Last week, participants from the Senator Sterle ANZAC Western Front Remembrance Tour 2015 returned from an eleven day tour of battlefields and memorials from the First World War in France and Belgium.
The Remembrance Tour, now in its third year, saw a group of 32 people, including 22 students and a team of mentors visit sites including Villers Brettoneux, Pheasant Wood, VC Corner, Cobbers Memorial, Thiepval, Tyne Cot, Fromelles, Ploegsteert, Hill 60 the Somme Museum and Flanders Fields to learn about Australia’s war involvement and to pay their respects to the thousands of Australian soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we could live in freedom.
The 2015 program culminated with the group attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Polygon Wood in Belgium where they laid wreaths. After a community breakfast in the town of Zonnebeke, the group attended commemorative services and laid wreaths at the Tyne Cot memorial, the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate as well as the Belgian War Memorial, both in the town of Ypres.
Throughout the tour, students laid their commemorative crosses, provided by the Director of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Dr Brendan Nelson on the headstones of Australian servicemen.
“ANZAC Day 2015 was an extremely powerful and emotional day, but I was very proud at how the students conducted themselves and of how well they represented their school, their state and their country when participating in the services and when meeting official guests,” Senator Sterle said.
“One touching highlight of the tour was when the group made a stop to the extension cemetery in Peronne where we discovered the headstone of Arthur Lindsay Cope, the great great uncle of one of the students on tour. It was an emotional experience for everyone and it was an honour for all of us to share this with Trent,” said Senator Sterle.
Trent Young is in the attached picture with Senator Sterle. This photo was taken just as he paid his respects to his great great uncle Arthur.
Over the past three years, 59 students have participated in the Senator Sterle Western Front Remembrance Tour.
“The goal of this tour has always been to give the students the opportunity to really see for themselves the volume of sacrifice that took place during the Great War so that they can appreciate and understand why we remember on Anzac Day. It was fantastic to do it all again this year, and encouraging to see how enthusiastic and engaged the students were when it came to understanding the lengths that our boys went to protect us all those years ago. It has been very heartening to learn that many students from past tours have continued to attend Anzac Dawn services after their initial visit to the Western Front,” said Senator Sterle.
“Before we left, I said that it was my hope that upon their return to Australia, the students would have a new appreciation of what it means to be Australian. I honestly believe that after visiting the sites where so many young Australians were lost that these students have come back with changed outlooks on life and on their country,” said Senator Sterle.
“I commend the students on their commitment to this tour and it was a pleasure to share this experience with them,” said Senator Sterle.