Anzac Day

Trip Start Mar 24, 2012
Trip End Aug 25, 2012

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Where I stayed
Orchard Farm

Flag of France  , Nord-Pas-de-Calais,
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rainy, windy, bitterly freezing day.
(I wonder how many of these sorts of days our young soldiers had to endure in 1914-18?)

We headed over to Bullecourt and had a personalised early viewing of the new museum courtesy of Yves Fohlen, the curator. He showed us all the new exhibits and we were able to have a good poke around and look at all the fabulous stuff they have selected from Jean Letaille's collection.

Jean and Denise Letaille spent years and years collecting bits and pieces from the farms around the district and his barn was overflowing. He donated the barn, along with the land for Le Petite Croix and the Diggers Memorial to ensure that this piece of history would not be forgotten. He played host to many visiting Australians and recorded the stories of many of the soldiers who had fought and died for Bullecourt.

Bert Smythe was one of the selected soldiers to appear on the wall in the museum - immortalised amongst all the Bullecourt relics and memories - just where he should be.

After the preview we walked the kilometre in the driving rain to Le Petite Croix. There was only 8 of us who had made the effort and only 3 Aussies. We then waited in the rain for 45 minutes for the "dignitaries" to turn up. They arrived in their flashy cars, with importance oozing from every door as they disgorged into the rain with minions scurrying around preparing umbrellas lest their uniforms get a spot of water on them.

The Honourable Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Defence, alighted, shook my hand, didn't bother to approach Margaret and ask why an 87 year old lady would wait in the rain for a small ceremony, ignored the fact that she was wearing her service medals, and went to chat with more important people - like the Mayor, who had also arrived dry and warm in a fancy car.

They held the short ceremony, laid their wreaths and then jumped back in their cars and zoomed off leaving us dripping on the side of the road. Can you tell I'm not impressed?

We walked the kilometre back into the village and sat through another ceremony in the town square attended by about 400 people - the buses from the dawn ceremony at Villers-Bretonneux had turned up. More speeches, wreath laying and more pomp and circumstance. The bagpipes were good and the ladies singing the three national anthems (British, Aussie and French) were brilliant.

The whole procession then walked back to the Digger's Memorial for the third ceremony - a repeat of the first two. The entire crowd were vying for every bit of shelter under trees or behind walls - anything to get out of the driving rain.

Cold and wet, the select few (minus the official dignitaries) retired to the former Mayor's luncheon and here we met some very interesting young Aussie's living and working in Paris.

Once more back into Bullecourt for the official opening of Jean Letaille's museum - which unfortunately Jean did not live to see. This time we stood around in a crowd of 500 but could not hear one word of the dignitaries above the howling wind. Once they finally opened the museum doors, the entire crowd decided that the small museum would be a dry haven. We had no interest in fighting for space inside a museum we had already seen so we headed for the sanctuary of the car.

A long, wet, very interesting day. Enjoyable despite the weather.

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