Prince William’s tribute to WWI soldiers
PRINCE William has led tributes in France as hundreds gathered in the northern town of Amiens to mark the battle which became known as the beginning of the end of World War I.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Australian Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester joined the prince and almost 1000 veterans' family members to acknowledge the sacrifice of the young Allied soldiers who fought in the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918.
In the beautiful Amiens cathedral, which somehow survived both wars, tributes were paid to the soldiers whose decisive victory over the Germans that day a century ago started the 100 days of operations which led to the Armistice in November. German families also attended the service.
Amiens, which now has a population of around 135,000 people, is situated on the River Somme and was a vital railway town which connected Paris with the north.
British and Australian troops played a major role in defending the town.
"From the very start of the First World War, Amiens found itself at the heart of the conflict,'' Prince William told those assembled in the cathedral.
"For most of the war, it was just behind the Allied front lines, and military personnel soon became a familiar sight on its streets, around its shops, cafes and hotels. For thousands of servicemen, it became a home away from home.''
Prince William said the armies of France and the British Empire (which included Australians and Canadians) had come together in Amiens.
"In the summer of 1918, this was the springboard for the Allies' offensive which would eventually lead to victory on the Western Front,'' he said.
"Amiens was symbolic of the 'entente cordiale', the co-operation without which victory was impossible.
"It is entirely fitting therefore, that today, that same international coalition has returned to Amiens with our former enemy, in peace and partnership.''
According to the Australian War Memorial, a mass of assembled Allied forces, including Australians, launched an offensive to push through the German front lines to victory.
"It was to involve the 1st French and 4th British armies, but was led by combined Australian and Canadian forces,'' the memorial states on its website.
"There was a mist, which helped the element of surprise, and through it moved the joint forces of a line of tanks and infantry.
"The crucial work of the heavy artillery held off fire from German guns, so that troops could get across the land."
Setting out from the positions of Villers-Bretonneux and Hamel, the Australian troops in two hours had accomplished all their objectives, and the Canadian troops that had begun the attack alongside them had advanced several kilometres.
"In just over three hours, the enemy's front line had been overrun. In total, the Allied forces captured 29,144 prisoners, 338 guns, and liberated 116 towns and villages.
"(German General Erich) Ludendorff called 8 August "the black day of the German army.''