ANZAC Day, held every year on 25 April, and commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ (ANZAC) 1915 landing at Gallipoli, has an increasing resonance in France, reports France 24.
More than 8,700 Australians died at Gallipoli, along with 2,700 New Zealanders, 21,000 British, and 1,358 Indians. Less well known is that 9,800 French soldiers were also among the dead.
France is taking greater interest in remembering its personal sacrifice in the ill-fated campaign.
In addition to annual celebrations held at Gallipoli, an increasing number of people in France have adopted the date to make a pilgrimage to the battlefields in the country’s north.
Each year, busloads of French, Australian and other tourists make a pilgrimage to a dawn service at the military cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux, where in April 1918, Australian troops played a prominent role in taking the town.
The battle effectively ended the German offensive on the Somme.
Catherine Pascaud, managing director of Servitours, one tour company that is making the annual journey, said she has noticed a real increase in enthusiasm for the commemoration compared to a decade ago.
‘Usually the French don’t know about ANZAC Day, but now there is more and more information given to the French public. And of course it will be even bigger next year because of celebrations marking the centenary since the start of World War I,’ she said.
Kader Arif, delegate for the French veterans’ affairs minister, said: ‘What nation today would be able to send a tenth of its population to the other side of the world to defend the principles of freedom and democracy?’
‘It demonstrates the bonds between our two peoples under the most extreme circumstances.’
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