Wiley Logo


I welcome this new edition of the Australian War Memorial’s guide to the Anzac battlefields on the old Western Front. It sets out the many interpretive enhancements created on the battlefields to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and the changes inevitably wrought by progress since the first edition appeared in 2011. At the same time, it retains the elements that made the earlier edition so successful.

Fittingly for a publication with ‘Anzac’ in its title, Australians and New Zealanders receive equal attention in this guidebook. Their battles are explored in numerous drives and walks, designed as much for the casual visitor as the military historian and heavily illustrated by easily followed maps, modern and period photographs, and artworks. Though brief essays on key personalities and military developments lend context and all relevant cemeteries and places of interest are described, the emphasis is on what actually took place. The aim is to put you on the scene of the action.

What happens next is up to you. As Dr Peter Pedersen emphatically points out, you should call on your imagination to visualise the scene as it was. It’s not hard. Feeling that I owed it to the men who fought on them, I often let my imagination take over during my many visits to the battlefields as Australia’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO between 2006 and 2012. The reward was an appreciation of the enormity of what those men endured and achieved. Put your imagination to work and you’ll feel the same way.

The two and a half years that their soldiers spent on the Western Front remains arguably the worst ordeal that Australia and New Zealand have undergone. On the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, the 46,000 Australians who died on the Western Front easily outnumber the dead from all our other wars combined. Most of New Zealand’s 17,000 fallen died on the Western Front too. Yet there is no denying that the war was won there. Australian and New Zealand soldiers played a leading role in that outcome.

If you let it, this new edition of the Memorial’s guidebook will bring the Australian and New Zealand experience on the Western Front alive. You’ll then more easily understand why we emerged from the Western Front having earned the admiration of the world, and with a greater confidence in ourselves and a deeper awareness of what it means to be an Australian or a New Zealander.

Those who contributed to the guidebook — and there were many of you — should be proud of the result. The commitment of the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs and our publisher, Wiley, deserve special acknowledgement. They needed no convincing of the need for a new edition and did everything possible to bring it to fruition. The team here at the War Memorial were also tireless in making it happen.

All of you have my thanks. The Australians and New Zealanders who visit the battlefields thank you too.

The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson AO

Director, Australian War Memorial

Canberra, 2017


During the writing of the first edition of this guidebook in 2009/10, the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs was planning a trail that would link the sites of the major Australian battlefields on the Western Front. Called the Australian Remembrance Trail (ART), it was to be completed over the First World War centenary period, 2014 to 2018. The first edition could do nothing more than foreshadow its creation. Now the ART is well-established and New Zealand’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage has set up Ngā Tapuwae Western Front, trails that embrace the main New Zealand battlefields. Downloadable apps enhance the interpretation on both the ART and Ngā Tapuwae. An updated edition of the guidebook that includes these enhancements became necessary.

User experience and the changes that have occurred on the battlefields since 2010 reinforced the need. There are now more windmill farms. Houses – and housing estates – have sprung up where there were none before. Tracks have been ploughed over and become part of fields. New roundabouts and one-way streets have altered traffic flows. Copses have been cut down. Tree and vegetation growth have made some reference points harder to spot. The commercial premises that marked some sites have gone. Additional outbuildings have altered the look of some farms. Progress makes such developments inevitable. Continuing research has resulted in new information that requires occasional modification of the old. That’s progress too.

Though it is well and truly reflected in this update, the march of progress has – thankfully – not compelled any significant adjustments to the battlefield drives and walks. Except for some minor changes to Bois Grenier, Fromelles and Villers-Bretonneux, they remain unchanged. True, some things you are looking at might not be as obvious as they once were, but this is easily remedied by heeding the advice given in the first edition and repeated here: PUT YOUR IMAGINATION TO WORK! But you’ll do that anyway. It’s the key to understanding what happened on the battlefields and, therefore, to making a visit to them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Peter Pedersen

Canberra 2017


Dr Peter Pedersen has written ten books on the First World War and contributions to several others, as well as numerous articles on campaigns from both world wars, the Vietnam War, and battlefields and military and aviation museums worldwide. He appears frequently on Australian television and radio and has spoken at military history conferences and seminars in Australia and abroad. He has also guided many tours to the Western Front and other battlefields in Europe and Asia, which included leading and organising the first British tour to Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, the Australian Command and Staff College, and the University of New South Wales, he commanded the 5th/7th Battalion (Mechanised), the Royal Australian Regiment, and was a political/strategic analyst in the Australian Office of National Assessments. After joining the Australian War Memorial as Senior Historian, he became Head of its Research Centre and then Acting Assistant Director of the Memorial and Head of the National Collection Branch. On retiring from the Memorial, Dr Pedersen was appointed consultant historian for the Australian government’s commemorative projects on the Australian battlefields of the Western Front.

Other books by Peter Pedersen

Monash as Military Commander

Images of Gallipoli




The Anzacs. Gallipoli to the Western Front

Anzacs at War

Anzac Treasures. The Gallipoli collection of the Australian War Memorial

Gallipoli (with Major General Julian Thompson and Dr Haluk Oral)


Many people contributed to this book.

Brigadier Chris Roberts AM, CSC (Retd) stood head and shoulders above all of them. Chris served with the SAS in Vietnam and has always been keenly interested in military history. His book on the ANZAC landing has become the standard work. I know Chris from our army days together and was delighted when he volunteered to help with the project as a researcher. From the outset he was infinitely more than that. He plotted the data gleaned for each battle on the relevant map and then drew up a detailed framework for the drive or walk that was invaluable for me. His comments, as a soldier who has led in battle and also held senior command, on tactics and terrain during our visits to the battlefields were immensely helpful. Chris also undertook the myriad ancillary tasks, some unforeseen, that arose during the project’s course. Mate, without your enthusiastic help, I’d have laboured to get the book done. I dedicate it to you with ‘the deepest of gratitude and respect’.

The staff of the Australian War Memorial took the project to their hearts. Major-General Steve Gower AO, AO (Mil), the Memorial’s Director, gave me every encouragement and support. So did Nola Anderson, Head of National Collections Branch, and Helen Withnell, Head of Public Programs Branch. Marylou Pooley, Head of Communications and Marketing, who had the idea for the project, was a tower of strength throughout. My colleagues in the Research Centre and the Military History Section shouldered extra duties so that I could concentrate on my writing. I must mention Craig Tibbits, Senior Curator of Official and Private Records, in this context. Craig did a superb job while filling in for me as Head of the Research Centre towards the end of the project, which gave me a clear run to the last full stop. Janda Gooding, Head of Photographs, Sound and Film, Hans Reppin, Manager, Multi-Media, and Bob McKendry, Image Interpreter in Multi-Media ensured that the illustrations were of the highest quality possible. Anne Bennie, Head of Retail and Online Sales, handled the considerable administrative dimensions of the project.

The maps reflect Keith Mitchell’s cartographic skill. Less obviously, they also reflect his forbearance and good humour in accommodating the frequent changes needed to get them exactly right.

On the battlefields, Martial Delabarre in Fromelles, Jean Letaille in Bullecourt, Claude and Collette Durand in Hendecourt, Philippe Gorczynski in Cambrai, Charlotte Cardoen-Descamps in Poelcapelle, and Johan Vanderwalle at Polygon Wood were unstinting in their advice, assistance and hospitality. Closer to home, Dolores Ho, Archivist at the Kippenberger Military Archive in the New Zealand Army Museum at Waiouru, and, in Wellington, the staff of both the National Library of New Zealand/Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand exemplified the ANZAC bond by handling every request for information promptly and efficiently.

To one and all, a heartfelt thanks.


I would like to thank the many users of the first edition of this guidebook whom I have met on the old Western Front and back in Australia. Your compliments are deeply appreciated and made the work that went into the guidebook worthwhile. They were also the inspiration for this update, which seeks, like its predecessor, to encourage visits to the battlefields and ensure that the experience remains rich.

Major General David Chalmers AO, CSC, First Assistant Secretary, Commemorations and War Graves at the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Ian Fletcher, the department’s Director of Overseas Projects, and Dr Brendan Nelson AO, Director of the Australian War Memorial, fully realised the need for a new edition of the guidebook and their generous support ensured that I had the means to complete it. In France, Wade Bartlett and Caroline Kempeneer took time off from working on Australian commemorative projects to take me around the battlefields so that I could revalidate each walk and drive. The frequent backtracking and rechecking involved proved that they had inexhaustible reserves of humour and patience. Wade’s astute user comments along the way were especially helpful. He also took many of the new photographs. John Wiley and Sons Australia, publishers of the first edition, leapt at the chance to do the second one. The enthusiasm of Ingrid Bond, Senior Editor, and her team was heart-warming.

Without your help, this second edition would not have seen the light of day. All those who want to know more about these great campaigns and the immortal legacy left by the Australians and New Zealanders who fought in them are in your debt.