Australia remembers its soldiers who fought and died in the First World War Battle of Fromelles one hundred years ago today.
The Battle of Fromelles, west of Lille in France, lasted less than 24 hours and was the first major engagement for Australian soldiers on the Western Front. In the battle, the Australian 5th Division suffered 5,533 casualties, the bloodiest single day in Australia’s military history.
A commemoration service at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery will be held today at 1pm (9pm AEST) attended by the Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Materiel, the French Secretary of State for Veterans’ and Commemorations, Jean-Marc Todechini, the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, the Governors of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell DSC, AM, the Military Governor of Lille, General Bernard Maitrier, and other dignitaries.
At the service there will be a Headstone Dedication for six Australian soldiers who were identified by the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties Fromelles project team.
The soldiers are Second Lieutenant James Benson from Bundaberg (Qld), Private Justin Hercules Breguet from Geelong (Vic), Private Clifton Sydney Brindal from Sydney (NSW), Private Sidney Broom from Mount Morgan (Qld), Private William Burke from Parkes (NSW) and Private Robert Thomas Maudsley from Keswick, Adelaide (SA).
Another service will be conducted at the memorial wall of the VC Corner Cemetery at 5.15pm (1.15am AEST). The VC Corner Cemetery contains the graves of more than 400 Australian soldiers who died at Fromelles and could not be identified. It is the only solely Australian war cemetery in France.
Mr Tehan said it was difficult to comprehend the scale of Australian losses in the
Battle of Fromelles.
"The Anzac spirit of courage and resilience was exemplified on the Western Front and today is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the experiences of those brave soldiers and to be grateful for the service of every Australian man and woman who defends our country," Mr Tehan said.
"Battlefields such as Fromelles, Pozières, Bullecort, Passchendaele, Le Hamel, Villers-Bretonneux and Mont St Quentin are part of our history and remain places of great national significance.
"We must remember the service and sacrifice of our soldiers on the Western Front".
Today’s service marks the start of a series of 100-year anniversaries of battles involving Australians on the Western Front. A service to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Pozières will be held on Saturday.