TODAY, as the world prepares to mark the close of the WWI centenary, we take you to the heart of the Australian experience on the Western Front as never before.
In the groundbreaking ANZAC 360 project, any Australian can travel to the battlefields of France and Belgium in immersive virtual reality 360-degree vision simply by using their phone or tablet — it’s free, simple and stunning.
Full surround vision using drone and ground-level footage lets viewers soar over the fields and explore trenches, bunkers and memorials, while period imagery and video, graphics and sound effects transport you back a century.
Brought to you by the team behind the award-winning AnzacLive, ANZAC 360 is a collaboration between News Corp Australia and the Department of Veterans Affairs, produced by Grainger Films.
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The best way to experience it is to download the free ANZAC 360 app from the App Store or Google Play; clips will also be released on AnzacLive’s Facebook page.
The app features key sites and events along the Australian Trail of Remembrance — the epicentre of our nation’s struggle in northwest Europe — where 295,000 Aussies served between 1916-18.
Viewers will be taken from the shocking encounters at Fromelles and Pozieres in the 1916 Somme offensive, through the heroic slog of Polygon Wood, Broodeseinde and Passchendaele a year later, to the desperate turning point of Villers-Bretonneux and push to victory begun at Le Hamel in 1918.
Then there are the places where our Diggers relaxed behind the lines: beautiful French villages, chateaus and the awe-inspiring subterranean city at Naours — where Anzacs created the world’s largest collection of WWI graffiti and where the ANZAC 360 crew found an old friend.
Each three-minute film features the stories of some of our most charismatic veterans: from familiar legends like Sir John Monash and many of our Victoria Cross heroes, to lesser-known, yet extremely moving, anecdotes of ordinary men and women who performed their duty in extraordinary times.
Familiar faces from the AnzacLive social media project, including WWI nurse Alice Ross-King (Vic), larrikin digger Archie Barwick (NSW and Tas) and Queensland’s Arthur James Adams also feature. Descendants of Alice and Archie yesterday tested the app at the Hyde Park War Memorial in Sydney.
“It is very, very good,” said Elizabeth Barwick, of Sydney, viewing the battlefield at Pozieres where Archie fought.
“I have read my grandfather’s diaries several times because they were very exciting, very interesting — but to actually see it come to life in ANZAC 360 brings a whole new dimension.
“It was really lovely to see it. The educational possibilities are very exciting.”
Alice’s granddaughter Maggie Johnson, her own granddaughter Emily, five, and husband Keith came up from Melbourne for the occasion and became quite emotional when viewing.
“This is a wonderful way for everyone to get on board remembering all those people that fought for our country,” Maggie said.
While they used a headset — and you can too if you have Google cardboard or similar — no special gear is needed to use ANZAC 360. Just download it from your app store and play it on your phone or tablet.
We recommend headphones for surround audio and standing or sitting still while the intro map scene of each clip plays — then moving your device and body around to get the full immersive experience.
Darren Chester, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, will launch the project today at the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux — one of the sites featured.
“While Gallipoli will be forever etched in our nation’s history, it was right here on the Western Front that we suffered our greatest losses during the First World War,” he said.
“This new app and videos, developed in partnership with News Corp Australia and produced by Grainger Films, will allow all Australians, including our next generation of schoolchildren, to experience these sites from their classroom or at home in their living room.
“Most importantly, it allows those who cannot visit these sites in person the opportunity to feel like a visitor, but at the same time inspiring others to travel over here to France, or across the border in Belgium.”
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