Fromelles Commemoration – Fromelles, France and Ipswich Queensland

Our Honarary Life Member in Fromelles, Pierre Seillier sends this report to our Brisbane Branch Secretary Tony Wadeson
and Committee member Mick James:
Hello Tony and Mick,
Yesterday was the ceremony for the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles; The president of Fromelles et Weppes Terre de Memoire 14-18 ( my french association) Mr Martial Delebarre first laid a wreath at the Kennedy Memorial in honor of the British soldiers killed in this terrible battle. Then everyone got together at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery for the main ceremony. A large number of flag bearers were present.
After the welcoming speech of Lieutenant Colonel François Nozaïc, Australian Army, it was the turn of Mr Jean Gabriel Masson, Mayor of Fromelles to do a speech, followed by the Prefet of North Region and Her Exellency Mrs Gillian Bird, Australian Ambassador in France. After the speeches, Fromelles children and Australian Children ( from the families of staff member of the embassy) have laid roses on the graves of unknown soldiers (no identification confirmed this year).
It was the time for official to lay the wreaths, my Wife Corinne laid the wreath for the 31st Infantry Battalion Association, on my behalf due to my broken fibula…Imagine what was my surprise during the speech of Her Exellency Mrs Gillian Bird, Australian Ambassador in France, to hear my name and the name of the 31st Bn Ass, to thank me  and us for the work to keep alive the memory of our boys … Despite the pain in my leg, it was a very beautiful and moving ceremony. Lieutenant Colonel François Nozaïc who is a friend took care of me he was very kind with me and my wife… You can see all pictures on my Facebook page 🙂

Our 31st Battalion Wreath Laid by Pierre’s wife Corinne
Our Association Wreath
In reply our Secretary Tony sent the following:
Pierre, thank you again for organising the laying of our Wreath at Fromelles. And a special thanks to your Wife Corinne for laying the wreath. on your behalf. It must have been painful for you to be present at the Service with your broken Leg & other injuries. I shall write & thank LTCOL Francois Nozaic for looking after you. Pierre, we have our Services here in Australia but having a wreath laid at the Battle Scene at the Precise time of the men attacking 105 years ago means something special to all of us. Thank you & Corinne for making it possible.

We believe Our small service was very successful in that the students & teachers of the four High Schools who attended, were made aware of the battle of Fromelles & went away moved and enlightened by the sacrifice of so many involved, and the pain & suffering of the Families of those who were killed, wounded & missing. We had 3 members of the Brisbane Branch of the Veterans de l’Armee Francaise d’Australie who attended, & a wreath laid by them. Mick will probably have some photos of them. We also had two serving members of the 31st/42nd Bn who  drove 8 Hours down from Rockhampton to attend the Service. The Commanding Officer & the RSM were unable to Attend as they and the Battalion are involved in a Large International Battle Excercise in progress in Central & Northern Australia, the CO however made certain the Regiment was represented at the Service. We are extremely grateful to him.

Our Service is Growing & gaining support by the City of  Ipswich Community thanks to a lot of work by Mick James & your Tributes. The Kent & Spreadborough Families & Schools were deeply moved when we presented copies of your tributes to them.

Both Melbourne & Sydney Commemoration Services were cancelled as they are experiencing a flair up of Covid-19 in their cities & are in Lockdown. I believe Our commemoration was the only one held in Australia.

 Thanks Pierre, & Corinne.  Regards from all members of the 31st Infantry Bn Association & The 31st/42nd Bn Royal Queensland Regiment.


Tony continues with a more detailed report on the day:

Members & Friends, our Honorary Life Member in France Pierre Seillier who, each year, arranges a Wreath on our behalf, & lays it at The Battle of Fromelles Commemoration Service at Pheasant Wood Cemetery Fromelles. Unfortunately this year, Pierre had a bad fall, and apart from other injuries, managed to break his leg, which restricted his movement & he had to attend the service confined to a wheelchair. Luckily his Wife Corinne, was able to lay the wreath on his behalf.

Pierre has sent the above Photos showing the beautiful Wreath (with the 31st Bn Ribbon) & Corinne receiving and laying the Wreath. Pierre was no doubt not far away wearing his 31st Bn Assoc. Beret & Badge. For those who are new to our Association Pierre & his family are legends in the Fromelles area.

Pierre’s Facebook page includes about 100 Photos.

Mick James will be following up sending out Photos of our Ipswich Ceremony, which we believe to have been the only service held in Australia. The Melbourne & Sydney  Services were cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak in those two cities. Our Service this year increased in numbers & we were honoured by the presence, of Teachers & Students from 4 Ipswich High Schools, The Deputy Mayor Nicole Jonic, The Hon Shayne Neumann MP, – Member for Blair. – Two members of our Regiment – 31/42 Bn RQR, who drove the 8 Hours down from Rockhampton. Members from  Ipswich, Rosewood & Moreton District RSL Sub Branches. – 3 members of the French Army Veterans of Australia Assoc. Two Members of The National Service Pipes & Drums, Drum Major Dennis Deering, with Rolly McCartney the Pipe Major performing.

Brigadier Bill Date provided an inspiring & memorable Address.  Also, relatives of three WW1 – 31st Bn Diggers who took part in the battle, and of course our mates representing the 49th Bn Assoc. All up I believe we had over 60 in attendance on a perfect day. Pierre Seillier’s Tributes were presented to each School & relatives of the 31st Bn Diggers, & too the Ipswich RSL Sub Branch President Rob Wadley. Our Thanks go to Padre Peter Woodward, and Bugler Brad Strong, & Brigadier Bill Date, and the CO of 31/42 RQR – LTCOL David Gandy & RSM John Stafford for their support.

Below: A Few Pictures of the Commemoration Ceremony at the Ipswich Cemetery
Other Commemoration Pictures can be seen by clicking the Gallery Menu of this website.
Brigadier Bill Date giving the History of the Battle of Fromelles
Ipswich Grammar School Student Giving address on Edward Kent MM
and Other past pupils who fought at Fromelles
31st Battalion Association Banner at the Ipswich Cemetery Commemoration
Below: Gallery Photos

Battle of Fromelles – Discussion – Lambis Englezos AM & Veteran Bill Boyce

This is part of a discussion between Lambis Englezos and Fromelles Battle Veteran Bill Boyce of 58th Battalion,15th Brigade held at Warnambool on Sept 5th 1992 Lambis had been friends with  some veterans of the Battle for
many years. They referred to themselves as “19th of July Men”. The discussion starts with mention of the “Sugar Loaf” which was the objective (shown in the picture below) of the 15th Brigade being at the right flank of the Australian attack.
Air Photo of Fromelles Battle Field Area Showing the Sugar Loaf Feature.
Lambis Englezos
September the 5th 1992, conversations with Bill Boyce, 58th Battalion at Warrnambool.
Bill Boyce
L On the sugar loaf.
 B Well I find it very very hard to You just don’t know what other’s feelings are, apart from what your own feelings are. Oh yes, I’d say we were prepared.
L They said they were to wave bayonets or something above the trenches?
B No they were not trenches, they were sandbagged barricades about 6 feet deep, width, and 6-7feet high. You see in the winter time it was so wet and muddy that you couldn’t have trenches dug out as the word trench means. The enemy had the same of course.
L But were you confident of taking the sugarloaf, considering the barrage that had gone over the top?
B Well my job was to help dig a communication trench across from our own lines to theirs and as such you just didn’t have bayonets…. And the instructions were that when a man in front of you fell who was badly wounded or dead, you just rolled him to one side to the side that most of the fire appeared to be coming from – of course this was in the dark, and we didn’t have very much idea – and put a good heaping of earth over him, because in the first place it all had to be loosened up with a pick before you could get the shovel into it because it was summertime and being very very wet in the wintertime, it set like cement.
L And you drew a lot of fire then, digging that sap?
B Oh yes, because once the enemy found out that we were endeavouring to dig a communication trench, and they would be able to, because although it was dark they had Very lights going up, and coming down, they turned machine guns on and artillery fire as well, and the only thing you could do was just lay yourself flat on the ground until the worst of it was over, then hop in again, and I’ll tell you you were a trier, you were digging all right, that was for sure.
L And you got hit I believe, some shrapnel wounds?
B I got some through the fleshy part of the leg there. We were in a desperate situation, and although I could have said all right I’m going back to the dressing station I dressed it myself, the field aid dressings that we all carried, and that was all right. It stiffened up a bit later on. The next day when I examined my tunic – examining is not quite the right word to use I suppose – I was just looking over it, there were a couple of bullet holes through the sleeve there, and through the shoulder strap, you’d marvel that you can go so close and still not get hurt.
L And your company took heavy casualties did they, in digging that sap?
B Oh yes, what they were I don’t know. This was the time that Pompey Elliott disclosed his true self, breaking down after we were recalled.
L What time of day were you recalled was it still night or had morning arrived?
B we went out sometime between dark and midnight it was soon after dark I would think, I don’t know, but because we’d be lined up in the thing, and they’d give a demonstration and it’d be hard to say at what time it was, you don’t concentrate on time, but it was breaking day when we came in and there was Pompey Elliott standing there with the tears running down his face as I’ve said to you, apologizing for the mix-up.
L You actually saw Pompey when you came out the line,
B when we came out of the line,
L on the way to the De
B I don’t know how far we got with the trench really, I didn’t know because it was dark and you just didn’t know.
L You said something about the Germans flooding the trenches, or flooding the ground?
B They flooded the ground. That was mainly the 59th and 60th Battalions copped that, (I have heard since, I didn’t know it at the time that they were supposed to go and take the front – the first enemy trenches, consolidate them and turn them round and go on to the next line of trenches, but as a matter of fact there was no second line of trenches, there was only just the sloping up of the hill where they had all their fire power up on the top of it, and the big water reservoir at the back of that where they had their big pipes coming through to flood the first line of defense, this is what they did, they turned it on, it was getting towards daylight, they were cunning enough to wait until the fellows had to move out, the fellows moved out and tsch!
L Were you aware of the larger scheme of things? Like when did you realize, the fighting soldier, that things were going badly for the 15th Brigade and the other units?
B Well when I could see these fellows that had been flooded out trying to get back to their own lines with machine gun fire and artillery fire down on them, I realized then that things were going badly. Up to then I just did not know.
L What do think went wrong? You know were the Australians underprepared or were they poorly supported? Where could blame be administered?
B I would say the Higher Command did not fully know what they were up against. In the first place, prior to the 19th July after we had come out of the ones further along the line we were told it was to be a demonstration only. The first time we went in they hadn’t brought the elite troops up from further down from what they called the chalk pits, where the 2nd Division was installed down there, and they were trying to break through. The elite German troops had still remained there so we didn’t do anything at all just marched in and took up the position for 24 hours or so, then were taken out again, and immediately after that were put back into the real thing which formed the battle of Fromelles.
L There’s talk that McCay had a hand in mismanaging the whole affair, could it have been called off, because there was a call to give more time to preparations or even call the whole stunt off.
B From what I have read (personally you don’t see, you’ve only got a small sector for yourself really, you don’t know what is going on) in reading the story of it years later McCay took it on himself, above the advice from his other Generals but he was supreme commander, and I would say the blame rested with him. As they said, they weren’t fully aware of all of what the enemy had, he was much stronger than they thought. Of course they did bring their elite troops up from the chalk pits certainly, the good German troops. As in all, even right through the British army, the conscript doesn’t fight like the volunteer, and it was the same on the German side.
L They were the Bavarian or Prussian Guard?
B Yes, the Bavarian and Prussian Guard, they were two good fighters. But the others they didn’t have the guts. I would say that was a pretty fair summing up of it all.
L And Pompey was against the whole thing from the start, he and Brudenell White tried to buy some more time from Haking and Gough the British commanders.
B In what I have read since, and I’ve been told that is exactly the position. They were very much against it, saying that they weren’t well enough acquainted with the strength of the enemy and the position that they could get an accurate picture. They said definitely that they were not ready, but McCay overruled them of course….
L And as you said earlier, Pompey was actually at the line when you came out?
B Pompey was actually right up and he was at the head of where we had started our own sap, where we had started to dig the thing, and he was very very upset.
L And you saw him as you came out?
B Yes it was getting daylight then, and he was standing there at the mouth of the sap where it was open for us … and he was very very upset he said ‘For God’s sake don’t ever blame me for this’ he said ‘This is wrong,’ he says ‘it’s not my fault!’ He was definitely very upset. L What was the mood like for the remaining couple of days, you know the 57th went out and did a lot of reclaiming of bodies and personal effects? B Well of course that had to be done at night.
L And lime, the use of lime?
B Eventually yes to preserve the bodies that couldn’t be moved and couldn’t be got at, they sprinkled lime on them, But some time after that, I wouldn’t know how long, but I developed mumps and was sent to a British Hospital at St Pol (actually St Omer) where complications set in and I was away for about six weeks. And it was during that time, evidently, from what I have read, they had the big gathering somewhere back, and the Battalions and all that, and they really chewed Pompey up. I didn’t know because I was in the hospital, and I didn’t know it’d gone on until I came back, and of course it was all over by the time I got back.
Bill Boyce – St Pol
L Speaking of St Pol, you were talking before about the 58th Battalion, I’d like to read you the section from Robin’s book. We’ve jumped out to 1918 now. “To help deal with the German advance, the 5th Division began on the 27th March to move south to the vicinity of Corbie, where the 3rd Division was holding a long line roughly following the Ancre River. The movement was by train from Caestre to Doullens then marching to Corbie. The journey was a sad business. Just beyond St Pol the train carrying the 58th Battalion was hit by a 15” shell, 16 men were killed including the entire quartermaster’s staff and 9 were wounded. Eight horses also died.”
B Sorry can I have a go? Those figures are not quite correct. I was the NCO in charge of the quartermaster’s store, at that particular time, we’d done a forced march from Caestre, and then some time after lunch we went to this railway siding, I haven’t the faintest idea where it was, dropped all of our stores on the siding, and the transport officer came along and he said “Corporal that’s only truck you’ve got, you’ve got to put all of your stores into that, and pack them in such a way that you can leave room for 18 men to lie down and have a rest, because they need the rest, and (this is quite apart from most other things), there was a small body of men left back with a few stores on the siding, never saw them again, and when eventually I got back from England the Quartermaster Captain Best, asked me to come along to his tent which I did and he said “You are the only one that can give me the true answer to this question. A lot depends on what you’ve got to say. Do you know if all, would you say that all of your range-finders” (we had 4 range-finders, in boxes, I suppose the length of that bench, possibly 7 feet long, roughly 20” square, there were 4 of those, one for each Coy) and I loaded them one on top of each other, so that they formed a table, we could have put stools on top of that, …the men, and he said “If those were left behind they were captured by the Germans, if that was so I’m in Hell’s own bother.” And he said “Can you say for sure, don’t give me your answer now, sleep on it and think it over, do you know if all of those range-finders were in the truck or were any of them left with the surplus stores?” I said, “No I can tell you definitely”, because I explained to him how I had loaded them to form a platform, and I knew that there were four there. And he said, “Well there is nobody that can gainsay what you have said, and that will exonerate me from all blame”, he said “If there would had been one range-finder left there I’ll be in Hell’s own bother.” And this was many months afterwards. “No” I said “I can swear on anything you like there was four of them there”, “Well” he said “There was nothing of them discovered.”
L In early discussions you mentioned how you were buzzed by your own planes or something, that they’d been commandeered by the Germans –
B No, no, the Germans had broken through, and they’d captured British observation planes … I’d think they would have been Moths in all probability…. And they were flying around overhead, and we thought they’re having a joyride, and with the situation as it is why the hell is a man doing a thing like that? And because he’s got the rondels on ….just as if the captain? Cabin was completely intact ready to fly…. He was able to direct that, the gunfire from …. They told me when I eventually got back from England that it was a 16, they found enough of the base to measure, it was 16” in diameter, it would have weighed a ton according to them. The gun that fired it would have had to have been more than 20 miles away. The first few shells landed short and eventually they got one that went over, so they had a bracket then, all they had to do was half way between there and there was the target.
L Was the train moving at the time or was it stationary?
B It went a few yards and stopped, it was mostly stopped. Later on when I came back from England and …. sort things out amongst those, they told me that the stationmaster at St Pol was a German sympathizer and he held the train there against the signals. I believe he was investigated and then shot by the British.
L Do you recall being blown into the air by the blast of the shell?
B I recall every thing about it. This is a thing that seems hard to believe because, I remember a blinding flash and heat, and the sensation of going upwards. I knew then that a shell had hit us, that something big had hit us, and I’m going up and I thought when this sensation of going up stops, I’m dead, then I started to feel myself coming down and I blacked out. I remember landing on the top of the railway embankment. The train was in an embankment and I rolled down and I fetched up against the end of the sleepers, conscious of it all and then I blacked out again, and sometime later, I don’t know how long, a rescue party came along and a chap an old tent mate, from down in Mortlake name of Dowling, they were coming along with an old kerosene lantern and I heard suddenly “Here’s another deady!” and I said No Jim, I’m not dead yet! “Good Gord!” and I blacked out again, next thing I knew it was getting daylight, and I was stretched out on a big grass plot and all round me was stretcher cases lying and not moving many of them, all passed over, and cold, my God it was cold, just one blanket over me, and an orderly walked past and I frightened the life out of him, I said, Hey mate can you get us another blanket, I’m bloody cold. He said “Good Gord, he’s alive” and he was back in a second and brought 2 or 3 blankets, warm and dry ones, and a cup of coffee, and I went out again then until I found myself in the hospital train headed for a French port, and eventually got a jammed and??? there and cleaned up a little bit and eventually sent to England then to recuperate or die, whichever it was to be. But all through my hair was flesh, I was combing the flesh out of my hair, they were all round they were all blown up, well I don’t know, they told me there were quite a number bodies that they never discovered at all, just got no trace of them. One man who was as close to me as what you are there, he’s in this purple cap, and they got him 300 yards away from where the shell had exploded. Now how the hell can a man live through that?
L You’re blest Bill!
B I must have been saved for something!
L I like looking round the room looking at all these photographs of your children and grandchildren, it’s great.
B Oh yes life hasn’t been without its rewards. But at that time I never expected to.
L So you were the only survivor of the 18 people in the carriage?
B No, the other chap that was standing along side of me when the shell hit us he got blown up also naturally, lost his leg and he lost his arm, I was the only survivor out of it, he came, he was invalided back to Australia, he died a few years later. All the rest were just… Now in some of the books which I have read where the story has been related by others, not by me…. in that they’ve said there were 3 others that there was 21 I think they had, 21 men in the truck, well I know there was only 18 including myself, I know that perfectly because it was my job to load it and see to it. And some of those got injured they said.
L And so they patched you up and sent you back to France again did they?
B Which hurt, you know …. Certainly I was feeling all right, but it seemed to me it was damned unfair, but they had in mind the 8th of August stunt that was organized by Monash, and he wanted every man that he could get his hands on. I think I have told you about this, the way it was worked. It was absolutely deafening when all those guns went off at once. Can you just imagine it, a line of guns that would have reached more than 25 miles if you put them wheel to wheel, of course the big guns were at the back and so on till you get to the 18 pounders right up in front, and they all broke out at once, thousands of them. The sound. It was good that it was coming from us and not from the enemy. And this is what Ludendorf said was Germany’s black day.
L Do you think the Americans arrived on the scene had shortened the war in any way or not?
B Well only the Germans could really answer that question accurately, I would think that it probably from the point of the Germans summing up they realized they were outnumbered and outdone really. That’s what I would think. As far as fighting was concerned they were most unreliable, even on the 8th of August when the whole front moved forward like that, these fellas that were on the flank, the Americans, mistook the Australians for the enemy, and opened the guns on them. That is official!
L Because of your wounds at St Pol you would have missed out on Villers Bretonneux, where the 58th featured pretty heavily in the Villers Bretonneux stunt.
B No no, you see….
L 27th March was when the shell hit the train, and you would have been out of action for quite a while, and 24th 25th April was when the 15th Brigade retook Villers Bretonneux.
B Ah yes, I would have been away then.
L That was a major victory for the 15th.
B Yes, I could only get paper reports from it because I was hospitalised in England. And as a matter of fact for the first month I didn’t give a damn anyway what happened when….well I was hoping, and I did expect to get invalided back to Australia but they had other ideas.
L How did you feel about conscription Bill? Can I ask you a personal question, ask you how you voted or?
B Yes I can readily answer that. No I would not vote for conscription. Two reasons: The conscript army. We could see that the conscript army, the conscript soldier was not the fighter the volunteer was. And why drag a man into it if he doesn’t particularly want to come. And that was …. I voted no because that was …. We sat down and had a lot of talks about it as they had advised us to do, and my own feeling on it was this, well, I volunteered to come into it, it’s hell on earth, but why try to drag somebody else into it … plus the fact that the volunteer is a long way better fighter that the conscript. Well he signed up and that’s what took people away to fight wasn’t it.
L right, that was one, but what was the second one – or that was part of it – the second reason. I asked the same question of another chap from the 24th Battalion he said when it came to the crunch like he wanted someone whose shoulder, you know, he could rely on when it came to the time of going over the top, and I thought in my naïve way it might be because of the horrors of the war, they wouldn’t want to inflict it on anyone else. But they took a real pride in the fact that they were a volunteer army.
B That’s right, and at the back of it all was the fact that the volunteer, you can depend on him – that was the feeling that I had anyhow. My mates are volunteers, and they’ll stick. But can you say that the conscript is going to stick, because we could see it with the English army – they were all conscripts, and they didn’t have the guts to volunteer, that’s certain.
B You haven’t met Barbara?
L No just Tony and Jill …. When’s your birthday Bill?
B 18th May………………

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

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. 


31st Battalion – Brisbane Branch – Anzac Day 2021

The Brisbane branch of the 31st Battalion Assoc continued their tradition of Commemorating ANZAC Day with members attending the 2nd 31st Bn Commemoration at the Memorial at Southbank and our march through the Brisbane CBD, this year behind all 3 of our Banners. We thank all or Banner bearers and they are included in our photos at the end of the march. Most of us adjourned to the Grand Central for lunch and a few ales. We also enjoyed the entertainment of the Irish Assoc Pipe Band.
The 2nd photo has Capt Henderson’s photo, cap, jacket & WW2 record. He was a Company Commander with 2/31st Bn.
Southbank 2/31st Battalion Memorial -Anzac Day 2021
Capt George Henderson
From L to R 31st/51stBn – 31st Bn  & 2/31st Bn Banners paraded together – Anzac Day 2021
31st Battalion Association (Brisbane Branch) – Anzac Day 2021

Visit to Alstonville – Home of Paddy Bugden VC

Regular contributor of articles to our website, Mick James, tells us of his visit over Christmas to the hometown of Patrick Bugden VC:
I spent Christmas in Ballina with family and had a relaxing time. We visited Alstonville (about 10 klms west on the road to Lismore) and had lunch at the Federal Hotel there. This was owned by Paddy Bugden VC’s family and he worked there before joining up in 1916.
The Hotel has a Tribute to Paddy in the Hotel (see photos). We also visited his Memorial around the corner in Bugden Ave.
I also include my photo of Paddy’s grave with Pierre’s tribute that I placed on it when I recited the Ode during my visit together with Pierre in Sept 2017.
I should also mention that local Rotarian, John Barnes OAM wrote a slim book about Paddy, titled “So i fear nothing”, which is part of a quote taken from a letter Paddy wrote to his mother. It is detailed on the memorial stone that forms part of his Memorial in Bugden Ave, see photo. The Rotary Club of Alstonville may have copies of the book.

Leiutenant George Alfred Still – MC

Member Mick James has dug up the following story containing details of one of the 1st Reinforcements for 31st Battalion:

STILL, Lieutenant George Alfred MC
Posted May 17, 2017 by Admin
Lieutenant George Alfred Still MC
31st Battalion, AIF
by Robert Simpson

George Alfred Still was born in Reigate, Surrey, England on 4th January 1883 at Montpelier Villa, London Road, Red Hill. His father was listed as a schoolmaster. He was one of eight children to George Ewers Still and Lucy Arnold. George and Lucy were married on 28th December 1880 at West Brompton. In the 1881 census George was living at Hove in Sussex with his parents and Lucy was with her parents in London. He was a graduate of St. Mark’s College. George was listed as a School Master and Lucy was a Fancy Goods Assistant, working in the fancy goods trade with her father and siblings. Their first child Sarah was born in late 1881. George Alfred was the second child. He had 3 brothers and 4 sisters.

In July 1884, the four of them departed Liverpool for Brisbane on the Nevasa, arriving there on the 8th of September. George was one of a batch of teachers brought out from England by the Queensland Government. He took up a position as headmaster of Newtown School in Maryborough (now Maryborough West State School). After arriving in Queensland the rest of the children were born from 1885 to 1901. A younger brother, Kenneth Victor, who was born in 1893, died in Maryborough and was buried in the cemetery there in 1895. In 1895, at the end of year breakup, the headmaster George Still gave a report which included “that Haidee Sunners and George Still obtained Grammar School Scholarships at the last examination, the latter not being twelve years old at the time.” In 1898 a list of passes of the Maryborough candidates for the Junior Public Examinations for the University of Sydney were published and included George, who matriculated with English A, French C, Latin C, Greek B, arithmetic B and algebra B. The youngest brother and family member, Victor, was born in Maryborough in 1897.
The 1903 Electoral Roll shows they were living at Ariadne Street in Maryborough and George Ewers was a Schoolmaster. In December 1905 the Maryborough Chronicle reported the breakup at Maryborough West State School and that that “was the twentieth and last at which Mr. Still would preside.” An address was read to him from the staff and children and he was presented with a parting gift. The family relocated to Boonah where he was a school teacher and they were still there in 1908 and by the 1913 Electoral Roll. He was head teacher of the Boonah State School and then Brassall State School.

By 1905 George Alfred Still had started working and on the 1st October, he was appointed as a Draftsman in the Survey office of the Department of Public Lands. On 26th March 1908 he married Maggie Gilles Smith Gibson in Queensland. Maggie had been born in Queensland on 20th April 1883, a daughter to Andrew Gibson and Margaret Smith. By the 1905 Electoral Roll she was living with a sister in Kelvin Grove Road Brisbane and was doing domestic duties. In the 1908 Electoral Roll they were at Simpson Road, West Paddington, Brisbane and he was listed as a surveyor. On 23rd February 1912 he was listed in the Queensland Gazette as a Professional Class IV, in the Survey Office, Department of Public Lands. The 1913 Roll has them living at Fernberg Road, West Paddington with his occupation as surveyor.

On 27th May 1915 George attested with the 31st Battalion in Brisbane. The 31st Battalion was raised at Enogerra in Brisbane as part of the 8th Brigade in August 1915. He then applied for a Commission on 20th August, as he qualified at an examination for first appointment as 2nd Lieutenant. He was appointed to the AIF on the 30th. His educational qualifications were listed as Grammar School, Public Service Examination and Sydney University Junior, Matriculation and Senior Examinations. He requested that 10 shillings per day was to go to his wife on 29th September, which Maggie signed for.


Group portrait of officers of the 31st Battalion, on board A62 HMAT Wandilla enroute to Egypt. From left, Front row: 2nd Lt George Alfred Still from Brisbane (later awarded MC).

On 5th November 1915, the 31st Battalion (1st Reinforcements) embarked on HMAT Bakara A41 in Melbourne. On the Nominal Roll, George was listed as a Lieutenant of 32 years old, a surveyor of address “Nowra”, Upper Fernberg Road, Ithaca, Brisbane. Oddly his wife’s address is given as Simpson’s Rd, Upper Paddington in Brisbane. His religion was listed as Presbyterian and he was a British subject. The description of his present civil employment was given as computing draftsman and surveyor at the Survey Office Lands Department. His previous military experience was noted as 2 years’ Field Artillery in Brisbane and 6 years Grammar School Cadets where he held the rank of Lieutenant. He was 5 foot 8.75 inches tall, weighed 156 pounds, had a chest measurement of 36.5 to 38.5 inches, and was of fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. His vision was 6/6 and 6/12 and had 2 vaccination marks on the right arm and a mole on the right shoulder. His term of service was for the duration of the war and 4 months.
They disembarked at Suez on 7th December 1915. On 2nd March 1916, he was posted to B Company at Tel-el-Kebir and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 21st.

The Battalion embarked at Alexandria to join the BEF on the Honorata on 16th June 1916 and disembarked at Marseilles on the 23rd. George was placed as Intelligence Officer under Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Toll, the Commanding Officer of the Battalion and worked closely with him. Prior to the attack, George and other observers gathered information and were praised by Toll who said the “men of this party also deserve praise for their untiring efforts and constant vigilance throughout the period 6th to 19th July.” The 31st Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19th July 1916. The assault had been postponed from the 17th, but even then the Battalion had suffer casualties due to enemy shelling. After a 7 hour artillery bombardment, which was ineffective, the attack was mown down by the German machine-gunners with severe losses. After the first two waves were sent off and mauled, Toll, realising the futility of the attack, and George (who had been buried by an artillery shell before the attack) led the third and fourth waves. Some German trenches were taken, but were lost due to no support and fierce counter-attacks. With Lieutenant-Colonel Toll, George had much difficulty in holding the troops, who had seen another Battalion withdraw and began to go back across No-Man’s Land. In his notes on Fromelles, C. E. W. Bean writes “Toll, at 5.45, finding himself alone with Lt. Still and Cpl. Carew, both seriously wounded, strode back across No-Man’s Land, practically the last of his brigade.” Both flanks had been broken and they returned to the original front lines, with very heavy casualties. 544 men of the 31st Battalion were casualties. The 5th Division had over 5000 casualties.

Medals of Lt George Still (Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals).

George was placed on the seconded list as evacuated sick on the 24th July. On 30th July 1916 George was sent from the 30th General Hospital at Calais to England with debility and eye strain (severe) on the HS Brighton. When Lieutenant-Colonel Toll wrote up the War Diary, he nominated twenty Officers and men for distinction in order of merit, with Lieutenant Still being the first name on the list and his name underlined for special consideration. Toll wrote “Lieut. G. A. STILL For gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemy’s position, also for keeping up communications with Brigade Headq. by means of pigeons, and later runners, and in German main breastworks during the night, assisted in consolidating positions won, and generally devotion to duty.” Army Form W 3121 has George listed in an immediate award list on 3rd August with the entry reading “At PETILLION on 19th/20th July 1916, displayed gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemies positions, also in keeping up communication with Brigade Headquarters by means of pigeons and later runners. When in the German main breastworks during the night assisted in consolidating the position won and displayed most praiseworthy devotion to duty.” It was stamped awarded M.C. on 28th August. On 31st August 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross in France. It was gazetted in the London Gazette on 26th September 1916 page 9436. The entry reads: – “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He rallied and organised straggling troops, and led them on over open country. During the night, in the enemy’s main breastwork, he ably assisted in consolidating the position won.”

He was the only Queensland officer to be awarded the Military Cross for that battle, the only other one that was awarded to the 31st Battalion was to 2nd Lieutenant L J Trounson from Maryborough Victoria. On 20th September 1916 he was discharged from Brook War Hospital at Woolwich. He was placed on the supernumerary list on 24th October. George was marched in at Weymouth on 26th January 1917, marched out for embarkation to Australia on 10th February and was struck off strength on 13th February. He returned to Australia on HT Ulysses at Plymouth on 13th February. His record originally said gunshot wound to chest and arm, which were crossed out, and then recorded as shell shock and amblyopia of the left eye. In his reference, Bean mentions that George lost sight in one eye, but that is not confirmed in his records.
George was marched in to the Number 2 Command Depot. He was discharged in Queensland on 22nd June 1917. In his statement of service form, Maggie’s original address was given as “Matea” Karella Rd Cremorne Sydney NSW, which was crossed out with the Simpson’s Road address added. He was added to the Reserve of Officers list on 1st July 1920 as a Lieutenant.

From the 1925 to 1943 Electoral Rolls they were living in Flaxton, a tiny village near Nambour and he was an orchardist; very much a change in his occupation. By 1925 his father had retired and was living in Ipswich. He was appointed a returning officer for Fassifern and Bremer electorates. He was admitted to the Ipswich General Hospital in June 1934. George Ewers Still passed away on 20th October 1934 in Queensland. An obituary stated he was head teacher at Maryborough West State School for 20 years, 11 years at Boonah and 8 at Brassall and retired in 1925. He was also a member of the Maryborough and Ipswich District Teachers’ Associations. On 6th November 1947 Lucy (his mother) passed away at Rosalie and was privately cremated. In the 1949 roll they had retired to Tugun on the Gold Coast. They shifted again and by the 1954 Electoral Roll they were living on the corner of North and Bayview Roads at number 121 North Street at Brighton, and were still there in the 1958 Roll. He was still retired. The 1963 roll finds both of them in a retirement village called Iona at Brookfield Road Kenmore, in Brisbane. Maggie passed away on 2nd December 1964 and George passed away in 1968. They had no children.

One of George’s younger brothers, Victor, also served in WW1. Victor was an engine fitter from Boonah. He enlisted as Private 2674 in the 9th Battalion on 26th May 1915, was transferred to the 49th Battalion on 2nd April 1917 in France and was wounded in 1917 with a severe gunshot wound of the back. He was admitted to hospital and died of wounds on 29th October 1917 at 5.25 am. Victor is buried in Mont Houn Military Cemetery, grave number 663B.
A sister, Lucy Elizabeth, married John Mitchell Norris in 1912. John served in WW1 as Sapper 22312 in the Field Company Engineers, but did not embark until March 1918. He returned to Australia in August 1919.

His youngest brother, Arnold born in 1901 in Maryborough, became a Police Constable there. He served in a few places in Queensland, rising to the rank of Senior Sergeant when he was in Brisbane. He passed away there in 1971. Arnold’s son, Leonard Victor Still married Helen Martin Steel, whose brother, Robert Martin Steel, served in WW1 as Sapper 5423 in the Mining and Tunnelling Company. Robert was born in Scotland, was a miner and migrated to Queensland in 1911. His son, James Robert Steel born in 1922 in Ipswich, served in WW2 as Leading Aircraftman 426006 in 114 Air Sea Rescue Flight.

Sgt David Emmet Coyne – Albert Medal Gold

David Emmet Coyne (1896-1918), soldier and farmer, was born on 14 March 1896 at Ballinrush, near Mackay, Queensland, eighth child of David Emmet Coyne, farmer, and his wife Anne, née Hughes, both of whom were Irish-born. He was educated at Marian State School and then joined his father on the land.

Coyne enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 25 January 1916 and went into training at Fraser’s Hill Camp, Brisbane. While there he showed considerable athletic prowess and figured in an incident which was perhaps a portent of the selfless act which resulted in his death two years later. After the horses of an express wagon had bolted, endangering several soldiers’ lives, Coyne leapt on to the back of one of the horses and managed to bring the wagon to a halt. He embarked for France with reinforcements in May and on 24 December was taken on strength with the 31st Battalion. His unit spent the winter of 1916-17 on the Somme engaged in raiding and patrol work, then in March took part in the advance on Bapaume. On 21 April 1917 he was promoted lance corporal and for the next six months was absent from his unit qualifying as a bombing instructor and serving temporarily with the 67th Battalion. He was promoted sergeant in June and rejoined the 31st Battalion in October.

From November 1917 until March 1918 the battalion served in Flanders in the Messines-Wytschaete sector, then returned to the Somme. On the night of 15 May, while in the line at Vaire-sous-Corbie, Coyne was testing some Mills grenades which he believed had been affected by damp. He threw one of them but it rebounded off the parapet and fell into the trench in which he and several others were standing. Ordering his men out, he tried to find the grenade in the darkness; then, realizing that his companions were not clear, deliberately threw himself over the grenade’s approximate position and received over twenty wounds when it exploded. At first it was thought that Coyne would survive and it was typical of his courageous and genial nature that he joked about the incident as he received preliminary medical attention. His wounds proved worse than expected and he died within hours. He was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in Gold, the highest class of that decoration: he was the only member of the A.I.F. to gain such a distinction. Sgt Coyne’s grave lies in the Vignacourt British cemetery near Amiens. He was unmarried.

Sgt David Emmet Coyne – Albert Medal Gold

Tribute to Sgt David Emmet Coyne – Albert Medal Gold done by Hon Member Pierre Seillier

Members may be interested to know that David’s father who was also David Emmet Coyne was a director of Marian Sugar Mill (near Mackay) during WW1.

The Albert Medal

The Albert Medal was instituted in 1866 and named after Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, who had died in 1861.

Until the institution of the George Cross in 1940 it was Britain’s premier decoration for civilian acts of gallantry in saving life at sea and on land. It became known as ‘the civilian’s Victoria Cross’, although awards were also made to servicemen in non-combatant situations.

There were two classes: the First Class in gold, and the Second Class in bronze.according to the perceived degree of gallantry. The medal was awarded only for the most exceptional bravery, and consequently was very sparingly given.

The medal was terminated in 1971. Subsequently the George Cross was awarded for acts of Gallantry in this category.

It is worth noting that only 45 gold and 290 Bronze Albert Medals were awarded from its inception until it was terminated. It is enlightening to read how many awards were made to military members relating to accidental grenade explosions.


Sgt Cyril Kirby MM and Pte JJ Goulding – Historic Links at Fromelles

This interesting piece of history which recently came to light, purely by member, Chris Hamilton, based in Longreach, reading an article in the “Barcoo Independant” . Chris followed up to make contact with the author – Ann Kirby who had mentioned about her Grand Father being a member of the 31st Battalion at the Battle of Fromelles. Chris then passed it on to Mick James who got to work with the help of Life Member Peter Nelson, & our French Life Member Pierre Seillier (Fromelles). The Team dug up a fascinating piece of 31st Battalion History. Thanks to Mick, Peter, & Pierre. Refer below, & read the website articles that Mick has provided.

Mick takes up the story:
It started a few days ago when Chris Hamilton forwarded to us an article about 31st Bn digger, No 555 Pte JJ Goulding and the sad letter his mother wrote seeking information about his whereabouts as he was missing and then noted as being in German custody following the Battle of Fromelles. The writer (Ann Kirby) noted that he was in the same Battalion & Company as her Grandfather, who was No 525 Sgt Cyril Kirby MM.
I attach Mrs Goulding’s letter to the Army seeking details of her son 3 years after the Battle.

The letter written by Mrs J Goulding seeking details of her Son Pte John Joseph Goulding

Below also is a photo of the statue that was conceived after discussions between Lambis Englezos ,Tim Whitford and sculptor Peter Corlett. Tim was an integral part of Lambis’ team to locate the missing bodies from the Battle of Fromelles. The bodies of our soldiers were buried in 1916, in a mass grave on the German side of the line. A Shire of Alberton badge given to Tim’s ancestor, Pte Harry Willis, was the first indication that there could be Australian bodies buried where Lambis’ group calculated that they were laying. In the past 20 years the bodies have been eventually exhumed and re-interred in the Pheasant Wood Cemetery near Fromelles. Quite a number have now been identified by DNA testing.  This is an article on the Statue –

The statue of the “Grieving Mother” in Ballarat – L to R Garry Snowden Peter Nelson and Lambis Englezos

A closeup of the Statue of the Grieving Mother Holding Portrait of Her Son

Pte JJ Goulding

The recovery of the Shire of Alberton Badge was the clincher for the team led by Lambis Englazos

“The bodies in the gravesite at Fromelles were definitely Australian”

I was well aware of the JJ Goulding story and subsequent Statue of his mother. This is a link to photos and description of the Statue at the unveiling in 2017 by the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove AK – . I phoned Chris Hamilton and advised him of these details and found that the writer of the article was a Ann Kirby. I suggested that Chris should invite her to join our Facebook page 31st Battalion AIF Memorial Association (set up by Tim Whitford in 2012). I also attach a photo of JJ Goulding’s grave at Fromelles with Pierre’s Tribute to him that I had laminated and took on my visit in Sept 2017.

Grave of Pte JJ Goulding at Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery – France

Tribute to Pte John Joseph Goulding by Hon Member Pierre Seillier

Ann Kirby subsequently joined the Facebook group and was welcomed and invited to post any photos of her Grandfather. I posted the story of Sgt Cyril Kirby MM below and Ann then posted the group photo (attached) There followed a discussion on Facebook on the details of the group photo between Pierre, Peter Nelson, myself and one other. Ann had stated that Cyril was front row 2nd from right. but there was some doubt as the shoulder flashes didn’t appear to be Gold & Brown and he had CSM badge on his sleeve. I confused the situation by initially stating the incorrect time he was an acting CSM.

Eventually, after I suggested that it may have been in the Summer of 1917 because some wearing shorts and before Cyril had been awarded his MM, Peter Nelson agreed and found in Battalion Routine Orders that A/CSM Cyril Kirby had returned from a 5th Army school course on 9th August 1917. This explained the British soldiers and others from 2nd Div AIF in the photo. It was commented that the photo was of high resolution more than once.

Pierre, after initially posting a Tribute, then used his skill to expand the image of Cyril and place it on a grey background (similar to a studio photo) and produced another Tribute with the enhanced photo (attached).

Tribute to Sgt Cyril Kirby MM done by Hon Member Pierre Seillier

The story I posted to Facebook –

He joined B Coy 31st Bn in
Brisbane in August 1915, trained at Enoggera then moved to Broadmeadows in
Melbourne where BHQ, A & B Coys joined C & D Coys there and the whole
Battalion shipped to the Suez Canal arriving in Dec 1915, where they underwent
further training and also guarded the Canal from the Turks.

In June 1916 they shipped to
Marseilles and entrained up to Northern France to the Nursery, a reserve area
behind the Front Line. They moved into the Front Line at Fleurbaix around the
12th July 1916 and attacked the German front line trenches in front of Fromelles
on the evening (6.00 pm when it was still light) of 19th July.

Cyril was a Pte during the Battle
but a week later (26/7) was promoted Sgt . He relieved as Coy Sgt Major from 8th
April 17, but reverted to Sgt on 23rd Aug 1917.

In the Battle of Polygon Wood in
Belgium on 26th-28th Sept 1917, he was subsequently awarded a Military Medal.
His Citation reads-

“At Polygon Wood on 25th-28th
Sept 1917, early in the operation, his platoon commander was wounded but Sgt
Kirby, displaying great leadership and pluck, restored the confidence of the men
to such an extent that the final objective was captured and consolidated and at
least one enemy MG and crew were put out of action. Heavy hostile shelling did
not prevent his reorganising his platoon nor his giving great assistance in
bandaging the wounded”.

He attended Musketry schools and
Training Battalions as an instructor both prior to Nov 18 and after. He returned
home in early 1919 and finally discharged in Oct 1919.


Sgt Kirby on the left of Picture


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


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


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