$100m war memorial for France

Tony Abbott's Government has set aside $100 million to build a high-tech interpretive centre at Australia's most important European war cemetery.

_The West Australian _ understands Federal Cabinet has already signed off on the money for the centre in north-east France ahead of an official announcement next month.

The scale of the investment reflects the Prime Minister's determination to reconfigure Australia's World War I remembrance so that it has more focus on the triumphs and sacrifices in Europe than the disaster of Gallipoli. The centre, to be named after Australia's greatest general Sir John Monash, will be built behind the existing Australian War Memorial at Villers-Brettonneux.

Modelled after a modern addition to the British-built memorial in nearby Thiepval, it will be sunk into the ground to allow visitors an interactive experience of a soldier's life in the Somme's trenches, using film and photographs from Canberra's Australian War Museum.

It is understood the Government plans a five-member panel of eminent Australians to oversee the project, with a view to completing it by 2018, the centenary of WWI's end.

Author Les Carlyon and Seven West Media's chairman Kerry Stokes, a member of the Australian War Memorial Council, are considered likely candidates for the panel.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson will head to France in four to five weeks to discuss the plan with mayor Patrick Simon.

Mr Abbott said he wanted the Western Front to take a bigger part in Australia's national story.

"I would like it to loom larger in the Australian ethos," he said.

The town of Villers-Brettoneux has particular significance to Australia.

The site of the first tank battle, the town was recaptured by Diggers on Anzac Day 1918 at a cost of 1200 Australian lives.

Of the 46,000 Australians killed on the Western Front, 11,000 with no grave are recognised on the walls of the local war cemetery.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West