Anzac Day Dawn Service - Villers-Bretonneux, France

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

Media contact

Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

Release content

26 April 2023

In 1918, at her home in Botany, Sydney, Jessie Hickson received a knock on the door.

A clergyman delivered the news that every parent of the time dreaded.

Jessie’s son had been killed in action in the Great War.

Private Warwick Hickson was an organ builder who became a soldier in June 1916. 

He lived around the corner from the home my wife and I lived in when we married.

Less than a year later he was here, in France, an infantryman in the 20th Battalion.

On the 9th of July 1918 he was killed in fighting outside Villers-Bretonneux.

He was just 24 years old and one of 46,000 Australians to die on the Western Front.

His mates buried him outside Villers-Bretonneux. 

“A good many others were buried close by, and we placed a cross on each grave” remembered one. 

Indeed, the 13th and 15th Australian Brigades had earlier fought to liberate this town.

And they achieved a famous victory, but at a terrible cost with some 1,500 Australian casualties on one day alone.

Private Hickson, like so many of his fellow diggers, had died a world away from his home and family, on blood soaked, muddy foreign soil.

Those men now lay in this same soil, at peace, in the love and comfort of a grateful town.

They are brothers who sacrificed all, so that others may live in peace and freedom.

Their courage, their valour, their honour lie with them in this sacred earth.

This monument symbolises that they are Australian, that we are proud of their service, that they shall never be forgotten.

The bravery of Australian diggers fighting with their French allies during that war forged a deep bond of trust, respect, and friendship between our two great nations.

Born of the blood and sweat spilt, side by side, on this land, our forebears now rest together, in peace and harmony, having defended democracy, liberty, peace.

Over a century later those shared values are upheld, the bonds between our people and nations are stronger, our pride in their sacrifice everlasting.

We thank the people of Villers-Bretonneux and France for honouring that bond and the sacrifice of Australians, by joining with us in friendship, on this day and every day, to remember them.

On Anzac Day, Australians come together at home and on land such as this throughout the world.

We come to pay our respects, honour and remember all those Australians who have served in wars, conflicts, peace and humanitarian operations over more than a century.

We are proud of them.

We proclaim that although they may rest a long way from their home and family, they will never be forgotten.

Lest we forget.

Other related releases