VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY and
General Directions: Villers-Bretonneux is a village 16 kilometres east of Amiens on the straight main road to St Quentin. The Cemetery is about 2 kilometres north of the village on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.
Villers-Bretonneux became famous in 1918, when the German advance on Amiens ended in the capture of the village by their tanks and infantry on 23 April. On the following day, the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, with units of the 8th and 18th Divisions, recaptured the whole of the village and on 8 August 1918, the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions advanced from its eastern outskirts in the Battle of Amiens. Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other burial grounds in the area and from the battlefields. Plots I to XX were completed by 1920 and contain mostly Australian graves, almost all from the period March to August 1918. Plots IIIA, VIA, XIIIA and XVIA, and Rows in other Plots lettered AA, were completed by 1925, and contain a much larger proportion of unidentified graves brought from a wider area. Later still, 444 graves were brought in from Dury Hospital Military Cemetery.
The following were among the burial grounds from which British graves were taken to Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery: Card Copse Cemetery, Marcelcave, on the road to Fouilloy, where 35 Australian soldiers were buried by the 2nd Australian Division in July and August, 1918. Dury Hospital Military Cemetery, under the wall of the Asylum near the West side of the Amiens-Dury road. From August, 1918, to January, 1919, this building was used intermittently by British medical units, and a cemetery was made next to an existing French Military Cemetery. The British cemetery contained the graves of 195 Canadian and 185 United Kingdom soldiers and airmen; 63 Australian soldiers; one man of the Cape Auxiliary Horse Transport Corps; and one French and one American soldier.
High Cemetery, Sailly-le-Sec, on the road to Ville-sur-Ancre, where 18 United Kingdom and eleven Australian soldiers were buried in June-August, 1918. Kangaroo Cemetery, Sailly-le-Sec (on the Ville-sur-Ancre road, but nearer Sailly), where 13 Australian soldiers were buried by the 41st Battalion in March-April, 1918, and 14 of the 58th (London) Division by their comrades in August, 1918. Lamotte-en-Santerre Communal Cemetery Extension. The village was captured by Australian troops on the 8th August, 1918, and the Extension contained the graves of 56 Australian and twelve United Kingdom soldiers who fell in August and September. La Neuville-les-Bray Communal Cemetery, containing the grave of one Australian soldier who fell in August, 1918.
Le Hamelet British Cemetery (behind the Church), containing the graves of 25 Australian soldiers who fell in April-July, 1918; and the Communal Cemetery Extension, in which 27 Australian soldiers and one from the United Kingdom were buried in July and August, 1916. Midway Cemetery, Marcelcave, 1,500 yards North-West of Marcelcave Church, made by the Canadian Corps and containing the graves of 53 Canadian and three United Kingdom soldiers who fell in August, 1918. Vaux-sur-Somme Communal Cemetery, containing three Australian graves of March-April, 1918, and two United Kingdom of 1916 and 1917; and the Extension, made in May-August, 1918, and containing the graves of 130 Australian soldiers and 104 soldiers (mainly 58th Division and Artillery) and one airman from the United Kingdom. Warfusee-Abancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, in which five Australian soldiers were buried by the 12th Australian Field Ambulance in August, 1918.
Within the cemetery stands the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, the Australian national memorial erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, to their dead, and especially to those of the dead whose graves are not known. The 10,700 Australian servicemen actually named on the memorial died in the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, the German advance of 1918 and the Advance to Victory. The memorial was unveiled by King George VI in July 1938.
Victoria Cross: Lieutenant John Brillant, VC. 22nd Bn. Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment), 10/08/1918. Son of Joseph Brillant, of Rimouski, P.Q., Canada. Plot VIA. B. 20.
Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette" No. 30922, dated 27th Sept., 1918, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty when in charge of a company which he led in attack during two days with absolute fearlessness and extraordinary ability and initiative, the extent of the advance being twelve miles. On the first day of operations shortly after the attack had begun, his company's left flank was held up by an enemy machine gun. Lt. Brillant rushed and captured the machine-gun, personally killing two of the enemy crew. Whilst doing this, he was wounded but refused to leave his command. Later on the same day, his company was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. He reconnoitred the ground personally, organised a party of two platoons and rushed straight for the machine-gun nest. Here 150 enemy and fifteen machine-guns were captured. Lt. Brillant personally killing five of the enemy, and being wounded a second time. He had this wound dressed immediately, and again refused to leave his company. Subsequently this gallant officer detected a field gun firing on his men over open sights. He immediately organised and led a "rushing" party towards the gun. After progressing about 600 yards, he was again seriously wounded. In spite of this third wound, he continued to advance for some 200 yards more, when he fell unconscious from exhaustion and loss of blood. Lt. Brillant's wonderful example throughout the day inspired his men with an enthusiasm and dash which largely contributed towards the success of the operations."
Casualty Details: UK 1089, Canada 267, Australia 779, New Zealand 2, South Africa 4, Total Burials: 2141
Regimental breakdown of burials within this cemetery
Compiled by Barry Cuttell