Coommemoration – 104th Anniversary – Battle of Fromelles

On Sunday 19th July, the 31st Bn Assoc (Brisbane Branch) held a Commemoration Service to Honour the Casualties sustained at the Battle of Fromelles. The Battle took place on the 19th/20th July 1916. This Battle, planned and organised by the British High Command, was the first battle in which Australian troops took part on the Western Front. It proved to be a disaster and was responsible for 5533 casualties, the highest sustained over a 24 hour period in the British Army, in WW1. The 31st Bn, took a major part in the Battle and we commemorate this day as most important in our history. We again draw your attention to the fact that the 31st Bn is the only battalion from the 5th Div. AIF  on strength in the ADF today.

The Service was held in Ipswich, at the Graveside of Lt. Arthur Adams DCM, – 31st Bn. Lt Adams came from Rosewood, fought in the Battle & survived, later to become the Rosewood Shire Clerk and the First President of the Rosewood RSL. We were honoured to have COL Mark Plath (Ret’d) as our Guest Speaker.  Mark is a descendant of Col Fred Toll DSO & Bar MBE VD, the CO of the 31st Bn in WW1, and who led the Bn into Battle at Fromelles.

We were also honoured to again have in attendance, LTCOL Damien Green & WO1 John Stafford, the CO & RSM of the 31st/42nd Battalion RQR.  – LTCOL Green has stated that in his Opinion – “The Battle of Fromelles is the most significant war time action in our history, worthy of remembering to encourage our younger generation, so we never forget. To be a member of the current embodiment of a Battalion involved in that Battle puts increased emphasis and responsibility on us to ensure that happens”.

We were greatly supported by both the Rosewood & Ipswich RSL Sub Branch’s. Five of our friends from the 49th Bn Assoc attended, and joined us for the lunch afterwards at the CSI Club.

Thank you all who attended, and a special thanks to Mick James who was our chief organiser of the Event.

There was also a private Wreath Laying Service held in Fromelles France, organised by the Aust. Dept of Veteran Affairs & the Fromelles Council.  Due to the Corona Virus Situation in France it was closed to the Public. A wreath was laid on our behalf by our Honorary Member Pierre Seillier.

Our special thanks go to Pierre, who also designed & produced the Tributes that we presented to COL Mark Plath & to the Presidents of Rosewood & Ipswich RSL’s.

A copy of Col Mark Plath’s address is below the photos>
Members who attending the Fromelles Commemoration
Honorary 31st Battalion Association Member Pierre Seillier
Laying wreath at the commemoration at Fromelles, France

Colonel Mark Plath (Rtd), Descendent of Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO and Bar, MBE, VD

Address of Commemoration – ‘Service Above Self’

Before we commence the Commemoration of the 104 th Anniversary of the Battle of

Fromelles, let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the

Land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and

emerging.

Let me also gratefully acknowledge the following distinguished guests:

  • Mr Ray Fogg, President, 31 st Infantry Battalion Association, Brisbane Branch
  • Mr Tony Wadeson, Secretary, 31 st Infantry Battalion Association, Brisbane Branch
  • Mr Rob Wadley, President, Ipswich RSL Sub-branch
  • Padre Peter Woodward, Ipswich RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Ken Savage, President, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Shane Walker, Vice President, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • Mr Brad Strong, Bugler, Rosewood RSL Sub-branch
  • LTCOL Damien Green, current Commanding Officer, 31 st /42 nd Battalion, Royal

Queensland Regiment

  • WO1 John Stafford, Regimental Sergeant Major, 31 st /42 nd Battalion, Royal

Queensland Regiment

  • Mr Mick James, Liaison Officer for my part in this important service

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to this important commemorative

service. Tony Wadeson advised a while ago that due to the COVID-19 pandemic

limitations in France, the annual commemorative ceremony at Fromelles is unlikely to

proceed, so today’s service is perhaps the only such recognition anywhere in the world

this year.

Thank you for being here today to honour the memory of those who so gallantly served

our nation. We remember especially those in the 31 st Battalion, Australian Imperial

Force during The Great War in general, and at the Battle of Fromelles in particular.

Moreover, thank you for the invitation to address this morning’s service which I

consider to be both an honour and a privilege. In titling my address, I have borrowed

the motto of Rotary International, ‘Service Above Self’, which epitomises the

sacrifices made by our forebears.

We stand here this morning at the graveside of Lieutenant Arthur Edward Adams, DCM

a clerk from Rosewood, who enlisted on 15 July 1915, nearly 19 years old, and despite

surviving the war, died at the tender age of just 28 years and 6 months. Not only did

Arthur Adams serve his Unit and country during conflict, but he was also the Founder

and President of the Rosewood RSL Sub-branch, hence that particular connection.

But my duty this morning is to remember and pay tribute to another member of the

31 st Battalion.

You see my mother’s maiden name was TOLL indicating my family relationship with

then Lieutenant Colonel, later, Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO and Bar, MBE, VD.

At 43 years of age, LTCOL Toll as the inaugural Commanding Officer of the newly raised

31 st and LT Adams as initially a Quartermaster Sergeant, joined together, served

together and successfully survived the war together, although I have not discovered if

they were especially well known to each other. But the unifying theme today for these

two great men and soldiers, was the attack at ‘Fleurbaix’ or sometimes referred to as

‘Petillon’, which would later become known as the Battle of Fromelles.

The attack was the début of the Australian Imperial Forces on the Western Front. The

British high command devised the attack as a feint to hold German reserves from

moving south to the Somme where the large allied offensive had begun on the 1 st of

July.

The Australian War Memorial described it as, ‘the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire

history.’ Of 7,080 British Expeditionary Force casualties, 5,533 were suffered by the

5th Australian Division (of which the 31 st was part); while the Germans lost 1,600–

2,000 men and 150 prisoners. This was perhaps the greatest loss by a single division in

24 hours during the entire war. Indeed, many historians consider Fromelles the most

tragic event in Australia’s history.

To the soldiers who fought at Fleurbaix, the Battle of Fromelles, was to quote, ‘an

unmitigated military disaster, the dismal culmination of muddled planning and reckless

decision-making by both British and Australian commanders and staff.’ Moreover, the

attack had little to no effect on the Somme battles, and even became cynically

dismissed by surviving soldiers as ‘that Fleurbaix stunt’.

In an official field record dated 27 July 1916 and titled ‘Total Casualties – Fleurbaix –

19 th /20 th July 1916, the 31 st Battalion reported 576 casualties, more than 50% of its

posted strength.

Almost 12 months prior, the 31 st Battalion was raised as part of the 8 th Brigade at

Enoggera Camp, then on the outskirts of Brisbane, in August 1915. As an aside,

Corporal Frederick Vivian Toll, son of the 31 st Commanding Officer was tragically killed

in action at Gallipoli on the 8 th of August 1915.

‘A’ and ‘B’ companies were formed of Queenslanders while ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies were

raised at Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria. In early October 1915, all elements were

united at Broadmeadows, and on the 5 th of November 1915, the battalion sailed

aboard His Majesty’s Australian Transport ‘Wandilla’ (A62) from Melbourne.

The 8 th Brigade joined the newly raised 5 th Australian Division in Egypt, and in June

1916 proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front. The 31 st Battalion fought

its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 th & 20 th of July 1916, having only entered the

front-line trenches three days previously.

But what of the man LTCOL Frederick William Toll or Fred Toll, as he was often called.

I distinctly recall my grandmother, who sadly passed many years ago now, talking

enthusiastically and respectfully about ‘Uncle Fred Toll’. From her reflections and

recollections, I always formed a clear view that Fred Toll was certainly a man’s man,

who went to great lengths to ensure the welfare of his men, right up until his passing

in Greenslopes Hospital on 6 November 1955. My grandmother recalled ANZAC Day

marches including the 31 st Battalion AIF Association being led by Fred Toll, with the

parade commentator proudly announcing, ‘here comes the men of the 31 st , the pride

and joy of Colonel Toll’ or words to that effect.

Frederick William Toll’s military service commenced well before The Great War,

initially when he joined military cadets in 1888 whilst undertaking his secondary

education at Brisbane Grammar School. After graduating, he returned north and

amongst other things, was commissioned in the Kennedy Regiment on 2 February 1892

and promoted captain in 1897.

Toll then volunteered for service in the South African War. He sailed with the 2 nd

Queensland Contingent as a special service officer in January 1900, and from Cape

Town, joined Lord Roberts’ army in the occupation of Bloemfontein, commanding an

infantry company of the 44 th Essex Regiment. Toll saw action during the advance to

Kroonstad, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Belfast and after the capture of Nellspruit, was

appointed provost-marshal and commanded troops who then returned to Australia.

He returned to South Africa in March 1901, this time as Second-In-Command of the 5 th

Queensland Imperial Bushmen and was soon after promoted to Major. Toll

commanded the contingent from 1 August in actions in the Cape and Orange River

colonies and the Transvaal. In January 1902, he was captured briefly by Boers. Noting

the extensive number of major operations and lesser skirmishes in which the 5 th was

involved, Toll gained the reputation amongst this men as ‘the Fighting Major’.

Ultimately, Toll arrived in Brisbane aboard the transport ‘St Andrew’ in April 1902 and

his appointment was routinely terminated in July of that year. During his service in

South Africa, he had been Mentioned-in-Dispatches and of the eight clasps possible,

was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five clasps and the King’s South

Africa Medal with two. Toll’s South African service is often remembered at the

commemorative services for the Battle of Onverwacht.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Toll enlisted again for overseas service. He embarked

for New Guinea in January 1915, leading the 3 rd Battalion, Australian Naval and Military

Expeditionary Force, with the rank of Major. As Lieutenant Colonel from 1 March and

Officer Commanding the troops in Rabaul, he was twice acting administrator of New

Guinea in the absence of Colonel Sir Samuel Pethebridge. At his urgent request for

active service in 1915, he was given command of the 31 st Battalion, which he formed

and trained, leaving later that year for Egypt.

As a result of the 31 st Battalion’s actions at Fromelles, Toll was recommended by his

Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General Edwin Tivey, and was subsequently awarded

the Distinguished Service Order or DSO. The citation for this award Gazetted on 12 th

October 1916, reads as follows:

‘This officer has been with the Brigade since its formation and has always done his duty

in a most conscientious and efficient manner.

During the operations in the Suez Canal Zone he was untiring in his efforts to obtain a

high standard of efficiency and has always been an example to his Officers and men.

Lt.Colonel Toll displayed great gallantry all through the operations of 19/20 th July 1916,

at PETILLON. He was slightly wounded at the commencement of the action and before

the assault was made and (sic) he lost heavily in Officers and men. He led the 3 rd and

4 th waves over the parapet himself. Before reaching the enemy trenches 13 Officers

has (sic) been killed or wounded, including three Company Commanders. Lt.Colonel

Toll personally took charge and pushed on, making vigorous efforts to consolidate the

position won, reconnoit-ring (sic) the enemy’s defences and taking prisoners. On the

retirement he organised the troops on our original front line.’

During the Battle of Polygon Wood, Frederick William Toll was again decorated with a

Bar to the Distinguished Service Order for his, ‘… conspicuous gallantry and devotion

to duty .’ Seriously injured and gassed at Polygon Wood he was evacuated to Britain in

January 1918. In addition to his two Distinguished Service Orders, he was also twice

Mentioned In Dispatches by General Haig.

After The Great War, Toll became commissioner for war service homes. He initiated

and led the establishment of the 31 st Battalion Social Club and took an enduring

interest in the welfare of his former charges. He was also a foundation member of the

Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, its Brisbane vice-president

1924-27 and Mackay president in 1928-30. Toll was also the Government

representative on the Mackay Hospitals Board, Director of the Mackay Rotary Club,

President of the Mackay Rifle Union, and Commandant’s representative on the North

Queensland Rifle Association.

For his services to returned servicemen, Toll was made a Member of the Order of the

British Empire in 1939. Not content with retirement, during World War II he was

district manpower officer, then services liaison officer.

Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, let me reprise the notable and distinguished

service in war and in peace of Lieutenant Arthur Edward Adams, DCM and the

distinguished service and post service career of Colonel Frederick William Toll, DSO

and Bar, MBE, VD, a competent accountant and successful business manager,

marksman, athlete and Rugby footballer, in my mind certainly and I now hope in yours

too, both of whom epitomised the ethos of ‘Service Above Self.’

Lest We Forget

Battle of Fromelles Address by Col Mark Plath (Rtd)

Presentation to Col Mark Plath by Brisbane Sub Branch President Ray Fogg

Battle of Fromelles Comemoration at Fromelles, France.
Commemoration at Fromelles, France
Honorary Member Pierre Seillier Saluting at Commemoration at
Fromelles, France
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Kieth Payne VC AM – Coming Documentary

Members PLEASE NOTE:-  Mick James has advised of this item of Interest about one of our National Treasures and a past Member of the 31st Bn from Ingham  – KEITH PAYNE VC AM.  (Keith was a member for a brief Period prior to joining the Regular Army)  A Documentary on Keith will be broadcast on SBS at 8.30 PM on WED 27th May. The action for which Keith Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross occurred 51 years ago on the 24/5/1969. Keith is our oldest living Victoria Cross recipient. 

Mark your Diary’s to tune in.  Regards Tony

Major Percy Black DCM Croix de Guerre (France)

Association Member Mick James, a regular contributor of articles for our website has provided this interesting piece of history:  –
 In line with one of the suggestions from the CO of 31st/42nd Battalion RQR, Lt Col Damien Green (see the previous post on this website and also 31st Battalion AIF Memorial Association Facebook page), in his ANZAC Day message, I offer this story on an original ANZAC. I have recently also posted it on Facebook page “100 Years of ANZAC”.
Percy Black was born in Beremboke, near Bacchus Marsh, Victoria on 12th Dec 1877, the eleventh child of William and Anne (née Longmore), farmers originally from AntrimIreland. He trained as a carpenter before moving to Western Australia as a prospector in the Western Australian gold rush.
He joined the Army in Perth (16th Inf Battalion) on  8th Sept 1914 and was promoted L/Cpl on 16th Oct. He trained on the Maxim Machine Gun with Harry Murray and they became firm friends. They initially trained at Blackboy Hill Camp outside Perth and then travelled to Broadmeadows in Melbourne where 2 Companies from South Australia joined them to complete their strength.
Percy shipped out with the 16th Battalion in late December 1914 and arrived in Egypt in early February 1915. After further training there they  landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. He was awarded a DCM for his actions on 2nd/3rd May 15  . His citation reads –
On the night of 2nd-3rd May, 1915, during operations near Gaba Tepe, for exceptional gallantry. After all his comrades in his machine-gun section had been killed or wounded, and although surrounded by the enemy, he fired all available ammunition and finally brought his gun out of action.”
Harry Murray was with Percy and also was awarded a DCM. Harry Murray was promoted 2nd Lieut on 13 Aug 15 and transferred to 13th Battalion. Harry was still in the same Brigade as Percy (Brig Commander was Col. John Monash) and was involved in some of the same future Battles.
Percy was commissioned as a 2nd Lieut on 7th May and promoted Temp Capt  on 9th Aug 15 . He was made substantive Lieut on 1st Jan 16 and then  Capt on 20th Jan 1916. He returned from Gallipoli to Egypt at the end of 2015 and subsequently moved to France in June 2016 with 16th Battalion. Percy had been promoted to Major on 27th April 1916. So, after 1 year and 2 days in action Percy had risen from L/Cpl to Major. No doubt being awarded the DCM at Gallipoli played a part in his promotions. He was also mentioned in Despatches while at Gallipoli and again while on the Western Front.
He was in the Battles of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. At Mouquet Farm, which the Germans had turned into a fortress, Black and the 16th Battalion battled through dugouts and cellars. The Australians were unable to hold the fortress, a determined counter-attack threw the Australians back to their start lines. Black was wounded—shot in the neck—and the severity of wound required specialist treatment in London.
While recovering in the 4th General Hospital in London, Percy shared his ward with Albert Jacka who was recovering from wounds received at Pozieres, and his old mate, Harry Murray who was also wounded at Mouquet Farm. Both Harry and Percy subsequently received DSO awards for actions in which they received wounds that they were now recovering from. Percy also was awarded the French Coix de Guerre for actions at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm.  Percy rejoined his Battalion on 25th November 1916.
Percy’s DSO citation reads –
“Maj. Percy Black, Inf. For conspicuous gallantry during operations. He led his company over “No Man’s Land” against an enemy’s [sic] strong point, which he captured and consolidated under very difficult circumstances, and under heavy artillery and machine gun fire. On a subsequent occasion he did similar fine work.”
Percy remained with the 16th Battalion and in April 1917 they were south east of Arras with the 4th Division AIF. 2 Brigades  (4th & 12th) were committed to the first Battle of Bullecourt together with the British 62nd Division to attack the strong German position. This description is from the Sir John Monash Centre –

The Battles of Bullecourt, on 11 April 1917 and 3 May 1917, involved huge losses and invoked a sense of distrust between Australian troops and British commanders.

Some of the heaviest criticism came from General John Monash who wrote:

‘Our men are being put into the hottest fighting and are being sacrificed in hair-brained ventures, like Bullecourt and Passchendaele …’

In 1917, the village in northern France was heavily fortified by the Germans and absorbed into the Hindenburg Line, with machine guns, belts of barbed wire, and frontline trenches.

Australian commanders were apprehensive about the British level of planning for the attack, believing it would leave their men hemmed in and vulnerable on three sides. They were also concerned there was not enough ammunition for artillery, which was still an experimental technology.

The attack was planned for 10 April but the Australians did not proceed because their 12 tanks did not arrive on time.

Communication within the Allied forces broke down and the British 62nd Division began the attack as planned, but were not told until later that the Australians had been stood down. Nonetheless, the British managed to get through the first belt of entanglements and close to the Hindenburg Line.

The next day, the Australian troops were subjected to withering machine-gun fire, and nearly a third were killed or wounded.

They broke through the German line but at terrible cost, and they fought ferociously until – as suspected – they were hemmed in and forced to retreat.

In addition, the tanks failed to be a decisive breakthrough weapon and left many bitterly disappointed. Despite this, they had sown confusion and terror among many German defenders, with the German 124th Regiment record noting:

‘The men in the trench stood there, defenceless, not knowing how they could beat the monster back. It was completely impossible to attack it from the trench …’

The 16th Battalion was one of the two 4th Brigade Battalions in the attacking waves and took the first line of German trenches. However they were ahead of the few remaining tanks . Before they breached the first line of trenches, Percy, leading his men on, is reputed to have said “Come on boys. Bugger the tanks”.
The barbed wire in front of the second line of trenches was largely in tact and the attack had to file through the Sally Ports (gaps for movement between the trenches). It was at one of these where Maj Percy Black was reputedly shot in the head and killed instantly as depicted in the painting.
While Black was renowned for his courage, Murray claimed that “Percy never went berserk and never sought death” and “had all the fear of the unknown”. He was described by the Australian war historian C. E. W Bean as “the greatest fighting soldier in the A.I.F.”, while Murray, himself a recipient of the Victoria Cross, called Black “the bravest and coolest of all the brave men I know”.
The 1923 painting “The Death of Major Black” by Charles Wheeler highlights the snow covered land on which they fought. It is held at the Australian War Memorial. The artist, Charles Wheeler is an interesting character himself. A New Zealander born in 1880, he developed his skill as a painter in Melbourne and held exhibitions until 1912 when he travelled to Europe. Based in London he travelled on the Continent and exhibited in Paris. Returning to London just prior to the outbreak of WW1 he joined the Royal Fusiliers  and was awarded a DCM in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1916 as a Sgt. He returned to Melbourne after WW1 and was one of Australia’s distinguished Painters, winning a number of prizes including the 1933 Archibald Prize. He would have certainly experienced conditions such as he painted here.
As we approach ANZAC Day this year, we should pause and remember Percy Black, a brave Digger who landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, fought with distinction for almost 2 years, and gave his life on 11th April 1917
LEST WE FORGET
Percy Black has no known grave. He is commemorated on the wall at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
A group of researchers including Lambis Englezos  have been researching the location of Maj Percy Black’s grave for more than a decade.
They have uncovered a statement of an Allied POW captured during the the Battle of Bullecourt on 11th April 1917 who was forced by his captors to bury Allied bodies in mass graves in shell holes behind the German front line. While they emptied pockets, they didn’t remove dogtags.
The group have done further research and believe they have located the grave. They have forwarded their research to the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties Unit last year and await their response,
For those unaware, Lambis and a group of friends with various skills researched and discovered what they thought was a mass grave (5 pits each holding 50 bodies) dug by the Germans for Allied bodies KIA in German trenches during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916.
They battled the Government and the Army from 2002 before any action was undertaken in 2007. Evidence was found early in the non invasive check of the ground and a full dig was authorised in 2008. The result was 250 soldiers’ bodies were recovered in 2009  and were all buried, in the new War Cemetery “Pheasant Wood” at Fromelles with DNA taken, in 2010.
To date, 166 of those have been identified as Aussie diggers and now have named headstones.
Research into identification of those remaining unnamed continues. Lambis was awarded an “AM” in the 2009 Honours List for his efforts in discovering the missing diggers. Many of the graves of the 1900 odd Aussies who died in the battle remain unknown.

Historic Photo – Ray “Dasher” Deed BEM

Association member Mick James came across a photo on a Facebook page entitled “On This Day”

The explanatory preamble is as follows:

On 30th Sept. 1970, – Members of the Aust. Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) were presented with a – “United States Meritorious Unit Citation” for its outstanding performance in Vietnam.   For 5 Members of the Training Team this was a special Occasion as previously in 1951, whilst serving with 3rd Bn Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), they received a United States – “Presidential Unit Citation” for holding & repelling an Overwhelming Force of the Chinese Army at the Battle of Kapyong. Thus saving the the Capital of Seoul from certain capture.

Brisbane Branch Association Secretary, Tony Wadeson, gives us a brief background:

The second Man from the Left in the Photo, – is our very own  – WO1 Ray “Dasher” Deed BEM, – quite a handsome bloke, who scrubbed up pretty well, for the occasion. Dasher has had a few Health issues of late,  but is still going strong at 93 Years, living at Corinda, & conveniently close to the Sherwood Services Club. He is still an active Member of the 31st Bn Assoc. Brisbane Branch. And as you can all appreciate, we are extremely honoured, to have such a distinguished soldier as our Member.  At one stage of his career, Dasher was a Regular WO2 Cadre Staff attached to 31st Bn Townsville, & later  the RSM of 51Bn – Cairns. After retirement as RSM Northern Command, Dasher was seconded by one of Brisbane’s most prestigious Colleges – “The Anglican Church Grammer School – (Churchie), as a Disciplinary Master for many years. They still bring him back each year to Churchie for their ANZAC Day Service.

Mick continues the story:  On 30 September 1970 Five soldiers of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) are now entitled to wear two United States Unit Citations. They are seen here enjoying a drink after being presented at a parade. All were with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), at the Battle of Kapyong where it won the United States Presidential Unit Citation which they wear above the Meritorious Unit Citation presented to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), at Vung Tau on 30 September.
Left to Right :- Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Brian Lawrance, 43, working in Quang Tri;
WO1 Ray Deed, 43, Phuoc Tuy Province;  WO1 Bill Eade, 44, Hue;  Captain Len Opie, 46, Phuoc Tuy Province, and WO1 Reg Bandy, 46, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of 7RAR at Nui Dat, who is drinking a can of Victoria Bitter (VB) beer.
Heroes all. Ray Deed was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for his service in Korea as a Sgt Platoon Commander during the Battle of Kapyong. He finished his service as RSM of Northern Command. As his birthday is on ANZAC Day, he didn’t celebrate in 1951 as he was still in the thick of the Battle of Kapyong, 22-25 April 1951.
(As an addendum Mick has pointed out:- The Presidential Citation was worn above the Meritorious award, & at that time it was worn on the sleeve at the shoulder, (refer Photo). Now its worn on Right Front Breast.)

31st Battalion Association Reunion Lunch

The 31st Battalion Association Reunion Lunch was held at the Sherwood Services Club  at Corinda on Thursday 24th October. The Secretary of the Brisbane Branch of our Association, Tony Wadeson, briefly covers the meeting: 

This year we were honoured to have a special guest, Alf Cumberland who, at 102 years old, is one of the few surviving members of the wartime 2/31st Battalion. A number of the descendants of  members of the 2/31st Battalion were also present.

The photos (below) were taken at the lunch meeting by our one & only 51st Battalion member Wendy Seymour. Wendy is of Papua Newguinea Heritage but was living in Cairns when she was with 51st Battalion. She now lives in Brisbane. She is pictured below with Alf Cumberland. The Lunch was very successful with 42 Attending – Biggest we have ever had. The Townsville based President of the Association, Greg Stokie was in attendance.

Guest Speaker – WO1 Peter Thatcher provided an excellent talk on the Kokoda Track & the battles that took place – His DVD display – Illustration was brilliant, best I’ve seen. There’s a good photo of him with Alf Cumberland.   Great day & we have moved a step closer in working together with 2/31st descendants to ensure the 2/31st Bn History will be forever preserved.  

Tony

Alf Cumberland with Wendy Seymour 
WO1 Peter Thatcher with Alf Cumberland
Tribute to Alf Cumberland
During the meeting a report on the Battle For Australia Commemoration was delivered  by association member Mick James:

Report on Battle for Australia Commemoration on Wed 4th Sept 2019

For those who don’t know, The Battle for Australia Commemoration is for all those who served between 1942-45 in the north of Australia and to our north/ it includes the Fall of Singapore, Bombing of Darwin, Battles of Milne Bay & Coral Sea, 2 Campaigns in New Guinea and Borneo. We honour & remember all those who fought and especially those who died.

It is dedicated by the Australian Govt as the 1st Wednesday in Sept each year and ranks 3rd in Commemorations after ANZAC Day & Remembrance Day.

This year we held the 3rd Commemoration at our new home at the Chermside Historical Precinct at 61 Kittyhawk Dr Chermside, just north of KWRSL Club car park with the Qld Governor & his wife again in attendance. The Official Address was by Commander Gerald Savvakis RAN ADC on behalf of the Chief of Navy Vice Admiral MJ Noonan AO.

This year we also had a student presentation from Aspley High School on Cpl JA French VC. This student presentation will be an annual one and part of our commitment to involve young people in learning and remembering about our Battle for Australia history and those who participated.

Morning tea was provided after the Commemoration and those present were invited to enter the Milne Bay Library & Research Centre adjacent and peruse the exhibits.

Our Assoc continues to be represented on the Battle for Aust Committee with Merv Hazell re elected as Sec and myself as Vice President at our AGM on 30th Sept.

I urge all Members & Guests to consider attending next year (Wed 2nd Sept) and I have a number of this year’s programmes that you can take. They explain the Battle for Australia in more detail. There are also 2 photos of this year’s Commemoration in the montage on the screen.

Finally I have a limited number of “Battle for Australia New Guinea” pins available for sale at $5 each. If you’d like one please see me after the meeting. If I haven’t enough, you may be able to buy one in the lead up to Remembrance Day.

Video of 2019 Commem – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDeWrfQEjp8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDeWrfQEjp8

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“Mick also gave a report on our Brisbane Branch of the Association’s Commemoration of the 103rd Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles. This was held at the grave of Lt Athur Adams DCM at Ipswich General Cemetery with the assistance of both the Ipswich & Rosewood RSLs, with both Presidents attending and supplying the Padre, Bugler & PA system. Arthur Adams reverted from CQMS to Private so he could be part of the Battle. On returning to Rosewood after the War Arthur was the original President of the Rosewood RSL. Sadly he died in 1925 from War induced illness.”
The full story of the Commemoration of the 103rd Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles was covered in a post on this website in July2019.
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31st Battalion Association President Greg Stokie and
Brisbane Branch President Ray Fogg
2/31st Battalion Banner
31/51st Battalion Banner

A Few Memories from the Past

The following series of pictures of 31st Battalion have been unearthed by Geoff Barlow. They were taken in the date range between 1959 and 1964. Note the change from Khaki uniforms to Jungle Green uniforms. The uniform changeover took place for most of us in 1961. Our Brisbane Branch Secretary Tony Wadeson remembers that Geoff was a Sergeant in 31st Battalion in those years. Geoff qualified as a Pharmacist and subsequently joined the regular Army Medical Corps. He served in Viet Nam during the conflict and finally retired with the rank of LtCol.

 

Tony also appears in the photos as a young Second Leiutenant carrying the colours on the Anzac Day Parade.

 

 

Freedom of the City Parade August 1959

 

ANZAC DAY TOWNSVILLE

 

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The ‘M’ in WW2 Army Service Numbers

An Interesting historic piece, regarding the Numbers allocated to Militia Volunteers  & AIF Volunteers – WW2.  Our Friend Ray Davidson of 49th Bn Assoc. has supplied this info. & its an interesting read. – Refer the link below – Our thanks to Ray Davidson.

You would be aware that the  31/51 Bn was a Militia Unit & like many Militia units were sent to New Guinea to fight.  However, the 31/51 Bn was sent to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea.  Merauke was a desolate marshy little Port surrounded by swamp (the second largest in the world) but it had a vital Airfield & a Radar station. Its main threat were the Japanese based in strength in Timor. Their intention was to develop the Kaukenau Area – north West of Merauke. The Japanese also had complete control of the sea in the area.  The Airport  became an important base to develop & defend. Thus elements of the 11th Bde – (31/51 Bn plus a Company of 26Bn, plus Engineers to develop the Airfield) were the only Militia units serving on foreign soil & first Militia into action outside Australian soil. Forward Bases were established in swamp areas 250 miles from Merauke & clashes with the Japanese occurred in these areas. Merauke was frequently Bombed by the Japanese.

On the 24th July 1944 it was announced that 31/51 Bn had been declared as an AIF Battalion & was then to be known as 31/51 Bn AIF. The Army Regimental Numbers of the men were altered to have the “X” added. – ( Noel Pilcher’s to QX61038)  (Extracts from Bob Burla’s “Crossed Boomerangs”)

The following article in the Army Newspaper gives further information on changes to WW2 Army numbers:

https://www.army.gov.au/our-history/history-in-focus/the-offending-m-ww2-army-service-numbers

 

Battle of Fromelles Commemoration – France

This year the 31st Bn Association was represented in two Commemorative Services to Honour of the fallen in “The Battle of Fromelles” .  (1) At the Actual Commemorative Service held at Pheasant Wood Cemetery Fromelles France. This Service was organised by Dept. of Veteran Affairs & the Australian Embassy in France, in conjunction with the Fromelles Authorities. We were represented at this service by our local Honorary Member Pierre Seillier, & Brisbane Branch Member Bruce Lees & Wife Dianne. Pierre laid a Wreath on our Behalf.

The Headstones of two previously missing 31st Bn members recently identified by DNA were unveiled. Bruce & Dianne were present in support of the Dunn Family whose Grandfather Pte. Leslie Clark Dunn,  Headstone was unveiled by Grandson Mr Roley Dunn. Pierre had previously presented his Famous tributes of all the 7 Diggers recently Identified to the Family Representatives attending the Ceremony. The Australian Ambassador sought out Pierre after the Ceremony to Congratulate & thank him for his dedicated work for the remembrance of the Australian WW1 Diggers & help given to family members over many years.

(2) For the first time our Association was able to organise a local Commemoration Service on the 19th July at the Graveside of a 31st Bn Digger who participated in the Battle of Fromelles & later was awarded a medal for Bravery – Lt Arthur Adams DCM,  buried at the IPSWICH General Cemetery. Details of the Ceremony and the address by the CO of 31/42 RQR, LTCOL Damien Green were  reported in a post on this website in July. We had excellent press coverage with Photos in the Moreton Border News on 26th July. Photos can be viewed on our Website. (See Commemoration of 103rd Anniversary – Battle of Fromelles).

We include here an email received from Pierre describing the events of the day at Fromelles:

Yesterday for the anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles, I was very early at Fromelles before the ceremony, to meet Australian friends, at the Museum of Fromelles in the afternoon. The staff of the Australian Embassy came with the families of the 7 soldiers identified this year, to visit the exhibition and then the battlefield. One of the members of the embassy introduced me to the families and I was able to give them the posters / tributes I had done for them including 31st Bn men. It was a very moving moment, two ladies had tears in their eyes, and me too. The ceremony was great, full of people,  I laid a wreath on behalf of the 31st Infantry Battalion Association. Graves of the new identified soldiers were dedicated with families and kids of Fromelles. After the ceremony we had a drink in the Fromelles Cobbers School, and I had the surprise to see his exellency Mr Brendan Berne Australian Ambassador in France, who came to thank and congratulate me for my work for Australian Remembrance.  He was surprised by the fact that a frenchman have a strong devotion for Australia and Australians. I was very moved…It was a great ceremony. You can see the full album on our Facebook page.
Lest We Forget
Kind Regards
Pierre Seillier.

Pierre has spent many years as a Voluntary Fromelles Battlefield & Cemetery Guide, he also Voluntary helps out at the Local Museum. Pierre is loved by countless Australian relatives of the fallen. Pierre has also produced thousands of Tributes to the Fallen at no charge, to relatives of the Fallen. Pierre wears his Beret with the 31st Bn badge with pride, & we are Honoured he is placing the Wreath on our behalf at the Commemoration Ceremony on the Day & at the  place of the Battle.

Attached Photos of Honorary Member Pierre Seillier at Fromelles, & talking to the Australian Ambassador after the Ceremony, he appears to be showing him the 31st Bn Badge on his Beret. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commemoration of 103rd Anniversary – Battle of Fromelles

The commemoration service for the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles was held on 19th July 2019 at the grave site of a member of the 31st Battalion, Lt Arthur Edward Adams DCM  who is buried in the Ipswich Cemetery. The service was conducted by the president of the Brisbane Branch of the 31st Battalion of the Association Ray Fogg. The current CO and RSM of 31/42 RQR, LTCOL Damien Green and WO1 John Stafford plus the President of the 31st Battalion Association Greg Stokie all flew from Townsville for the commemoration service. Also in attendance were the presidents of the Rosewood RSL Ken Savage and the President of the Ipswich RSL Rob Wadley. Padre Peter Woodward conducted the prayer service. The last post was played by Brad Strong of Rosewood RSL. Lt Arthur Adams, whose story was retold on this website earlier this month was originally from Rosewood and fought in the Battle as a Private before subsequent promotions to Leiutenant and being awarded the DCM.

The service was attended by more than 30 members of the 31st Battalion Asosciation, the 42nd Battalion Association and the Ipswich and Rosewood RSLs. Most adjourned for lunch refreshments and fellowship afterwards at the CSI club in Ipswich.

During the service the following address was presented by the Commanding Officer 31/42 RQR LtCol Damien Green:

At around 1800h on Wednesday 19 July 1916, in full daylight on a clear sunny day, the 5 th
Australian Division answered the call to attack and was thrown against the German front
line as a diversion to help support the massive British offensive then in the balance at the
Somme. The location of this diversion was 16km from the industrial city of Lille, between
the Fauquissart-Trivelet Road and Cordonneri Farm, an area overlooked from Aubers Ridge
to the South. The ground was low lying and much of the defensive fortifications by both
sides consisted of building breastworks rather than trenches. The Enemy consisted of the
6 th Bavarian Reserve Division supported by the two flanking Divisions of the German 6 th
Army. In the ranks of the enemies 16 th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment at Fromelles
was a young despatch runner named Adolf Hitler who, during the battle, faced the direct
fire of advancing Australians in the conduct of his duties.
At that time the 5 th Australian Division comprised of the 8 th , 14 th and 15 th Infantry Brigades
– each, in turn were made up of four battalions and support troops. The 8 th Bde (drawn
from SA, WA, Qld and Vic) comprised the 29 th , 30 th , 31 st and 32 nd Battalions; 14 th Bde
(NSW) the 53 rd , 54 th , 55, and 56 th Battalions and 15 th BDE (Vic) the 57 th , 58 th , 59 th and 60 th
Battalions. The 31 st Battalion comprised approximately 1000 men broken up into four
companies A and B Coy from Queensland and C and D Coy from Victoria. In the assault the
8 th Brigade who were the left assault Brigade would have two Battalions forward 32 nd (left)
and 31 st (on the right) Battalions, with one battalion carting stores and ammunition to the
attacking troops and another battalion held in reserve.
The objective in this particular phase of the battle was to cooperate with the 61 st British
Division to attack the Sugarloaf salient of the German front. The enemy had prepared
their position well with the diggers observing from the other side of No Man’s Land the
foreboding German defensive line, all concrete and bristling with barbed wire up on high
ground out to the horizon. The flat featureless no-man’s land varied in width from more
than 350m in front of 15 BDE on the right to around 100m on the Australian left flank 8
BDE. Many of the communications trenches to the rear of the Australians which was the
source of their ammunition, supplies and reinforcements, were impassable due to flooding
or knee-deep mud.
Preceding the assault was a seven-hour bombardment of preparatory fire commencing at
11am 19 July 1916 which continued throughout the afternoon. This bombardment and all
subsequent were expected by the high command to destroy the enemy’s defences and
wire entanglement enabling the soldier to simply move in and occupy the German lines
with minimal effort or loss. The British bombardment did not go unanswered by the

Gemans who retaliated in kind by shelling the rear communication trenches and reserve
troops. It was in one of the early salvos where the ammunition and bomb dump of the 31 st
Battalion was blown up and many casualties sustained including BHQ and medical staff.
Only through the valiant efforts of the Battalions bomb throwers clearing the burning
boxes was half of the ordnance saved.
As the artillery fire intensified the Germans understood what was about to occur and
prepared to repel an assault by occupying their hardened defensive positions accordingly.
At 1732h it was H Hour and the first wave of the 31 st and 32 nd battalion moved bravely
over the parapet to commence their assault over open ground covered by the enemies
many mutually supporting Machineguns and artillery. The initial response from the
Germans was murderous particularly from the flank where the British had not yet
commenced their assault requiring the detonation of subterranean mine full of 1200
pounds of explosives to provide some protection for the Australians from the machinegun
fire. As a result, the initial losses were heavy, however, the Battalions continued to
advance and as they did, the enemy resistance appeared less intense. When the
Australians reached the German parapet, they observed the enemy running away over
open terrain to hold ground in the alleys and the dugouts to the rear. Close quarter
combat ensued and the position was held by the Australians who captured 35 prisoners in
the process of clearing the trenches.
This action created a foothold for the following waves to better move through “No-man’s
land” with the exception of Delangre farm on the extreme left flank from which there was
no cover. Confusion over objectives saw the 32 nd battalion commence an assault on the
farm, but with no cover and fierce resistance the attack failed and the Battalion withdrew
as the 31 st Battalion pushed further ahead. In the fog of war with inaccurate sketch maps,
poor communications, no cover, murderous machinegun fire by a strong well positioned
enemy and a constant bombardment of indiscriminate friendly and enemy artillery causing
enormous casualties the entire front line was spread thin and disjointed presenting huge
gaps in the Australian and British front line.
Desperate attempts were made to regroup, close gaps, establish defensive structures to
provide cover, regain communications and conduct resupply with minimal success whilst
the dead piled higher. On the left flank the Bavarian Battalions could be seen assembling
to conduct a counter-attack with the assistance of their flanking German units to
recapture the positions the Australians now held. In the fading daylight they commenced a
heavy attack which was repelled by the Australians utilising heavy rifle and machinegun
fire supported by artillery. Unfortunately, the situation on the right flank was perilous due
to key terrain remaining vacant after Australians continued their advance. The Bavarians

from the Sugarloaf moved into this position and as they did the Australians mounted a
desperate counter-attack which halted their progress but did not drive them out.
As darkness consumed the battlefield valiant attempts were made to hold ground using all
available cover as well as the conduct of spoiling attacks on the enemy establishing
positions that would endanger Australian efforts in completing their task. Just after 0200h
20 th July 1919 the Bavarians launched another counter-attack which was more powerful
than any before it which fell heavily on the right flank (31st Bn) which was all but cut off
at this point. The protracted fighting throughout the day and night saw ammunition and
provisions starting to run low increasing the amount of hand to hand fighting in pockets of
the front. At 0530h the Bavarians commenced another attack heavily supported by
bombing teams. With limited ammunition to repel this attack parties now began to return
across no-man’s land and the sector rapidly emptied with the action at Fromelles
practically over.
The only measure of success from the battle was 8 and 14 Brigades capture of 1000 yards
of enemy front-line system at the cost of 5513 casualties for the 5 th Australian Division.
This baptism of fire for 8 Brigade resulted in 1262 casualties with the 31 st Battalion
sustaining casualties consisting of 16 Officers and 528 men. This represented the most
significant loss of life in one night in Australian History. Many soldiers from this battle
were and still remain unidentified and buried in mass graves in proximity to where the
fighting took place. It is largely thanks to the work of Lambis Englezos in finding and
identifying Australian soldiers killed in the battle that this number is reducing as we
gather. Today at Fromelles the headstones of seven Australian soldiers identified from the
battle will be unveiled including two 31 st Battalion members LCPL R Johnson and PTE L C
Dunn.
In late 2010 after returning from operations in Afghanistan I toured the World War 1
battlefields with my wife and two daughters who at the time were aged 11 and 13. Prior
to the trip my wife had just finished reading the book Fromelles written by Peter Barton.
The tragedy of this battle struck a chord with her which then ensured visitation of
Fromelles became a priority.
After a long day in the car driving through the battlefields of France we arrived at
Fromelles feeling tired and frustrated with the confines of a car. These feelings
immediately disappeared as we stepped out to face the Pheasant Wood cemetery and
memorial. The scale of everything really hit home when we were standing on the ground.
Initially we thought we would be driving around to explore the entirety of the battlefield
but were quite shocked and amazed at how small the battlefield actually was. It was

almost inconceivable to me that so many people could fit let alone fight in such a a
confined area.
As we looked around to observe the open ground, the German Defence’s at the Sugarloaf
and Delangre Farm we began to really understand how it was that so many soldiers died in
that battle. The two mass graves at VC Corner in vicinity of the Cobbers memorial was the
finishing touch causing us to culminate on our comprehension of the senseless loss of life
that occurred on this day in 1916.
After reviewing the scene of the battle of Fromelles we paid our final respect to the fallen
and completed the drive to Lille in utter silence as we reflected on what we had just
seen.
The planning of the battle of Fromelles was bordering on criminal and the sheer arrogance
of the high command in their assumptions and tactical decision making was even worse.
This battle should serve as a stark reminder that thorough preparation and planning is the
least we can do prior to committing troops to fight after diplomacy has failed.
Many soldiers who survived Fromelles and the remainder of the war carried physical and
mental scars when they returned home. Many of them never recovered from their wounds
becoming casualties of war dying within years of the bells of Armistice sounded the
Germans surrender.

Lest we forget.

 

The CO of 31/42 RQR LtCol Damien Green delivering the address at the commemoration service for the

Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles at the Ipswich Cemetery gravesite of Lt Arthur Edward Adams DCM

 

31st Battalion Association (Brisbane Branch) President Ray Fogg conducting the commemoration service

 

Laying of wreaths at the commemoration service (above and below)

 

 

Last Post  played by bugler Brad Strong from Rosewood RSL

 

Tributes to Lt Arthur Adams DCM  – Presented by 31st Battalion Association President Ray Fogg to

Ken Savage (President of Rosewood RSL) and Rob Wadley (President of Ipswich RSL)

L to R in the above photo, Ken Savage, Ray Fogg, Rob Wadley

Tributes were produced by 31st Battalion Association honorary member in France Pierre Seillier

 

Seven New Identified WW1 Soldiers – Fromelles

The following information was passed on by our Association Secretary, Tony Wadeson:

Our Honorary Member Pierre Seillier, Volunteer Guide of Fromelles Battle Field & Cemetery’s has advised us of the Identity of the 7 newly Identified Soldiers in the Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery – Fromelles.

The remains of these soldiers were previously buried by the Germans in Mass Graves behind their Lines in Pheasant Wood after the Battle of Fromelles on 19th July 1916. These were the bodies of soldiers who died behind the German lines when the Germans counter attacked those Battalions that had successfully broken through the German Front line (31st Bn being one).

The Graves were never identified, until a Greek born Melbourne School Teacher, “Lambis Englezos AM” realized that the Graves of Unidentified bodies from the Battle, fell far short of the number of Missing. The determined & dedicated Lambis set out to find the whereabouts of these remains. After years of research & then having to convince the authorities that the bodies were buried by the Germans at Pheasant Wood, 250 bodies were eventually recovered in 2009. The remains were reburied in a new Cemetery closer to the Town & named Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery. Through a process of DNA supplied by relatives approximately 166 Bodies have so far been identified.

These 7 Soldiers are the latest to have been identified & their names and Unit details will be engraved on the previously blank Headstones. They will be formally recognized and Headstones unveiled, at the Annual Fromelles Commemoration Ceremony to be held on the 19th July 2019.  (Refer the Photo below taken at the 100th Year (2016) Ceremony at Pheasant Wood Cemetery . Our Member Bruce Lees & his Daughter in attendance at the Unveiling of his Grand Fathers Headstone. Note the other unveiled Red covered Headstone).

THE 7 NEW IDENTIFIED SOLDIERS:-

641  Pte. Leslie Clark Dunn  – 31st Bn

715  L/Cpl Ralph Johnson    – 31st Bn

  77  L/Cpl John Alexander Crawford  –  32nd Bn

352  Pte. Arthur George Batt                –  32nd Bn

1291 Pte. George Honey                       –  32nd Bn

3433 Pte. Peter Paul Shannon             –  53rd Bn

4188 Pte. Edward James Hope            –  54th Bn

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE

Our Honorary member resident in France Pierre Seillier laid a wreath at the Fromelles Ceremony in Pheasant Wood Militaru Cemetery on 19th July 2019 on behalf of the 31st Inf Bn Assoc (See photos taken at the service below).

 

 

Member Bruce Lees with his Daughter at the grave of his Grandfather

In Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery in 2016

 

Honorary Member Pierre Seillier Laying Wreath at the Service at Fromelles, Northern France

31st Battalion Association Wreath laid by Pierre at the Battle of Fromelles Commemoration, France

Headstone of Pte Leslie Clark Dunn in Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, Fromelles

Headstone of Cpl Ralph Johnson in Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, Fromelles