Today is the 101st Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles.
A year ago, we were so privileged to be in Fromelles to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle, and those Australian and other lives lost or forever changed.
From the website of the Shrine of Remembrance Melbourne
The Battle of Fromelles was fought on the 19th of July, 1916. It was planned as a diversionary attack to prevent German troops moving from this, a relatively quiet area, to the large battle being fought in the valley of the Somme. Fromelles was a bloody disaster. The attack by brave men from the largely untried 5th Australian Division was utterly destroyed by determined Bavarian troops who were well dug in and with large numbers of machine guns. Australian bravery and training was no match for this stubborn defence using all the advantages of German technology.
The attack remains the single bloodiest 24 hours in Australian history. By the morning of the 20th of July 1916, Australia had suffered an incredible 5522 killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. Many stories of bravery and humanity emerged from the carnage including that of Victorian farmer Sergeant Simon Fraser, who, after the battle, could not resist the suffering of the wounded and embarked on many perilous trips into no-man’s-land, the area between the German and Allied lines, to bring men to safety. One soldier cried after Fraser “Don’t forget me, Cobber” and it is from this that the memorial statue’s name is derived.
A large number of the dead could not be recovered from the battlefield until after the war. Time having taken its toll on their remains, they are simply ‘missing’. The mystery of their fate has been an ongoing, multi-generational horror for their families. Many families gained some relief when a mass-burial site was found near Fromelles and exhumed. It yielded the lost remains of 250 soldiers killed during the Battle of Fromelles who were reburied in individual graves in 2010, their dignity and in the case of many, their identity was restored.
These days, when you look across that beautiful French rural landscape from the German front line (Cobbers) to VC Corner … you can see that our brave troops never stood a chance. It’s hard to reconcile the hell they suffered with the peace and beauty of the site today.
LEST WE FORGET!