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The Franco Australian Museum in Villers-Bretonneux in France is one of the sites along the route dedicated to First World War history, known as the Circuit of Remembrance.
The Franco Australian Museum history
The Franco Australian Museum looks at the role played by Australian forces during the World War One. As soon as Britain declared war on Germany, the new Australian government pledged 20,000 men to be sent overseas to the Western Front. The government watched an extraordinary rush to enlist all around the country and soon promised an increase in the expeditionary force to take the total to 50,000 men.
Australian forces served on both the Western Front and most memorably, at Gallipoli in 1915. The Landing at Gallipoli captured the imagination of the Australian public as no other event in Australian history has ever done. The news provoked a rush of Australian recruits to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and eventually 320,000 Australians would serve overseas in the war – an extraordinary contribution from a nation of just over four million people.
The war was, nevertheless, extremely costly to Australia. It had damaged political and social harmony at home because of the bitterness of the conscription campaigns, and introduced deep religious and social divisions. 60,000 Australians had been killed in the war, many of them because of the might of the artillery, lay buried, in unknown graves. As many as 150,000 men returned home badly wounded in mind or body.
The Franco Australian Museum today
A small museum based on the first floor of the Victoria School, the Franco Australian Museum offers a variety of exhibitions including visual presentations. The collections held by the museum were established in the 1970s by material from private collections and donations.
The museum tells the story of the Australians on the Western Front in 1918 in particular and the part they played in the battles to defend Villers Bretonneux, which was the site of fierce fighting during the First World War.
Getting to The Franco Australian Museum
The address of the Franco-Australian Museum is 9 Rue Victoria, 80800 Villers-Bretonneux. It is located in the Victoria School in the centre of the village of Villers-Bretonneux. There is parking at the front of the school and at the nearby Town Hall. The museum is open daily and admission for Adults is 6 Euros.
French Australians (French: Australiens d'origine française), some of whom refer to themselves as Huguenots, are Australian citizens or residents of French ancestry, or French-born people who reside in Australia. According to the 2011 Census, there were 110,399 people of French descent in Australia and 24,675 French-born people residing in the country at the time of the census, representing an increase of 28.6 percent compared to the 2006 Census. The largest French Australian community is in the state of New South Wales, where they number 8,936 people–many of them reside in Sydney.
Things to Do in Villers-Bretonneux
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We are on the road again… We are off to Villers-Bretonneux a little town that experienced the first world’s battle (in World War I) between two tank forces (the British and the Germans). The Germans took the town but the Australian Imperial Force recaptured it a few days later. 1,200 Australians died in the process. A few miles from the town is an Australian Memorial and a cemetery where 770 are buried. That is where we are headed.
Initially we were to take a bus to the Amiens train station but it is such a beautiful day that we end up walking. In front of the Amiens station I spotted the cutest of buses. I still get a kick out of how little cars are – even traditionally big ones as the Range Rover and Mercedes – in Europe. Seems that they miniaturize buses too!
At the station we buy our aller-rétour (round trip) ticket to Villers-Bretonneux. We are lucky that the train departs about 15 minutes from when we arrive. In one hour we will be there. The train is pretty comfortable and I settle in with my espresso. To my side, a reminder that I am in France: a baguette a main part of a traveler’s luggage.
We are two of only few that exit here. No signs guiding us to the memorial so we decide to follow the only person that is on foot. Should we take the path unknown? The Franco-Australian Museum comes up (the first thing that attracts me is the tiles on the floor) so we go in for info on how to get to the Memorial.
They tell us that the Memorial is a couple of miles out of town and that it’s walkable. So we continue. I am loving the stone houses. Everything in this town has something Australian on it.
We are leaving the boundaries of town. See the sign with a diagonal red line on it?
I promise not to go more than 50 km per hour (31 mph) in the construction zone. In fact I don’t think I can walk that fast. Though I may have to because that memorial looks quite far…
The walk is long, the day is hot so I extend my right thumb in good hitch hiking mode and… nothing happens. So we continue on. It doesn’t seem to be getting any closer yet suddenly we are there. No one around. We are alone. I fall silent.
Words of the mayor in 1919: “Soldiers of Australia, whose brothers lie here in French soil, be assured that your memory will always be kept alive, and that the burial places of your dead will always be respected and cared for…”
Many tombstones engraved with the one date they all died. All so very young. Fighting someone else’s war. But the people of Villers Bretonneux are grateful, for, according to Wikipedia, on top of every blackboard in the school there is an inscription “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Let us never forget Australia.)
There are stairs to go to the top of the memorial and I decide to go up disregarding my fear of heights. Going up. The door to the outside. A few more steps and I’m outside. The wind assaults me. I am quite high but vertigo does not take over and I am able to enjoy the view. The markers have some names with significance to me. Amiens, London, Berlin, Paris and Villers Bretonneux.
We are not alone any more and as I climb down Dean remains upstairs and chatting with a fellow Aussie that thankfully gives us a ride back to Amiens where they are also staying.
We walk through town to meet with Lydie for us to have a mini table read. The pastry shops are going to be the death of me. This one has the dessert that I so loved: Paris-Brest (I know there is a joke here but please refrain.) Casa Crepes which kind of joins my culture with theirs, don’t you think? But not all is food. I’m taking my door photos too. And windows. And buildings. Okay, back to the table read. These are the remains of sorbets that our réalisateur (director) has devoured while we work. Think I’m back to the food subject. We leave.
I am now starving. I get cranky when I am hungry. I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry. I need to eat now! And when I’m this hungry even a McDonald’s will do. And this one holds some surprises. It is manned by smiley, cute people and it’s more in the vein of an upscale café than a McDonald’s, with comfy chairs and cool decor. And a sauce for the fries that is more on the mayo side which I like. A chicken wrap with a package that you can stand it up in. Prices are also a surprise: not cheap at all.
Now that I’ve been fed I have energy and will to have a walk around town. We find a gem of a square.
I find the building that I would like to own.
The day is done. We have mentally wept for those gone, honored them, taken a step back in time, taken a step forward to filming, fed our minds and our bodies, and fantasized a bit about what we wanted. Pretty full day. I smile and sleep once more.
Refurbished WWI Museum strengthens Franco-Australian ties
Major refurbishments to a First World War museum on the Western Front are a step closer today following an additional Australian Government contribution of over $700,000 to the Franco Australian Museum, housed within the Victoria School in Villers-Bretonneux, France.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, said the Museum tells of the enduring links between the town and Australia, begun during the Battles of Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918, where Australian troops displayed great courage and determination in the defence of Villers-Bretonneux.
Villers-Bretonneux in ruins during World War I
“Australian forces gained wide recognition for their heroic efforts and were welcomed into the hearts and minds of the people of Villers-Bretonneux in Battles that helped stop the German spring offensive.
“The Franco Australian Museum pays tribute to Australian service and the museum expansion will provide greater flexibility in the use of space for both the museum’s collection as well as improve access and amenities for the more than 10,000 people, many of them Australians, that visit each year,” Mr Snowdon said.
Australia’s Ambassador to France, Mr Ric Wells presented the Australian Government’s next contribution to the project of €500,000 (approximately AUD 705,000) to the Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, Dr Patrick Simon, at the Victoria School today. Further funding will be provided in 2014.
Frenco Australian Museum. ©MarcROUSSEL
Built in the 1920s, the school housing the museum was a gift from the children of Victoria, Australia following the war. A sign in the playground honours this relationship, saying “Do not forget Australia.”
“This link between Villers-Bretonneux and Australia is a testament to the memory of Australian service that has continued to this day, and reflected on each year when Australians and French gather for the Anzac Day Dawn Service on the anniversary of the re-taking of Villers-Bretonneux by Australian troops in 1918,” Mr Snowdon said.
The cross of the military cemetery and the tower of the Australian War Memorial in France. ©MarcROUSSEL
How a book saved the life of Australian soldier Albert Lightfoot on the battlefields of WWI
As Private Albert Lightfoot prepared himself for battle 100 years ago, he closed the book he was reading and placed it in the gasmask pouch* around his neck.
A little hardback novel about life in colonial Africa, it had just been published that year, 1918.
It was called the Edge O&rsquo Beyond.
And at 10pm on April 24, as Lightfoot and his mates in the Australian Imperial Force charged the German lines in a battle that would free the French village of Villers-Bretonneux, the book would save his life.
A German bullet struck him on his jacket front, tearing through the book&rsquos cover and its pages, but not reaching his chest.
Afterwards, Lightfoot would record the moment in a note written on the inside cover.
&ldquoBullet hole made in the battle field in France, April 24, 1918,&rsquo&rsquo he wrote.
Albert Lightfoot, who fought at Villers-Bretonneux, wrote a note inside the book cover after it helped stop a bullet hitting his chest. Picture: Dylan Robinson
The bullet hole in the book’s front cover. Picture: Dylan Robinson
About 1200 of Lightfoot&rsquos fellow Australian soldiers were not so lucky, and would not make it home from that battle on the Western Front.
But their efforts forced the Germans back and saw the French and Australian flags raised over Villers-Bretonneux the next morning, April 25, exactly three years after the disastrous* landing at Gallipoli*.
Now, a century on, Lightfoot&rsquos Australian relatives are travelling to France to display the book at the Franco-Australian Museum, a small memorial built at the Victoria School in the village, named for the schoolchildren from Victoria in Australia who raised money to rebuild it after World War I.
Lightfoot&rsquos great-nephews Danny and Wayne Duke, and their cousin, Lightfoot&rsquos great-niece Jan Kornweibel, will make the journey with Lightfoot&rsquos precious* book.
Danny Duke, 71, said the bullet appeared to have gone right through the book and may have deflected* into Lightfoot&rsquos wrist, as records show he was shot and wounded that night in an injury that saw him flown to the UK and later released from the army.
Lightfoot was born in London on March 12, 1890, and moved to Australia when he was 21 years old, joining his sister Louisa in Perth.
A house painter, Lightfoot was also a talented artist, mostly painting landscapes. But like so many young men of that time, he answered the call to serve his country in the military.
In 1915, when he was 25, he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force and in January 1916 shipped out for Europe, leaving Fremantle aboard the transport ship Borda.
He took part in several battles in Egypt, France and Belgium before the battle on April 24.
After he returned to Australia he went back to house painting and tried his luck in the West Australian goldfields, Mr Duke said.
Danny Duke is the great-nephew of Albert Lightfoot. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Lightfoot never married nor had children, and much of his life story remains unknown. Few of his paintings still exist. Mr Duke has only one photograph of him, and none of him in uniform.
&ldquoHe was a fairly quiet man,&rsquo&rsquo Mr Duke said. &ldquoI recall him being a bit of a larrikin*.&rdquo
Lightfoot died in August 1957 in a veterans&rsquo home in Perth.
Mr Duke said the family had decided to offer Lightfoot&rsquos book for display to the smaller Franco-Australian Museum because of the vast* size of the collection held by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The museum, which was recently renovated, is proof of the links between Australia and Villers-Bretonneux, where the locals still acknowledge the sacrifice of the men who came from the other side of the world to save their village.
The Town Hall features two painted kangaroos on its outside walls and flies the Australian flag.
Plaques around the town commemorate* the Australian sacrifice, and a large sign over the playground at the Victoria School declares, in English: Do not forget Australia.
More than 8000 people are expected to attend the dawn service at the Australian National Memorial on Anzac Day to reflect of the actions of Albert Lightfoot and his brothers-in-arms a century ago.
gasmark pouch: a small bag to hold a gasmark
disastrous: causing great damage
Gallipoli: A peninsula in Turkey where Australians joined an unsuccessful battle to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during World War I.
precious: of great value and to be treated carefully
deflected: cause to change direction
larrikin: mischievous person
commemorate: recall and show respect for
Lest we forget: a caution against forgetting those who gave their lives in battle to protect us.
LISTEN TO TODAY&rsquoS STORY
Use information from the article to write a biography about Private Albert Lightfoot. Write the biography in sequential order beginning with when and where he was born and concluding with where and when he died. Include the significant details of his life, what he did before the war, where he was involved in battles, when and why he left the army and what he did next. Also include what you know about his personal characteristics.
Extension: Imagine you are Private Albert Lightfoot recovering in an army hospital after he was injured. Write a letter home to your family explaining where you are and what happened to you on April 24, 1918. Include how you are feeling, emotionally and physically.
Time: Allow 40 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Humanities – History
2. Villers-Bretonneux remembers
The townspeople of Villers-Bretonneux in France still remember Australia&rsquos involvement in the battle in their town in World War I. List the ways that Australia&rsquos involvement is still celebrated in Villers-Bretonneux. Why do they remember Australia so fondly? How does this recognition make you feel?
Extension: Private Lightfoot&rsquos relatives are travelling to Villers-Bretonneux to place the book on display in a museum there. Write a short (one paragraph) description of this item that can be placed alongside the book so those visiting the museum know the significance of it.
Time: Allow 25 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Humanities – History
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?
IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THIS STORY
Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.
This narrow gauge railway museum has a collection of about 20 locomotives and 25 wagons together with information on the use of the railway during WW1.
Tickets can be purchased here to ride on the last remaining section of the large military narrow gauge network built during WW1 in preparation to supply the trenches with ammunition in the Somme offensive of 1916.
Address: P'tit train de la Haute Somme - APPEVA, BP 70106, 80001 Amiens Cedex 1, France
Telephone: +33 (0)3 22 83 11 89
Franco-Australian Museum re-opens in Villers-Bretonneux
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan today officially re-opened the extensively refurbished Franco-Australian Museum at Villers-Bretonneux in France, in company with the local Mayor, Mr Patrick Simon. Mr Tehan said the Australian Government had contributed more than $2 million to the project, which included the reconstruction and refurbishment of a complete section of the existing Victoria School, in which the museum is located. The now larger and more contemporary museum facility houses the Franco-Australian Association’s extensive collection of objects.
“The Franco-Australian Museum is a symbol of the longstanding friendship between France and Australia, and its remarkable collection is a record of the close bond between the people of Villers-Bretonneux and the people of Australia,” Mr Tehan said.
“The reimagined and redeveloped museum and exhibition is a credit to the efforts of the Franco-Australian Association and the town to remember and honour the First World War and the contribution made by Australians at Villers-Bretonneux.”
The refurbishment was conducted as part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front under an Australian Government initiative delivered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in cooperation with French and Belgian authorities. It is aimed at establishing a commemorative trail highlighting sites of significance to the Australian experience of the Western Front during the First World War.
Telling Cozzo’s story
“It’s partly a biography of Franco Cozzo, but I’m also really interested in looking at the broader cultural ideas around furniture and migrant home life… There are going to be portraits in the film of people who have bought Franco Cozzo furniture over the years, showing the evolution of the clientele and the styles of people’s houses. So there will be these beautiful cinematic scenes that present the furniture in its full glory, in context,” Martiniello said to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Martiniello says that even though she hasn’t seen Cozzo’s ads on television, she was intrigued on discovering that the furniture businessman had a cult following on YouTube, with his ads in multiple languages attracting numerous viewers. After she spoke about her upcoming project to people in her age group, Martiniello saw that they were all very interested in it. The 30-year-old director wants her documentary to focus on how a public personality like Cozzo is able to bring people of diverse backgrounds together.The documentary will have Greek immigrants narrate their relationship with Cozzo’s furniture success story. (Screenshot: YouTube)
She notes that Cozzo’s customers have evolved with the numerous migrant waves. Initially, it was the post-war European migrants who made up much of his customer base. But now, it is people from Southeast Asia and African communities who make a beeline for Cozzo’s furniture. The documentary will spend some time exploring the lives of Greek immigrants, their history of immigration, and their relationship with Cozzo’s furniture.
After his arrival in Australia in 1956 as a 21-year-old, Cozzo started working as a door to door salesman even though he did not know how to speak English. Soon, he entered into a partnership with a furniture business. Over time, he ended up opening three furniture stores at Brunswick, North Melbourne, and Footscray. His ad slogan “megalo, megalo, megalo!” made him a well-known figure among the people. The slogan translates as, “grand sale, grand sale, grand sale!”
For the documentary, Cozzo is returning to his hometown in Ramacca, Sicily. Martiniello points out that this might well be Cozzo’s last trip to Europe and his hometown given his advanced age. As such, she believes that it would be a meaningful and heartwarming journey that will emotionally move the viewers. The 90-minute documentary will contain old photos of Cozzo’s upbringing and his popular advertisements. Once the production is completed, the documentary will be released on ABC sometime in 2021.Cozzo set up 3 furniture stores after an initial stint as a salesman. (Screenshot: YouTube)
Franco-Australian Connections in an Industrial World
A day of events exploring historic Franco-Australian connections in Bristol, organized by Dr Valentina Gosetti and Dr Daniel Finch-Race.
10:00-12:00: SS Great Britain - discussion of Franco-Australian perspectives with video contributions from Australian researchers, followed by an opportunity to explore the venue, renowned as 'one of the most important historic ships in the world'.
14:00-15:30: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery - tour with curator Dr Jenny Gaschke and local artist Alice Cunningham.
16:00-17:30: University of Bristol Theatre Collection + Library Special Collections - showcase of rare materials with Philip Kent (Director of Libraries), Jo Elsworth (Director of Cultural Collections), Jill Sullivan (Archives Assistant), and Michael Richardson (Special Collections Librarian).
These free events are about exploring connections between Europe and Australia. Our starting point will be parallels in environmental concerns since the Industrial Revolution, when there was a significant increase in travel and cultural exchanges. The interactive activities will provide opportunities to appreciate how Australia, the Francophone world, and the UK have long had much in common.
You are welcome to attend as much of the day as you like - for tickets please see the Eventbrite page.
This event is supported by the Language Acts and Worldmaking Small Grants scheme, as well as the Bristol Poetry Institute, the Centre for Material Texts, and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Bristol, and the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New England, Armidale.