Publication Details

Wade, L. 2009, ''''By diggers defended, by Victorians mended'': Australian soldiers and the reconstruction of Villers Bretonneux'', in M. Crotty (eds), When the Soldiers Return: November 2007 Conference Proceedings, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and classics, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, pp. 167-174.


The city of Melbourne adopted the French town of Villers Bretonneux under the auspices of the British League of Help in 1920. Money was raised in Victoria and sent to Villers Bretonneux to help with rebuilding the town after it was destroyed in fighting during April 1918. Many Australian soldiers had been involved in that fighting, and had lived in the cellars and dilapidated homes there. They had also helped the local population flee from the advancing Germans, and to pick up the pieces of their lives when they began returning to the area, such that the Australian men were welcomed into French families. The emotional attachments the Australian men thus formed with the town and her people translated into support for the adoption scheme once they returned home. In this way, the Australian ex-soldiers were carrying out the roles and obligations placed on them by dint of their positions within their adopted French families.