Victoria Shadow Minister for Veterans affairs Hugh Delahunty
Letter To The Editor: Fromelles Diggers Remembered
Victor P Taffa
The Battle of Fromelles during World War One was a defining moment in Australia’s war history.
On July 19 I was privileged to attend the dedication of the Pheasant Wood cemetery at Fromelles with Victoria’s Deputy Premier Rob Hulls and RSL President Major General David McLachlan.
On that day in 1916, two divisions of Australian and British infantry attacked a 3.6 km section of the German front line. What ensued has since been described by the Australian War Commission as the worst 24 hours in our nation’s history.
After a night of fighting, 5,533 of our soldiers were reported killed, wounded or missing.
With the support of the diggers’ family members and Lambis Englezos, who has campaigned tirelessly for the remembrance of Fromelles’ missing diggers, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has now laid more than 200 Australians to rest.
Of those, 94 have been traced and named, mostly from Victoria.
During the dedication ceremony, letters from family members of many of the diggers were read, but a personal highlight was the emotional and dignified burial of the last unnamed soldier.
The delegation also visited Polygon Wood, Menin Gate, Pozières, Villers-Bretonneux, VC Corner and Pèronne cemeteries, and memorials including the Cobbers’ Statue which was based on Sergeant Simon Frazer of Byaduk in Western Victoria.
The Battle of Fromelles, after many years in the back pages of our history books, has finally been given the recognition it deserves.
In the years to come I hope many make the pilgrimage to remember the Australian and British soldiers buried there. These men paid the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front.
They will not be forgotten.
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs