Australia’s WWI Visitor Center- among the very best!

From our mooring on the Somme we biked to the ridge upon which stands Australia’s WWI Monument and the superb Sir John Monash Visitor Center. Given its height and the commanding view if offered, one can see why the German Army picked this spot. Facing away from the Somme it is less imposing and it is from this direction that the Australians came, and yet still struggled mightily. The tower at the center of the complex is about 8 stories high and from here the view over the now tranquil farmland and towns with their church spires is delightful. Corbie, where we are moored, shows us its lovely old church, closed for renovations (we got in by chance), a fine reference point.


The superb audio visual presentation in the Sir John Monash Cernter gives a well defined account of the efforts of these volunteers. At the time the Australian constitution prohibited its standing army from participation abroad. 416,809 men enlisted, there were more than 60,000 were killed with 156,000 other casualties. Some 24,000 died just taking this ridge.

There are 20 audio-visual screens sensed by the device the Center provides. The narrative takes you through the battle and some of the life stories of those who survived intact, handicapped, maimed, suffering from PTSD, or died, and words from loved ones. For more information see

Here the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux April 24–27, 1918. The losses were losses were heavy, gains small. They later fought the Germans in August, as the former sought to maximize gains in advance of the arrival of significant numbers of American troops and equipment.

Monash created a battle plan that was widely hailed, coordinating the efforts of air, tanks and ground forces, greatly aiding the effort to take the ridge. The Center opened in 2018. It

view of graves

Pula, Croatia, and its Fabulous Roman Amphitheatre

August 22, 2014

Our visit to Pula, Croatia

Croatia is just to our south, and we’d never been there.  It has a certain allure because it is Western European but somehow not, as it was part of Yugoslavia during the post war period.  It became more Slavic during that period and the traditional folk dance music you hear in the video (link below) reflects that origin.

Pula like Trieste is on the Adriatic.  Most noted for the Roman Amphitheater, it also has a temple and other bits from the Roman era.  It is an attractive town with 20 km of rocky beach the locals love.

To get there by land you cross Slovenia, so it’s 3 countries in two hours on the fast bus, but four hours through even more of the Croatian countryside on the way back.  Slovenia is in the EU but Croatia is not, so there’s no border check leaving Italy but in and out of the other two countries there is.  With my shiny new Italian passport we had no problems, although Peg was stamped in and the border guard suggested she get a ‘permesso di sojourno,” (residence permit) which as my wife and with an officially registered marriage certificate, should be no problem at all.

It’s a lovely town with architecture from the 13th, 19th and 20th century. There are pedestian zones, lots of cafes and eateries, summer sunshine and today a very pleasant temperature, in the low 20’s.  People walk about in shorts and lightweight shirts.  You hear what I assume is Croatian, lots of Italian and perhaps as much English; people who deal with tourists spoke it reasonably well.

It’s about a ten minute walk to the Amphitheater from the bus station.  The amphitheater is enormous, probably not as big as the Coliseo in Rome, but it is much more intact.  Only the seating area is largely gone, maybe a few hundred left out of the original 25,000.  It must have been spectacular when filled, and the fabric roof in place.

The main pedestrian zone is one of the more attractive ones we’ve seen but not all that different from others.   We had lunch in the area.  The service was very attentive, and the food quite good, for a bit less than Trieste, even, although we’d heard Croatia has become quite expensive.

It is still an active port and ship building continues.  There are large bays for ship repair as well as large yellow cranes for unloading and loading cargo vessels.

A Bit of History

Human remains (Homo erectus)  in the area date to 1.5 million years.  Pottery dates to 6000 BCE.  Inhabitation in Pula proper dates to the 10 century BCE.  Greek pottery and statuary remains attest to that people”s presence.

Starting around the 1st century BCE a Venetic or Illyrian tribe  lived here.  Under Julius Caesar the town became an important port, with a population  then of around 30,000.  However it sided with Cassius against Augustus, and the town was destroyed.  It was soon rebuilt and with it came the amphitheater (finished in 68 CE) which you will see in the slide show video.

The Venetians took over the city in the 1200’s and the Hapsburgs arrived in 1997.  After WWI the whole peninsula became part of Italy.  Mussolini persecuted the Slavic residents and many fled.  The Germans took over in WWII after Italy collapsed, and Pula was bombed heavily by the Allies after the u-boat installation.  Pula joined Yugoslavia in 1947.  Most of the Italians fled in 1946-47 in the run up.   To this day, Croatia is predominantly Roman Catholic.


See my art at