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New museum honours Australian sacrifice on Western Front 95 years on



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NEW MUSEUM HONOURS AUSTRALIAN SACRIFICE ON WESTERN FRONT 95 YEARS ON

Monday, 23 April 2012 VA031

A new museum located at the site of two of the bloodiest battles on the Western Front will be officially reopened on Anzac Day 2012, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, announced today.

Visiting the site ahead of its official opening with the Mayor of Bullecourt, Mr Jules Laude, Mr Snowdon said the Jean and Denise Letaille Museum - Bullecourt 1917 focuses on the battles fought at Bullecourt by Australians 95 years ago on 11 April and 3-17 May 1917.

“Whilst some gains were made in the Bullecourt battles, they were extremely costly for Australia - with more than 10,000 men killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner,” he said.

The museum was established by the late Jean and Denise Letaille OAM, with their collection of remnants left behind in the fields by the Australian, British and German soldiers who fought there during the First World War.

Initially they displayed the artefacts in a small museum in the local school, before relocating the collection to the barn and stable of their farm in 1995.

Mr Laude said over the years, Jean and Denise have warmly welcomed thousands of visitors to view the collection, in particular Australians keen to trace where ancestors had fought so gallantly.

“They amassed documents and collected anecdotes about the men who fought so far from home, and in doing so formed friendships with many Australian families,” he said.

Jean donated this unique collection and part of his property to the local community to allow for the major redevelopment of the original museum in 2011-2012, under the supervision of French regional authorities and in partnership with the Australian Government.

The project, at a cost of around $1.15 million is jointly funded by the French authority, the Conseil Régional Nord-Pas de Calais, and the Australian Government.

“Sadly Jean and Denise did not live to see the opening of this fantastic facility but I know their memory will continue in the walls of this lasting tribute to Australian service on the Western Front,” Mr Snowdon said.

The refurbished Bullecourt Museum forms just one element of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which will link sites marking the key battles involving Australian soldiers in the First World War.

The Australian Government has committed $10 million towards the Trail and it will include sites at Ypres, Zonnebeke (Passchendaele) and Ploegsteert in Belgium, and Fromelles, Bullecourt,

Pozières, Mont St Quentin and Villers-Bretonneux in France. All sites are expected to be completed by 2014.

“In the majority of these locations, the communities have long recognised Australia’s contribution in their country during the war, and have existing local museum or visitor facilities that can be enhanced to improve the trail,” Mr Snowdon said.

For images of the museum or more information on it, the Battles of Bullecourt or the Australian Remembrance Trail visit www.dva.gov.au/media.

Media inquiries: Minister Snowdon: Lidija Ivanovski 0407 108 935 or Marcus Butler (02) 6277 7820 or 0417 917 796. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203