Australians and Kiwis mark Anzac Day in Flanders

Summary

Dignitaries from Australia and New Zealand paid their respects to their fallen compatriots at services in West Flanders

100th anniversary

Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, was in West Flanders at the weekend to mark Anzac Day. The date is marked every year to commemorate the start of the Gallipoli campaign, which began on 25 April, 1915 and lasted until 9 January, 1916, with the loss of more than 56,000 Allied lives and the same number of Ottoman troops.

More than 10,000 of the dead were from the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC. New Zealand’s defence minister, Gerry Brownlee, and Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois also attended the service at the Buttes New British Cemetery near Zonnebeke, where 750 Anzac soldiers are buried.

The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the day began on Saturday at 6.00, by which time there were already more than 1,000 people present. The remembrance continued at Tyne Cot Cemetery, also in Zonnebeke, as well as Berks Cemetery in Komen and later in the evening at the Menin Gate in Ypres. New Zealand held a separate service at Mesen, where many Kiwis lost their lives in 1917 at what is known in English as the Battle of Messines.

At Tyne Cot, Bourgeois presented Bishop (pictured) with a bag of local soil, like those that travelled to London in 2013 to become part of a memorial garden. The soil will be added to a similar garden in Canberra.

Tyne Cot is the largest of Flanders’ war cemeteries and the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world; it is the last resting place for 12,000 soldiers, many of them unidentified. The memorial Cross of Sacrifice in the centre of the identical Portland Stone grave markers carries a memorial plaque to the third Australian regiment.

The surrounding walls are inscribed with the names of 33,783 British troops and 1,176 New Zealanders whose remains were never recovered. The names of another 54,896 Commonwealth dead are inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The land on which the cemetery stands was given as a gift in perpetuity by the Belgian king Albert I in gratitude to the sacrifice of those who are honoured there.

Photo courtesy Twitter/JulieBishopMP

First World War

Claiming the lives of more than nine million people and destroying entire cities and villages in Europe, the Great War was one of the most dramatic armed conflicts in human history. It lasted from 1914 to 1918.
Flanders Field - For four years, a tiny corner of Flanders known as the Westhoek became one of the war’s major battlefields.
Untouched - Poperinge, near Ypres, was one of the few towns in Flanders that remained unoccupied for most of the war.
Cemetery - The Tyne Cot graveyard in Passchendaele is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.
550 000

lives lost in West Flanders

368 000

annual visitors to the Westhoek

1 914

First Battle of Ypres