Prince Charles attends commemorations for Battle of Villers-Bretonneux centenary in France

Prince Charles attended early-morning commemorations today, to remember the allied troops who died at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux during the First World War; he was joined by the French and Australian Prime Ministers.

the prince of wales was in france today to mark the centenary of the battle of Villers-Bretonneux (clarence house)

The Prince of Wales, representing Her Majesty, paid tribute to the allied soldiers who fought and died at one of the most important battles of the First World War. He joined French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his counterpart from Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, at the Australian National Memorial just outside of the commune of Villers-Bretonneux, near Amiens.

The event coincided with ANZAC Day events held across Australia, New Zealand and the UK to remember those from Australasia who fought alongside British and imperial troops on the battlefields of France, Belgium and Turkey. Prince Harry, Meghan and The Duke of Cambridge were at ANZAC events today.

The Australian Army Band and the Voices of Birralee choir played traditional military tunes for the 8,000-strong visiting crowds and the visiting dignitaries. In complete darkness, except for spotlights shining on the memorial stones, the roll call of those who died during the battle were read out and their photos illuminated one-by-one onto the memorial tower.

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Embed from Getty Images

After a Spirit of Place ceremony had taken place before dawn – a traditional didgeridoo performance – Prince Charles, wearing several military medals on his lapel and the tie of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, of which he is Colonel in Chief, read from the diary of an Australian soldier named Private Frank Purnell, who described his life in the trenches at Villers-Bretonneux.

Charles then stepped forward to lay a wreath on the steps of the memorial tower, followed closely by fellow dignitaries and more than 500 members of the public, many of whom have travelled to France from Australia for the commemorations in their centenary year.

The future King told the waiting crowd: “Today, as we mark a century since they gave their lives, let us resolve to continue to fulfil their trust, so that every passing year will only add to the measure of their honour.”

After sunrise, Charles was at a breakfast meeting with representatives from the 17 nations who fought on the Western Front during the war; he also met Australian Football League players, Edward Morgan and Priscilla Lodge, who each year play an ANZAC Cup game.

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At the breakfast, the Prince talked to the didgeridoo player, David Dahwurr Hudson, who gave a repeat performance. He also met descendants of soldiers who fought on the Western Front, including Matt Harvey and Jane Hayman from Melbourne. Charles told them that it was “quite amazing” that both their great-grandfathers – Bruce Hunt and Bruce Ross – served in artillery on the Western Front and survived, expressing his sadness at the poor conditions they endured.

To end his time at the memorial ceremony, The Prince of Wales visited the newly opened Sir John Monash Centre, a museum telling the story of Australian involvement in the war. Sir John Monash was a lieutenant general during the war and he led the Australian Corps during the successful battle at Le Hamel on 4th July 1918.

Before departing Villers-Bretennoux, HRH toured the new Sir John Monash Centre and experienced the interactive installations. The centre tells the story of Australia’s experience of the Western Front and Belgium during WWI. (clarence house)

In 2017, on behalf of The Queen, Charles attended the Canadian Vimy Ridge Centenary Commemorations with his sons and events in Belgium to mark the Centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele with Prince William and Catherine.

The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry view World War One trenches during commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in Vimy, France. Picture by POOL / i-Images

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1 comment

Yumiko kokuryu Wed 25 April, 2018 - 5:58 pm

I recognize prince charle’s deep love for australia and australian people.


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