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Australians gather in France for ANZAC Day

AFP · 25 Apr 2012, 11:12

Published: 25 Apr 2012 11:12 GMT+02:00

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Thousands of Australians gathered in northern France on Wednesday to mark the ANZAC Day commemoration of their far-off country's World War I dead.

The "Last Post" was played as a wreath was laid in a dawn ceremony in the village of Villers-Bretonneux, which was recaptured from German forces in a night raid by Australian troops on April 25, 1918.

The ceremony was presided over by Australia's ambassador to France, Ric Wells, and was attended by Australian Veterans' Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon and France's junior defence minister Marc Laffineur.

Those at the Villers-Bretonneux ceremony symbolically joined hundreds of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders honouring their war dead at services across the two nations and at battlefields around the globe.

Anzac Day commemorates the start of the gruelling 1915 World War I battle of Gallipoli in Turkey, in which thousands of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers died.

Roughly 24,000 Australians were wounded or killed in the battle to free Villers-Bretonneux, in France's Picardy region.

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The village acknowledges its debt to Australia with the words "N'oublions jamais l'Australie" (Let us never forget Australia) written in the classrooms of the local school, rebuilt with Australian donations in 1920.

Some 46,000 Australian servicemen died in the battlefields of northern France during the struggle for control of the Western front, out of the more than 313,000 soldiers sent from Australia to fight in World War I.

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