French welcome Anzac service

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AUSTRALIA'S enormous losses on the Western Front in World War I will be recognised with the nation's first Anzac Day dawn service in France next year, to be conducted at the same time as the annual Gallipoli service.

The April 25 service — to be held in Villers-Bretonneux in northern France in the infamous Somme — will mark the 90th anniversary of Australians liberating the village on Anzac Day in 1918. It will also herald the 90th anniversary of the subsequent armistice, which ended the "Great War" in November.

The service, which will be held at the village's imposing Australian National Memorial, "marks a huge shift for Australia's commemorative tradition", says Paul Stevens, the director of the Australian Office of War Graves. "But the 90th anniversary is the year to make the break with tradition."

Minister for Veterans Affairs Bruce Billson, who helped negotiate the 2008 event, said: "The capture of Villers-Bretonneux was a remarkable achievement that cost 1200 Australian lives, and because the local community has kept the memory alive we will be welcome there."

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