From: Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Subscription List
Sent: Fri 23/11/2012 1:56 PM

SHARED HISTORY HELPS FORGE STRONGER TIES WITH BELGIUM

The shared military history between Australia and Belgium and the approaching commemorations around significant anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars have been recognised today at the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding.

At the Australian War Memorial, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac Warren Snowdon joined the Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of Belgium, Pieter De Crem, to sign the agreement.

Mr Snowdon said Australia has been working with Belgium in ensuring appropriate commemoration of the involvement of both nations in the World Wars.

“This MoU commits both our nations to cooperate closely in the lead up to a significant period of commemoration for both World Wars,” he said.

“Specifically the MoU considers stronger education of younger generations to learn about, and build an appreciation for, the shared military history of Australia and Belgium, and strengthening ties between veterans’ organisations and cultural institutions.”

Belgium and Australia fought as Allies in the First World War and each of the five Australian infantry divisions that served on the Western Front, as well as other branches of the Australian Imperial Force, fought in Belgium. More than 305,000 Australians served on the Western Front, including Belgium, and some 46,000 were killed.

Many of the Australians who lost their lives during 1917, the most costly year in Australia’s military history, died in Belgium. Many were killed in costly battles such as Messines and the long campaign known as the 3rd Ypres during which Australians played a central role in the fighting at the Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele.

During the Second World War, Australians and Belgians were allied in the common cause against the Axis. Many Australians served in Belgium as members of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with the RAF’s Bomber or Fighter Commands. Late in the war, after Belgian territory had been liberated, Australian airmen serving in Royal Air Force squadrons flew operations direct from Belgian airfields.

Media inquiries:
Minister Snowdon: Marcus Butler 02 6277 7820 or 0417 917 796
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203