!
It has been a huge day, with tomorrow set to be even more action-packed! It will include a rehearsal at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, and conclude with the Grand Anzac Concert.
We’ll let you know how we go!
(Stay up to date with Voices of Birralee’s Anzac Commitment via ‘Friends of Birralee’s Anzac Centenary Tours‘ group).
(And on another note, thank you to all the choristers and tour manager, Sue for taking great photos for this blog, with a special mention to one of our ‘accompanying people’, Tim Morel who has shared a number of the pics and videos over the last few days!)