Anzac crowd numbers expected to drop in France

Fears of European terror attacks and a waning interest in WWI centenary events appear to have hit crowd numbers for Anzac commemorations at Villers-Bretonneux.


While last year’s dawn service at the French site attracted 6500 visitors, so far only 2700 have registered for Monday’s service.

Organisers remain positive, noting that early registrations in the past have sometimes accounted for less than half the people who actually attend, but they are not blind to the change.

“The dynamics are clearly different this year,” Major General Dave Chalmers, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs head of commemorations and war graves, told AAP on Saturday.

“We don’t know how much of a drop it will be, but I think it’s fair to say that there will be less people attending services this year than last year.”

Maj Gen Chalmers said there were several reasons for the diminishing numbers, including the Paris attacks on November 13, but he still expected between three and four thousand people to attend the Villers-Bretonneux’s Australian National Memorial service.

“Given that, across the board, Australian tourism in France has fallen away quite markedly since November, that’s a very encouraging number.”

He also noted that 2015 was a peak for visitor numbers, with the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing regarded as “the centenary of the Anzac” by many.

While much of the Somme region is kitted out for Anzac Day – Australian and New Zealand flags are heavily displayed on lampposts, houses and even projected onto buildings – the lower number of Antipodeans in town is noticeable.

The Somme tourism board said it was expecting between four and five thousand people to visit this week, noting a drop from the previous two Anzac Days.