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.
PLEASE ADVISE ME IF YOU WISH TO LAY A WREATH.
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.
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.
LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM
- 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.
- DUE TO THE COVID-19 SERIOUS SITUATION IN FRANCE – IT IS UNLIKELY THAT THE NORMAL ANNUAL COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY AT FROMELLES WILL BE HELD THIS YEAR, (it will be a smaller closed Ceremony). – OUR SERVICE & SERVICES held in MELBOURNE & SYDNEY MAY BE THE ONLY ONES TO BE HELD WORLDWIDE.
- 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)