LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM – Search for the Missing 250 Diggers

Committee member and regular contributor of articles to this website, Mick James, has sent this interesting story regarding Lambis‘ first efforts to find the missing Diggers from Fromelles. We have Geoff Benn’s permission to post it on our website. With the Commemoration of the “Battle of Fromelles” date coming up in a few weeks it is a fitting time for the story to be told.
“Courtesy of Fromelles Association of Australia Inc. and President Geoffrey Benn we reprint this article from their latest newsletter.
[Compiled from posts by Lambis Englezos and Michael James on Facebook, and extracted from the as yet un-published book of Geoffrey Benn – ‘Fromelles: 100 Years of Myths and Lies.]
The location of the missing soldiers at Fromelles became the focus of the now historically famous and long-running investigation by Lambis Englezos, Ward Selby and John Fielding.
It started with Jack Bowden, who along with his mate Lt Wally Vaile, were keen rowers before the War, and Jack was Club Captain of his rowing club for a few years.
When Robin Corfield was researching his book “Don’t forget me Cobber” he looked at many Red Cross Wounded and Missing Personnel files of the missing from the Battle of Fromelles. In only one file – that of Jack Bowden – there was mention of bodies perhaps being buried near ‘Pheasant Wood’ in German records.
It was in a paragraph from Robin Corfield’s book published in 2000, that Lambis Englezos first saw a reference to ‘Pheasant Wood’. Lambis has since referred to that reference as ‘serendipity and chance’.‘None of us knew where it was. Research and advocacy, and Army’s process led us to eventual confirmation and recovery. A wonderful result was that , Dignity and identity for the soldiers of Pheasant Wood, was to come. Lambis had been to Fromelles in 1996 for the battle’s 80th anniversary, but in 2002 embarked on his quest to find the missing. He was aware of the term ‘Pheasant Wood’ but didn’t know what it meant. This was one of the most significant clues to eventually finding the 250 buried diggers.
An article was published in The Australian newspaper on 18 July, 2003. Lambis was cited as believing the burial site for the remains of 250 missing Australia soldiers were believed to have been found. Why 250 specifically? He was pressed for a figure by the journalist, and replied ‘250’, without certainty. The figure was quoted as having some degree of certainty. Little was he to know the exact number until the remains were exhumed in 2009.
Having met Martial Delabarre in 2002, he became aware of local farmers’ comments about soldiers having been buried in a farmer’s field.
Lambis had found aerial photographs of the site at Pheasant Wood, taken after the battle, showing what were believed to be burial mounds. Lambis thereafter concentrated his investigation on the site adjoining Pheasant Wood.
Lambis says: ‘The research and advocacy was a team effort, with a wonderful result. Ward Selby, John Fielding and I presented to an expert panel in 2005. We made our case for a search of the site suspected of being a burial site, next to the Pheasant Wood. We followed due and official process.’
But the panel was insufficiently convinced and un-moved.
Then in 2006 everything changed. The German Burial Order of 1916 was found in archives in Munich, Germany.
This was the turning point in the search.
The Australian Army then established a process by which the excavation of the site at Pheasant Wood could be undertaken, leading to confirmation of the existence of soldiers’ remains, and their eventual recovery.
2007 saw an exploratory non-invasive survey undertaken at Pheasant Wood, led by Tony Pollard of Glasgow University Archaeology and Research Department. In that investigation a heart-shaped medallion with ‘ANZAC’ written on it, and a Shire of Alberton medallion were found at Pheasant Wood, which were of Australian origin, in a location at which Australian soldiers had not reached in battle. There must be soldiers buried at Pheasant Wood after all.
In 2008, a preliminary and limited excavation was able to be undertaken. Human remains were found. This led to the approval of the excavation of the remains of soldiers now confirmed as being buried next to Pheasant Wood in 1916.
2009 saw the unearthing of the burial pits at Pheasant Wood, and the beginning of an archaeological excavation in which 250 soldiers’ remains were located. The process resulted in detailed scientific analysis of the remains found, and a multitude of small items found with them.
One of the archaeological team was Dr. Louise Loe of Oxford Archaeology, who led the excavation of the clay pit graves and has been serving as a subject matter expert on the data analysis team, formed specifically for the identification process. In correspondence with Geoffrey Benn, she wrote that:-
The identification process was of the utmost scientific rigour from beginning to end. Subject matter experts systematically analysed all the pieces of available evidence, including all available military documentation, information from families, family trees, the results of the DNA analysis, items found with the soldiers, the results of the scientific analysis of the bodies and photographs of the soldiers as well. On the basis of this, recommendations were made to the Joint Identification Board for their consideration and the first identifications of the soldiers were made.
Since then, the data analysis team has met annually up until 2019 (with the exception of 2015) and has continued to recommend identifications to the Joint Identification Board. Unfortunately, the board could not meet [in 2020] because of the [Covid-19] pandemic.
In 2010 the new Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery at Fromelles was dedicated with all the remains unearthed in 2009, reburied in their own dedicated plots. The dedication ceremony took place on 19 July,
2010. The remains of the final soldier to be re-buried were interred at the ceremony, 94 years after the battle which claimed his life.
The identities of 96 soldiers had been determined be-fore that dedication took place. It was the result of a long and detailed process of scientific analysis culminating in the first Joint Identification Board at Australia House, London, in the Spring of 2010. Names could now be inscribed in headstones bearing the identity of soldiers lost since 1916.
Dr. Loe was shown photographs of some of the soldiers identified, after the soldiers had been reburied, but before the new cemetery at Fromelles was dedicated. Dr. Loe wrote:-
‘The first time that we saw the faces of the names we had matched with individuals who we had recovered was incredibly poignant.’
[Picture: Robert Courtney Green. AWM P10624.001]
One of those soldiers whose photograph was shown to Dr. Loe, was Robert Courtney Green.
Robert had left Nottinghamshire, England for a better life in Australia, only to encounter the ravages of drought on a farm outside Fremantle. He enlisted and would serve in the 32nd Battalion. He was hit with shrapnel in the chest and bled to death in the German 2nd line trench.
Lambis was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2009.
Jack Bowden hasn’t been identified as yet although Lambis believes he is buried at the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery. Hopefully, confirming DNA for Jack Bowden can be found.
From Lambis and the families who have been involved in identifying the missing soldiers of Fromelles, we thank the Australian Army for establishing a process that eventually led us to confirmation and recovery of 250 missing diggers. A video from the ABC recorded in 2010, is available on Youtube and is titled ‘Australian Mass Graves Discovered in France’ It mentions 90 having been identified through DNA and other means. That figure is now 166, and we expect there will be more to come following the convening of Joint Identification Boards.
As Lambis frequently says: ‘Dignity and identity for the soldiers of Pheasant Wood, and those to come.’
 1. Lambis Englezos pointing to the names of Jack Bowden & Wally Vaile on the
WW1 Rowers Memorial on the banks of the Yarra River .
2. Closer photo of Memorial showing names.
3. photo of L/Cpl Robert Courtney Green

Reserve Forces Day Recognition Ceremony – Cancellation

MEMBERS & FRIENDS, –   LAST MINUTE CANCELLATION of RESERVE FORCES DAY RECOGNITION CEREMONY scheduled for this SUNDAY 27th June at 1000Hrs.    THIS CEREMONY HAS BEEN CANCELLED due to circumstances beyond the Committee’s Control

 This Recognition Ceremony has been rescheduled to a Date to be determined in late AUGUST.

The Committee sincerely Apologizes for this Late Cancellation and any inconvenience caused.

If anyone had indicated to me that they were attending this Ceremony, PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS NOTIFICATION. 

TONY WADESON (Secretary 31st Battalion Association – Brisbane Branch)

Battle of Fromelles – 2021 – Commemoration

MONDAY the 19th of July 2021, – IS A SPECIAL DAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE 31st BATTALION. – The 105th Anniversary of the Day the 31st Infantry Battalion AIF went into action, for the first time on the Western Front at Fromelles, as part of the 8th Brigade, – 5th Division AIF.  It ended in a Disaster, resulting in the Highest casualties sustained by a Division in 24 hours in a Australian Military History.

You are Cordially invited to attend The Commemoration Service of the Battle to be held at the Ipswich General Cemetery on Monday 19th July at 1100 Hrs. (REFER ATTACHED) We ask you as members and Friends  to make a special effort to attend. This year we have Students and Teachers from three Ipswich High Schools attending. The Mayor of Ipswich, Mayor Teresa Harding, and the Federal Member for Blair The Hon Shayne Neumann have requested invitations to attend.


DRESS:- Anzac Day Attire. Jacket, and Tie, Medals, Beret, and Name Tag.

ASSEMBLY:- No later than 1045 Hours – Cenotaph – Ipswich General Cemetery – Warwick Rd Ipswich. Service will take approx. 1 Hour. You may require a Hat or an Umbrella.

If you require a seat. PLEASE BRING A FOLDING CHAIR.

We will be adjourning to the CSI Club Ipswich for refreshments & a Light Lunch (Own Expense) after the Service. You are most welcome to join us.

RSVP:- by 5.00PM – WEDNESDAY 14th JULY  – (A) If you are attending the Service. (B) If you intend to join us for a light lunch at the CSI Club in Ipswich. Contact TONY WADESON by email.

If you wish to attend but are concerned about Transport. Please advise me & I’ll see what can be done.

Regards TONY

Cpl Edward Kent MM – Old Boy of Ipswich Grammar School

Battle of Fromelles 19th/20th July 1916 – “Brief”

  • The 19th July 2021 will be the 105th Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles on the Western Front. Fromelles is situated in France near the Belgian Border just south of Ypres & west of Lille.
  • It was the First battle undertaken by Australian Troops on the Western Front – WW1.
  • It was carried out by the, 8th – 14th & 15th Brigade’s of the Aust 5th Division & on their Right, the British 61st Div. – (raw Territorial troops)

(The 31st Bn led by LTCOL Fred Toll was part of the 8th Bde.)

  • Fromelles was planned by the British as a Diversionary Attack to convince the Germans not to move troops south to the Somme where the British & French had started a major push on the 1st July. 11 Divisions of the British 4th Army had sustained massive Casualties exceeding 80K, on the Somme around the Pozieres area with little to show for it.
  • A British General, LTGEN Richard Haking planned the attack at Fromelles. This was unfortunate for the Australians, as he had previously been involved with planning an attack 14 Months earlier with British troops, over exactly the same ground with absolutely no gain & very heavy Casualties.
  • After the previous attack, the Germans spent the period improving & fortifying their Defences around Fromelles with underground Concrete Bunkers, & O/Head protective cover from Artillery. They had a clear view of the Australian Front line and an excellent observation of the battlefield from the Church Spire in the Village of Fromelles. The Germans also had the Australian Front line & supporting areas well ranged by their Artillery & Mortars. They had a year to practice their ranging.
  • The attack started with Artillery Bombardments at 11.00 AM & at 6.00 PM (in broad daylight) the troops advanced, with the 8th Bde – 31st & 32nd Bn’s leading the attack on the left, with the 14th Brigade’s 54th & 53rd Bn’s on their right. These two Brigades had to cross about 100 yds of clear open ground of No Mans Land in front, of the 31st & 32nd Bns, & up to 200 yds in front of the 54th & 53rd Bns. But, the 15th Bde on the extreme Right, had to cross about 350 yds of clear open ground to reach the German Front Lines. The 15th Brigade’s two leading Battalions were almost wiped out in “No Mans Land” by heavy machine gun fire, from the “Sugarloaf position” & very few Diggers managed to reach the German Front Line, let alone penetrate it.
  • The 31st& 32nd – & 54th& 53rd Bns although, taking heavy casualties, over ran the German front line. The 31st Bn CO, LTCOL Fred Toll proceeded forward Approx. 400 M looking for the proposed 3rd & 4th Line German Trenches, but found only muddy ditches. They returned back to a dry Ditch about 200 m behind the main German Front Line& started to dig in as their defensive line. They managed to hold it against Heavy German Artillery Barrages, & overwhelming German Counter Attacks, but at about 2.00AM, LTCOL Toll decided to move back to the Main German line.They held out until about 6.30 AM on the following morning, when they were forced to retreat back over No Man’s Land to their own lines, due to lack of ammunition & reinforcements, sustaining further heavy casualties in the process.
  • The Attack was over in 18 Hours but wounded were still trying to crawl back & diggers going out to try to rescue them for many hours after.
  • The Battle achieved nothing, and was a disaster. There were no more attacks at Fromelles for the rest of the war. The bodies of the dead Australians lay in No Man’s Land, until after the War, and many who were killed behind the German Lines, remained as missing. After the war the 410 unidentified remains in NO Mans Land were buried in Groups of 10 at “VC Corner” Cemetery at Fromelles. Those who were killed behind the German Lines remained as missing & would remain unheard of for about 80 Years. That’s another story. (Refer Below)
  • Roll call after the Battle recorded a total of 5533 Casualties by the 5th Division. This was the highest casualties sustained by any Div. within a 24hr period in Australian Military History.
  • However, due to the high casualties, the Battle was basically kept a secret, by the high authority, and as the Aust. 1st – 2nd & 4th Divisions entered the Battle of the Somme on the 23rd July capturing Poziers & the high ground of the “Windmill” behind it, with a Casualty high of 23,000 over the following weeks, the Battle of Fromelles was forgotten, & became part of the British Somme offensive. The British never ever recorded Fromelles as a Battle & it is not recognised as such to this Day. We Australians regard it as a Battle, & the 31st Bn being the only Unit of the 5th Div. WW1, still operational & on strength in the ADF, will continue to recognise it & commemorate the Diggers who fought & died there.


  • In the late 1990’s a Greek born, Arts Teacher & amateur War Historian from Melbourne started taking an interest in the Battle of Fromelles as he had interviewed old WW1 Diggers of the Victorian 15th Brigade living nearby in Melbourne. He became convinced after checking records and reading Corfield’s Book on Fromelles “Don’t forget me Cobber” that there were approx. 250 missing Diggers unaccounted for. Lambis was on a mission. After research of German Aerial Photographs & a visit to Germany to inspect German War records, he identified that a probable Burial site, was an area astride “Pheasant Wood” which was behind the German front Line. Lambis requested authorities to investigate the site, but they weren’t interested. However, due to his drive & persistence, it wasn’t until 2007, that an Archaeological team found evidence of Australian & British Badges on the site. This proved to be enough evidence to make a dig. It wasn’t until 2009 that the dig was made & the bodies recovered.
  • Due to modern DNA, Bodies were identified. All remains were reinterred in a New Cemetery named “Pheasant Wood Cemetery”. As remains were identified new Headstones with their Names & Units etc replaced the Blank ones. Due to modern DNA, remains have continued to be identified each year & their Graves noted, including quite a few 31st Bn men. It was due to the publicity of the find of the Bodies at Fromelles that knowledge of the Battle became more widespread.
  • Since Lambis’s discovery, new Books have been written, a new Cemetery Established, & a new Museum Built in Fromelles. In 2009, Lambis Englezos was recognised for his outstanding Service and exceptional Achievement, and awarded a Member of the Order of Australia, AM. Lambis is continuing his search for burial grounds of unaccounted missing Soldiers, in various WW1 Battle Fields. Australia owes a great deal to this man.

TONY WADESON (Secretary 31st Bn Association – Brisbane Branch)




Battle of Fromelles – Commemoration

Members & Friends, Our “Battle of Fromelles” Commemoration Service will be held again this year, at the Ipswich General Cemetery, on Monday 19th July at 1100 Hrs. Please note your Diaries. Further Details will be advised, when arrangements are finalised.

This is the only Commemoration of this Most Historic Battle, held in Queensland. Undertaken by the Australian 5th Division, It was a disaster resulting in the largest List of Casualties (5533) sustained within a 24 Hour period in Australia’s Military History.
As it was the first Battle undertaken by Australia on the Western Front, the disastrous details were withheld & casualties hidden within the Somme casualties which Australian participation started a few days later. As the 31st Bn took a major role in the Battle & is the only Bn from the 5th Division still on strength in the Australian Defence Force today, we feel it is our duty to ensure the Battle & the Men who fought & died are not forgotten. It was a Melbourne School Teacher of Greek ancestry – Lambis Englezos AM who in recent years has made Australians more aware of the Battle.

Mick James, our Coordinating Officer, has ascertained that 11 members of the 31st Bn during WW1, were Old Boys of the – Ipswich Grammar School.  Mick   is contacting Ipswich Grammar School, plus other High Schools in Ipswich inviting them, to attended the Ceremony. Mick has selected an Old Boy of Ipswich Grammar, – Cpl. Edward Kent MM, who participated in the battle, & who is buried in the Cemetery, to be the person honoured on that Day. It is hoped a Student will give the address to commemorate that Soldier. It should be noted that the 31st Bn, – 2IC Major Percy Eckersley & the Adjutant (1918) Capt. Vaux Morisset were Old Boys of Ipswich Grammar School.  Mick is being assisted by the Ipswich RSL Sub Branch.

Mick recently spent a few days with Lambis Englezos AM in Melbourne & was informed that the Project on The Battle of Fromelles undertaken by students of St Clare’s College Waverley in Sydney  had been completed and a Video was now available. Mick has listed the link to the Video in his letters to the Schools. This is an excellent Project which took 3 years to produce by the Students who Graduate this year.
Below is the Link to launch of the Lost Diggers of Fromelles video. Students of St. Clare’s College , Waverley , NSW were assisted in the project by Patrick Lindsay, well known Producer, and Lambis Englezos, who was instrumental in finding the lost diggers of Fromelles in 2008. This is a great project carried out by some of the Students over a three year period.