Monday, 19 March 2012 VA021
FAREWELL TO FOUNDER OF MUSEUM HONOURING AUSTRALIAN SERVICE ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Warren Snowdon today offered his condolences to the family of a French man who had dedicated his life to honouring Australian service on the Western Front.
Mr Snowdon said Mr Jean Letaille OAM of Bullecourt France had passed away, aged 83, and his funeral was held in France this weekend.
“Jean and his late wife Denise spent more than 30 years collecting relics left behind from the First World War to display in a museum they established in Bullecourt,” he said.
Bullecourt is the site of two of the bloodiest battles on the Western Front. More than 10,000 Australians were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in ill-conceived and costly attacks against the enemy defences in and around Bullecourt between 11 April and 17 May 1917.
Mr Snowdon said with the help of local farmers, the Letailles accumulated a large collection of weapons, machinery and other war relics left behind by Australian, British and German soldiers.
While Jean was Mayor of Bullecourt, he created a small museum in the Town Hall to display these items before relocating the collection to the barn and stable on his property in 1995.
“A visit to the ‘barn’ or Bullecourt Museum has become a must for any Australian pilgrimage to the Western Front – Jean and Denise warmly welcoming thousands of visitors over the years, particularly Australians whose ancestors fought at Bullecourt during the War.”
Jean donated his unique collection and part of his property to the local community to allow for the re-development of the original museum last year. The completed Jean and Denise Letaille Museum – Bullecourt 1917 forms part of the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front and will be officially re-opened on Anzac Day 25 April 2012.
The work of Jean and Denise was recognised in 1997 when they were appointed Honorary Members of the Order of Australia. Denise passed away several years ago.
“Australia appreciates the deep respect the Letailles have shown to Australia in remembering its servicemen and women who fought to defend French communities during the First World War. May Jean and Denise rest in peace with the knowledge that their memory will live on in this lasting tribute,” Mr Snowdon said.