HISTORICAL FACT: Roger Willis of the Amiens History Association is fascinated by the area's history.
HISTORICAL FACT: Roger Willis of the Amiens History Association is fascinated by the area's history. DEIRDRE SMITH

Amiens soldier settlement comes alive

AS a professor steering a university through an amalgamation, Roger Willis thought life had been chaotic enough.

Then he retired to Amiens and after some baby steps, he's now got a $15 million project in mind.

There's a restored railway carriage on site that now functions as the Amiens Legacy centre but Roger sees that it could be a whole immersive experience, replicating life in the World War 1 trenches and then the soldier settler experience that followed.

"I must have a character weakness,” he said.

"I did all that and now I'm trying to do something crazy here.”

After following the academic circuit, living and working in Britain and the United Sates, Roger settled in Amiens with his wife, Colleen who comes from Stanthorpe. His choice was determined by snow, something he had seen a lot of in Ohio but he also liked the area's granite rocks and was able to find a property located at a height of 950 metres.

Buying the property next door as well, he became curious about the old soldier settler State Training arm but nobody seemed to know where it had been. He found the state archives and a picture there looked very familiar.

"I went for a walk and saw the same rocks,” he said.

"I got hooked, it was a light-bulb moment”.

That fascination with the history of the area that has led to him writing and researching a series of guides designed to help people understand and explore the soldier settler areas.

Two large guides, the Armistice Way Tour Guide and the Amiens Township Tour Guide have been joined by smaller ones concerned with Amiens Amitie, about the sister relationship with the World War 1 battleground city of Amiens in northern France and another detailing the visit of the Prince of Wales, later the infamous Edward V111 in 1920.

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