Le Hamel, Australian Corps Memorial Park
Historical Information (Wikipedia)
The Australian Corps Memorial Park is situated on the brow of a hill east of Le Hamel village to the south of the River Somme. The memorial park commemorates over 100,000 Australians who served with the Australian Corps in France during the First World War. The Australian Corps was formed in 1917. It comprised five Australian Divisions which saw service in Belgium and France from 1916-1918.
The memorial is located on the site of the final objective of the Battle of Hamel on 4th July 1918. This was the first attack planned and carried out by General Sir John Monash, commander of the Australian Corps. The land on which the memorial park is to be found was a gift to the Australian people by the Government of France. It was given to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Hamel, which marked the turn of the tide for the Allies after the difficult period in the months of March and April 1918 following the German advances as far as Villers-Bretonneux with their Operation Michael offensive.
The memorial is constructed as three blocks of curved granite set in a semi-circle. The Australian Forces badge is in the centre block. A speech by Georges Clémenceau is to be found in English and French on each of the blocks to the left and right of the central block. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The Australian Corps Memorial Park at Le Hamel was officially rededicated on 8th November 2008 by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Speech by Georges Clémenceau, 7 July 1918
The wording on the memorial in French and English is taken from a speech by Georges Clémenceau, Président du Conseil (French Prime Minister), made on 7th July 1918 after the success by the Australians. The text reads as follows:
“A l'arrivée des troupes australiennes en France, le peuple français attendait beaucoup de vous. Nous savions que vous alliez mener une véritable bataille, mais nous ignorions que dès la première heure l'Europe entière serait impressionée. Demain, je dirai à mes compatriotes: j'ai vu les Australiens. Je les ai regardés dans les yeux. Je sais que ces hommes combattront à nos côtés jusqu'à ce que les valeurs que nous défendons tous l'emportent pour nous et nos enfants.”
“When the Australians came to France, the French people expected a great deal of you... We knew that you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the very beginning you would astonish the whole continent... I shall go back tomorrow and say to my countrymen, I have seen the Australians, I have looked in their faces, I know that these men will fight alongside of us again until the cause for which we are all fighting is safe for us and for our children.”