(Australian Associated Press)
The images and stories of Australians who fought in France 100 years ago are so vividly confronting and intimate there are tears in the eyes of some spectators in the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux.
Australia’s museum in northern France will be officially opened on Tuesday with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in attendance.
But it was also open on Monday to family members of those involved in the war giving them a chance to experience the interactive displays before the formal launch.
The $100 million museum in France was announced three years ago by then prime minister Tony Abbott who wanted to raise the profile of Australia’s involvement on the Western Front.
It is named after Sir John Monash who led the Australian force to a succession of victories in the final months of the war and is now widely regarded as Australia’s greatest ever military commander.
The centre bills itself as an immersive experience and you begin to experience that just walking down a trench into the centre at the Australian War Memorial outside Villers-Bretonneux.
Once inside you don headphones and hear the stories of soldiers as you walk past the interactive displays.
It is an intimate and quite personal experience. Locked in their own private worlds on Monday, other people also appeared both moved and impressed.
The museum will be open to all from Anzac Day, when more than 7000 people are registered to attend the dawn service in the town, a century after the April 25, 2018 Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
The little French town was captured on April 24, 1918, by German soldiers who began pushing west towards Amiens.
It was liberated the next day after two Australian units – the 13th Brigade of the 4th Division and the 15th Brigade of the 5th division – were set the main task of retaking Villers- Bretonneux.
The victory wasn’t achieved without significant casualties – 1464 dead and wounded – but it established the Australians as a premier fighting force on the Western Front.
Prince Charles is expected to deliver a reading at the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux this Anzac Day after both Mr Turnbull and Mr Phillipe deliver their commemorative addresses.