Picture: Jake BadiorA NEWCASTLE army musician will herald the dawn in Villers-Bretonneux this Anzac Day.
Shaun Manning admits playing The Lament from the Australian National Memorial over more than 2000 World War I soldiers’ graves will be an emotional moment.
“From the top of the tower, I’ll be looking out over the Western Front and thinking about those young guys who lived through such terrible times in the trenches,” he said.
“The place is so peaceful and beautiful now, it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like during the war.”
Musician Manning, who works at the University of Newcastle as a chemical engineer and has been an army reservist for 31 years, travelled to France as part of the Australian Army Band.
“Now that I have seen the Somme, I feel very strongly about having the opportunity to be here and pay my respects to these guys, who answered the call, volunteered, and gave up their lives for the cause of freedom,” he said.
“I have been surprised to see all the Australian flags flying throughout the towns and how much regard the people in this part of France still have for our diggers and what they did during World War I.
The father of three said it was confronting to see memorials to servicemen who had died for their country in their early 20s, the same stage of life as his three children Cameron, Bianca and Duncan were now.
“Walking through the Commonwealth cemeteries in this area has opened my eyes to the fact that the average age of the people who came here, and died here, is the same as my own children,” Musician Manning said.