THE Mildura RSL will officially be represented by a local Vietnam veteran at the Villers Bretonneux Australian National Memorial in France on Remembrance Day.
Irymple’s Bernard Denner, PICTURED, has secured a spot in the allocated seating zone at the memorial, which will mark the centenary commemoration of the First World War Armistice.
Bernard has been given permission to lay a wreath on behalf of the Mildura RSL during the occasion.
The wreath, made by Irymple floral designer Mary Crisera, is constructed of all artificial Australian flora. It contains eucalyptus leaves, wattle, gum berries and has a centrepiece of a hand-knitted red poppy supplied by the Mildura RSL.
The Australian flag sits in the middle, and the wreath clearly identifies Mildura as its source. The wreath signifies the honour with which all serving men and women are regarded, from all conflicts in which Australians served since World War 1.
While Bernard is in France, he will use the occasion to honour, with a second wreath, his grandfather George G. Williams, who survived WW1 after serving at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
Bernard’s grandfather also volunteered at the Heidelberg Rehabilitation Hospital after WW2, assisting those diggers who had lost their legs in the fighting.
Bernard, who served with the 3RAR in Vietnam, will also visit the war grave of Harold (Curly) Croft. Other members of the Croft family were early settlers in the Millewa.
Curly was wounded on the wire and taken prisoner before dying a couple of days later in the war-time German hospital.
Bernard will leave a small posy, of similar construction to the RSL wreath, as well as a laminated picture of Curly.
Bernard’s travel partner, Rotary Club of Irymple’s Marianne Van Dijk, will take advantage of the trip to visit a local French Rotary Club, and exchange flags and share their experience of the occasion, which is significant in both French and Australian history.
Bernard will also visit the Sir John Monash Centre adjacent to the Villers-Bretonneux memorial, that was opened in April of this year.
The Department of Veterans Affairs website notes that: “In late September 1918, Allied troops broke through the Hindenburg Line, Germany’s last defensive position on the Western Front.
“With her armies in disarray and facing revolution at home, Germany was compelled to admit defeat.”
The Armistice, signed by senior Allied and German representatives in the forest at Compiègne outside Paris, came into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918.
At that hour, all fighting ceased, and on the Western Front, soldiers on both sides laid down their arms.
In Australia, people poured into town and city streets to celebrate, but festivities were tempered by grief at the enormous loss of life.
While the Armistice ended the fighting, the Treaty of Versailles, signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles on June 28, 1919, ended the war.
Prime Minister William Morris (Billy) Hughes and Deputy Prime Minister Joseph Cook signed on Australia’s behalf.