WWI memorial an eye-opener

February 01, 2018

Tom Whelan and Luke Bramley at a graveyard in Viller Bretonnuex.

Tom Whelan and Luke Bramley have returned from France and the United Kingdom with a new appreciation for the challenges faced by World War I troops.

The two Finley High School students spent the last few days of their gaelic football tour visiting the site of the Western Front where Anzac troops battled German forces.

Villers Bretonneux, the Adelaide Cemetery and Pozieres were among the locations visited by the boys and their tour group.

Luke said it was very confronting to learn about the younger troops that served in the war.

‘‘I’m 16, and many of them were 14 or 15 so knowing that back then I probably would have signed up and fought is pretty frightening,’’ he said.

‘‘Reading the headstones of so many young soldiers, I kept thinking it was a terrible waste of life.

‘‘Our tour guide explained the memorial at Villers Bretonneux was damaged during World War II.

‘‘It was amazing to see they left bullet holes throughout the memorial as a reminder of what happened.’’

More than 3000 Anzac troops died in the two Battles of Villers Bretonneux during the Spring Offensive of 1918.

Tom said travelling to France was the best way to gain a better understanding of what happened during World War 1.

‘‘It was good to go there and experience it for myself, getting a better feel for what it would have been like for the soldiers,’’ he said.

‘‘Seeing the name of my great great uncle Ted Powell on the honour board at the Australian Memorial was emotional.

‘‘Knowing his story of fighting in the war and the sacrifice these young men made for our country hit home.

‘‘Some of the key things learnt was the massive death toll that actually occurred during World War I.’’

Before going to France the boys and their tour groups played gaelic football in Ireland and also spent a couple of days in London.

The two teenagers will make a speech about their trip at the Berrigan RSL on Anzac Day, April 25.

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