Battle of Fromelles Commemoration – Ipswich – 2022

On Tuesday 19th July 2022 members of the 31st Infantry Battalion Assoc (Brisbane Branch) in conjunction with the Ipswich & Rosewood RSL sub branches conducted a successful Commemoration of the Battle of Fromelles on the 106th Anniversary of the Battle.

In his welcome address, President Ray Fogg paid tribute to the generosity of Mme Marie Paule Demassiet, who passed away on Friday. She had generously allowed the digging for Fromelles bodies on her land and then donated land for the Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery where our diggers are buried.

Honoured guests were the Federal Member for Blair, the Hon. Shayne Neumann MP and the Mayor of Ipswich, Ms Teresa Harding. Also, the Commanding Officer of 31st/42nd Battalion RQR, Lt Col Dave Gandy, who gave a very informative Official Address (Full text below) and was accompanied by his RSM, WO1 David Harding. They both flew down from their Townsville HQ this morning. Also present was the Asst Comd 11 Brigade, Col Arran Hassell from Brisbane. The 11th Brigade commands the 3 Infantry Battalions and other reserve Units from Qld.
We again had the services of Padre Peter Woodward and Bugler Brad Strong. Also this year we had Pipes & Drums of the National Service Assoc.


This year we had relatives of Lt James Danaher, who fought in the Battle of Fromelles attending. They were Great Grand Nephew James Danaher 3rd and Great Grand Niece Siobhan Bouma. Another relative attending was Sean Kirby, a Great Grandson of Sgt Cyril Kirby MM who fought at Fromelles and has been mentioned before on the pages of this website (See Archives November 2020). Unfortunately, some others including relatives of Cpl ER Kent MM, couldn’t attend because of Covid.


Four schools attended this year, Ipswich Grammar School, St Edmunds College, where a student gave an address on Lt James Danaher, an old boy of St Edmunds (Full text is below the official address of LTCOL Dave Gandy),  Bremer State High School and Ripley Valley State Secondary College. Presentations were made to the 2 RSL sub branches and the 4 schools with St Edmunds receiving a Tribute of their Old Boy.


Some of us adjourned to the CSI Club in Ipswich for lunch & refreshments. Some photos with more to come.


LEST WE FORGET

(L to R) 31/42RQR WO1 David Harding (RSM), LtCol David Gandy (CO), Col Arran Hassal (11 Bde Asst Comd), with

The Pipes and Drums of the National Service Association

31/42RQR – LTCOLDavid Gandy(C0) with WO1 David Harding (RSM)

Address of Commemoration – 2022

LTCOL David Gandy

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Honourable Shayne Neumann MP Federal Member for Blair, the Mayor of Ipswich Teresa Harding, The Deputy President of the Ipswich RSL Mr Paul Rogers, President of Rosewood Mr Bernie Mason, The President of the Moreton District Mr Les Nash. Assistant Commander of the Queensland own 11th Brigade Colonel Arran Hassel, honoured members of the association, fellow veterans, serving members and last but not least the president of the 31st Association- Brisbane branch, Ray Fogg and Tony Wadeson for their excellent work behind the scenes setting up this important yet historic anniversary of one of the darkest days of our military history.

Before I continue – I also want to pay my respect to the traditional owners and inhabitants of this land for which we stand and I also pay my respects to the indigenous elders both past, present and emerging.

To quote Mark Twain, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Whilst we are here today to honour the ultimate sacrifice made by those 5,533 souls 106 years ago in the dark muddy fields in France far from home… it behoves us all, whether we are military professionals, leaders or politicians to never forget or lose sight of the long term cost and ramifications of the pointless tactical actions and poor strategic decisions. For this very reason the Australian War Memorial was deliberately built and placed within direct view of the decision makers within our parliament as a sobering reminder of the cost of war. The RSM Wo1 Dave Harding and I are both veterans of multiple operational tours and unfortunately we have experienced loss and witnessed one too many ramp ceremonies whereby we bid farewell to our soldiers, subordinates and mates and had to live with those consequences every day. However as Commanding officer and RSM of 31/42 Battalion the Royal Queensland Regiment… we are driven by the sacrifices made by these heroes and patriots and we are 100% motivated to ensure that the men and women who don the uniform and wear the minotaur & whispering boomerang patch serve and parade with their sacrifices in mind… and I am exceptionally honoured to tell you shortly how the Battalion and the Brigade is honouring these sacrifices through the multiple lines of effort they commit to every day in service to this nation.

But first to retrace history – please allow me 5 mins to remind us all of the harrowing tales of this tactical abortion to quote the Divisional commander at the time.

The attack on Fromelles on 19 July 1916 was the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front. This failed offensive was a feint designed to prevent the Germans reinforcing their troops on the Somme, where the Allies had launched a major offensive on 1 July. The ruse, however as we know was unsuccessful. The 5th Division, that undertook the attack, was a mix of Gallipoli veterans and newly trained reinforcements. At that time the 5th Division comprised of the 8th, 14th and 15th Infantry Brigades each, in turn were made up of four battalions and support troops. The 8th Bde comprised the 29th , 30th , 31st and 32nd Battalions;. The 31st Battalion comprised approximately 1000 men broken up into four companies, with A and B Coy from Queensland and C and D Coy from Victoria.

The location of this diversion was directed towards heavily reinforced defensive fortifications that consisted of strong concrete trenches, overhead protection bristling with barbed wire up on high ground. The Enemy consisted of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division supported by the two flanking Divisions of the German 6 th Army. In the ranks of the enemies 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment at Fromelles was a young despatch runner named Adolf Hitler who, during the battle, faced the direct fire of advancing Australians in the conduct of his duties. Unfortunately not accurate fire.

From the outset the conditions were not set and confusion reigned supreme with little to no confirmation of the enemy’s intent and disposition. Prior to the start of the Fromelles attack 2nd Lieutenant Waldo Zander, a 30th Battalion officer from Sydney, recalled how confused he was by mixed messages given to him and his men. He also noted that despite appeals for secrecy he had heard French citizens in the local towns asking when the big day would be. The battle was never going to be the surprise that the Allies hoped for with cleverly situated German observation points, some camouflaged within trees, observing the troop assembly areas.

Furthermore, the preliminary British bombardment, which commenced on 16 July, which was aimed to decimate the German defensive position had warned the Germans that an attack was likely. As the troops moved into position on 19 July, they were unaware that they were being watched by German observers a mile away. The Germans heavily shelled the assembly area and communications trenches, causing hundreds of Australian and British casualties before the attack even started. It was in one of the early salvos where the ammunition and bomb dump of the 31st Battalion was blown up and many casualties sustained including BHQ and medical staff. Only through the valiant efforts of the Battalions members clearing the burning boxes was half of the ordnance saved. So the warning signs and combat indicators were being ignored or not being acted upon.

In military tactics 101, you need to set the conditions and achieve a series of decisive points before committing to action. Especially if the idea is to deceive the enemy. However in the absence of any situational awareness or understanding of the enemy the order to go ahead was given.

The Fromelles attack began at 6.00pm which provided clear visibility for the defending German troops who were strong, organised, well-disciplined and an experienced unit who controlled the initiative. In their first full- fledged attack on the Western Front the Australians launched themselves into it. At H Hour the first wave of the 31st and 32nd battalions moved bravely over the parapet to commence their assault over open ground covered by the enemies many mutually supporting Machineguns and artillery. The initial response from the Germans was murderous particularly from the flank where the British had not yet commenced their assault requiring the detonation of subterranean mine full of 1200 pounds of explosives to provide some protection for the Australians from the machinegun fire.

As a result, the initial losses were heavy, however, the Battalions continued to
advance and as they did, the enemy resistance appeared less intense. When the
Australians reached the German parapet, they observed the enemy running away over
open terrain to hold ground in the alleys and the dugouts to the rear. Close quarter
combat ensued and the position was held by the Australians who captured 35 prisoners in
the process of clearing the trenches.
This action created a foothold for the following waves to better move through “No-man’s land” with the exception of farm on the extreme left flank from which there was no cover. Confusion over objectives saw the 32nd battalion commence an assault on the farm, but with no cover and fierce resistance the attack failed and the Battalion withdrew as the 31st Battalion pushed further ahead. In the fog of war with inaccurate sketch maps, poor communications, no cover, murderous machinegun fire by a strong well positioned enemy and a constant bombardment of indiscriminate friendly and enemy artillery causing enormous casualties… the entire front line was spread thin and disjointed presenting huge gaps in the Australian and British front line.

Failed forays forward was best described as follows by a CPL in the forward edge of the battle.

If you had gathered the stock of a thousand butcher-shops, cut it into small pieces and strewn it about, it would give you a faint conception of the shambles those trenches were.”

Desperate attempts were made to regroup, close gaps, establish defensive structures to
provide cover, regain communications and conduct resupply with minimal success whilst
the dead piled higher.
As darkness consumed the battlefield, valiant attempts were made to hold ground using all available cover as well as the conduct of spoiling attacks on the enemy. The protracted fighting throughout the day and night saw ammunition and
provisions starting to run low increasing the amount of hand to hand fighting in pockets of
the front line. With limited ammunition to repel constant counter attack, parties now began to return back across no-man’s land in a desperate attempt to find solace from the death and horror of this series of tactical blunders.

All in all – The Germans had survived the British preparatory barrage mostly intact. The same treatment was issued and dealt to the British troops attacking south of the ‘Sugar Loaf’ who were similarly cut down like wheat falling to a harvester.

A second assault co-ordinated by the British to take the ‘Sugar Loaf’ led to another Australian attack being decisively cut down by the Germans. Tragically in this instance even though the British had subsequently cancelled the attack, this information was not communicated to the Australian units in time.

Fromelles is generally considered the worst 24 hours of Australia’s military history, and viscerally described by ‘Pompey Elliott the commander of the 5thDivisions’ 15th Brigade as a ‘tactical abortion’ The Australian toll at Fromelles was equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam War put together. It was a staggering disaster that had no redeeming tactical justification whatsoever.

Now – Due to the high casualties, the Battle was basically kept under wraps and as the Aust. 1st – 2nd & 4th Divisions entered the Battle of the Somme on the 23rd July the Battle of Fromelles was forgotten & the casualties conveniently became part of the Somme offensive. The British never ever recorded Fromelles as a separate Battle & it is not recognised as such to this Day. However, Australians regard it as a Battle & the 31st Bn being the only Unit of the 5th Div in WW1 still operational & on strength in the ADF, I can assure you we will continue to recognise it & commemorate the Diggers who fought & died there as I said earlier. Many soldiers from this battle were and still remain unidentified and buried in mass graves in proximity to where the fighting took place predominantly in no mans lands whereby they were buried in groups of ten. It is largely thanks to the work of Lambis Englezos in finding and identifying Australian soldiers killed in the battle that this number is reducing as we gather here today The story of Lambis is well documented by Tony and I strongly recommend you all read about his mission and quest to date (See Archives June 2021 and July 2021 in this website). Including two 31 st Battalion members LCPL R Johnson and PTE L C Dunn, whose headstones were recently unveiled in 2019 in Fromelles.

Which brings me in conclusion to end on a more positive note and advise you how we are honouring the memories of the fallen. The 31/42 RQR is a proud unit that stretches from Cairns to Biloela and is steadily growing from strength to strength from its humble beginnings to form and constitute the vanguard of the 11th brigade in the north and central Queensland. Given its valued geographical position, it is strongly supported by the 3rd Combat brigade and 5th Aviation Regiment for which we are habitually aligned and this provides the 11th Brigade with a range of excellent training opportunities and access to equipment and platforms that enable the unit to be very effective and capable. Whilst the unit is small, it certainly packs a punch as evidenced by the amount of activities, exercises and deployments the unit has committed to and being relied to complete recently.

Believe it or not, the unit has deployed on every domestic emergency response operation with the exception of three occasions in the last 5 years. Whether it be in support of the residents affected by bushfires in Kangaroo Island and Victoria, floods in SE QLD, Townsville and Mackay, the ongoing support to the pandemic and nursing homes throughout the country or live SEARCH and rescue of missing personnel in outback QLD with the QPS- the Bn has led or had representatives present. During my tenure, the Bn has deployed section strength size elements on 3x 6 month deployments supporting border protection efforts in NW Australia and at the beginning of the year the RSM and I led an OP Resolute rotation out of Torres Straight which is the first time the Bn led an operation in quite some time.

Right now the Bn along with 9 RQR and 25/49 RQR have deployed to Tully conducting Jungle training in the true spiritual home of the infantry. Which is once again the first time a purely reserve contingent has been able to muster a commitment that size. The unit is leading force modernisation efforts as part of the second division road to being an independent and fully capable formation able to lead ADF domestic response effort regardless of the threat, for which the division is and will be able to do. The division is extremely well led by MAJGEN Dave Thomae as is the Brigade under BRIG Mark Armstrong and COL Hassell who I have to give a shout out too as he is standing right in front of me. They have driven this direction and the soldiers are happy and willing to support.

As Fulltime operators, the RSM and I are continually stunned and extremely proud of the ARES soldier who have demonstrated time and time again how capable they truly are. Their commitment to the Army is a true inspiration to us all as it is generally is their third priority behind their civilian employment and their family, yet they turn up and provide a level of service and professionalism that rivals the hardened soldiers in the Combat brigades for which i have served most of my career. These soldiers are your front line, they are very capable, battle hardened, ready, motivated and they will continue to support the respective communities that they are a part of and they are honoured to do so as with every time they don the uniform, the colour patch of the whispering boomerang and the raging minotaur …they are honouring the memory of our fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many have tried to forget about this failed offensive, however I assure you we will continue to punch on.

As per our motto – Semper paratus defendere / cede nullius..

Lest we forget

As mentioned above, our 106th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Fromelles (Tuesday 19th July) a student from St Edmunds College gave a short address featuring an ex student of his school, Lt James Danaher who had fought in the Battle of Fromelles with the 31st Battalion.


The student had attended last year’s Commemoration, where a student from Ipswich Grammar School gave a short address on one of their ex students, Cpl ER Kent MM, who also fought with the 31st Battalion in the Battle of Fromelles, and is buried only 30 feet from where we held the Commemoration.


The St Edmunds student delved into the records of his school and the Army and matched Lt James Danaher with both the 31st Battalion at the Battle of Fromelles and his school.
He is to be commended on his initiative and research skills.

 


This is his Address-
James Danaher attended Ipswich Christian Brothers’ College now known as St Edmunds College. After graduation, he passed the civil service examination and joined the staff of the Lands Department. Later he qualified as a surveyor, and at the time of his enlistment had his own camp.  Aged 26, he enlisted into the Australian Imperial Forces on the 28th of June 1915. He was assigned to the 31st Battalion B company which left Australian shores on the 9th of November 1915.


They trained in Egypt around the Suez Canal for 6 months. This also included guarding the Canal from the Turks. During this time James was appointed Lance Cpl. In late June 1916 the Battalion together with the rest of the 5th Division trans shipped to Marseilles and then entrained to the area behind the Front Line in Northern France known as the Nursery Sector.


Less than 3 weeks later, James fought in the battle of Fromelles supporting his mates as they find themselves in the darkest 24-hour period in Australian history. James wrote frequently back to his family in Harrisville informing them of his times in France. The following was written after the battle of Fromelles by James to his parents:
“One can form no idea whatever of an attack unless one has leaned right in. It Is Impossible to imagine it, and the greatest war writer could give a non-participant but a faint idea of it. We moved into our supports on Sunday night and remained there till Tuesday morning, then we went to our frontline and remained there till our charge came off on Wednesday evening. As is usual, the infantry attack was preceded by fierce artillery bombardment. It was, of course, replied to by our enemy-Fritz, as he is known. There were high explosives and shrapnel galore, which accounted for a few. As the day went on, the bombardment grew fiercer, until we mounted the parapets to make our dash for the fritz’s trench, everything was just in hell. We had no trouble in taking the first German trench. From here we went on and on we commenced to “dig in.” but being unsupported Fritz counter-attacked and we had to fall back. We held the enemy trench for 10 hours but with no reinforcements being available, we finally went back to our own trench.”

James finishes the letter in recognition of his mates whom he fought with:
“The above was a very strenuous few days. Some of our good lads have fallen. They faced it smiling and fell smiling.”


His brother, Mr John Danaher, of Toowoomba, received a letter from him, written from France, in which he referred to a trip he had made to Ireland. In the same letter, he also referred to having sent his father a watch, the cover of which had been made from aluminium taken from a Hun aeroplane brought down behind their lines in Fromelles. The letter went on: “Naturally the battlefields abound with trophies of a very interesting nature, but one is too much taken up with a sterner business to bother about them.” He mentioned that he had seen some of their new friends, the Ameri- cans, on the day of writing, and that they were cheerful, energetic, active-looking people. Their way of strolling about was very similar to that of the easy going Australians. He mentioned that he had also seen several Portuguese in the zone, a little behind the line.


James always remained positive in all his letters received from family back home.
Six days after the Battle of Fromelles, James was promoted Sgt. He was also selected to attend an Officers Training Course at Trinity College Cambridge in England and left the Battalion in late November 1916. He was promoted to 2nd Lieut on 30 March 1917 and rejoined the 31st Battalion on 11th May after leave and a short stint with the 15th Battalion.


James was promoted Lieut (1st) on 11th August 1917 and around that time was appointed Battalion Intelligence Officer (no doubt his skills as a Surveyor assisted him in drawing accurate maps from his Reconnaissance trips).


It was during one of these reconnaissance trips during the Battle of Polygon Wood with the Battalion Commander, Lt Col Fred Toll, that James was struck by artillery bombardment shrapnel and killed instantly. As recorded in the Australian Red Cross wounded and missing enquiry it was found that during the bombardment 5 Ipswich soldiers removed their firearms to help bury his body in no man’s land where it remains to this day, but not marked.


Today we remember not only James but all the 31st battalion members who fought in Fromelles, from those who returned safely to those who never returned or lay to rest in the fields of Fromelles.

Lest we forget.


A remarkable effort by the student and deserving high praise.
Cpl ER Kent MM mentioned previously, was one of the 5 men who buried James during the Battle of Polygon Wood, and the relatives of James visited Cpl Kent’s grave after the Commemoration to pay their respects.
LEST WE FORGET

Plaque of Lt James Danaher arranged by our Honorary Member at Fromelles, France

Pierre Seillier

James Danaher III (great Nephew of Lt Danaher), with Students of St Edmund’s College

Student Joel Holding Copy of Plaque Honouring Lt James Danaher

GALLERY

Anzac Day 2022

31st Battalion Association members took part in the Anzac Day – 2022  march through Brisbane yesterday. Members braved the inclement conditions along with thousands of other serving Members and members of other service associations. Top marks to members of all the brass and pipe bands many of whom upon completion of the march went back for a second or a third time to provide musical accompaniment for the tail end groups. Our members started in light showery conditions but it quickly turned into a downpour shortly after passing the Governor’s saluting dais. A vote of thanks is in order to our three lots of banner carriers bearing the Banners of the 2nd 31st Bn, the 31st/51st Bn as well as the association Banner. Well done guys and girls.

Association Members under shelter at the end of the march with our banner behind

Top marks to our soaked Banner carriers holding 31st/51st Battalion Banner

Anzac Day march 2022. The three Banners.

Remembrance Day – 2021

Thanks to Our Honorary Member in France, Pterre Seillier, for the Tribute Image at the Head 

ODE FOR THE FALLEN

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Ode  by Laurence Biniyon (1869 – 1943)

 

 

Wreath Laying – 31st Battalion Tree in the Grounds of the Shrine – Melbourne

Member Mick James reports on the wreath laying on 28th September 2021:
In email discussions with Lambis Englezos today, he mentioned that today he was visiting the 31st Battalion tree in the grounds of the Shrine that we visited on my trip to Melbourne in March/April this year.
Of course, today is the 104th Anniversary of the start of the Battle of Polygon Wood, which is is one of the 31st Battalion’s Honours and in which the 5th Division’s & 31st Battalion’s Paddy Bugden was awarded the 1st Victoria Cross in the Division.
Lambis has subsequently emailed me a photo of him at the 31st Battalion tree with a Wreath. As we well know, Victoria’s 15th Brigade was also in the Battle of Polygon Wood.
LEST WE FORGET
Lambis Englezos AM – laying the wreath at the 31st Battalion Tree
Mick continues with the continuing story of Lambis Enhlezos AM and a new project that he is tackling:
Everyone, I’m sure, is aware of the efforts of Lambis Englezos AM & his team in finding the Diggers who were killed in German lines in the Battle of Fromelles and buried by the Germans undisturbed for almost a century, and then  the long road of convincing the authorities and Government to dig for them and give them a proper burial.
Now with the burial in the new Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery more than a decade ago, and with 166 now identified (and more to come), the closure and pride it has given to so many families is amazing.
Lambis and his mates have been investigating undiscovered Aussie graves at Krithea on Gallipoli for at least 5 years. They visited Gallipoli with the 60 Minutes crew before Covid struck and 60 Minutes have now released their story with Lambis yesterday. It will most likely be shown this coming Sunday night (31st October 2021). He is again finding the same reticence by the authorities and Government to show any interest in finding the bodies and proper re-burials. But, as many of us know, Lambis won’t give up in his quest  to give them a proper burial
You can watch it now here-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G8E5GPZ9-0
Mick James

Vale – Ken Sellars

VALE, –  KEN SELLARS.  –  Members & Friends, George Stanger has advised us of the passing of his life long friend, Charters Towers stalwart , & renowned Country Cricketer, & passed member of the 31st Bn – Kennedy Regt. & later member of the the Association (Brisbane Branch) – Ken Sellars.  Ken passed away on the night of Saturday 17th July. A family funeral was held at Mudgeerebah on Friday 23rd July.  Please refer to the attached “Brief” written by his close Friend – George Stanger.

Ken Sellars – Rest in Peace.   Tony

Vale Ken Sellars

Ken Sellars was born in Charters Towers on 25th November 1932. He attended both the Charters Towers, State Primary and Secondary Schools. Ken was a good sportsman but was always keen on Cricket. His batting skills came to the fore early, at a very young age, scoring 104 runs in a match between Boys Central & Richmond Hill primary schools.

In 1949 Ken started work as a clerk at the State aged Care Facility, – Eventide Homes in Charters Towers. He progressed to Manager of this Institution and finished his working life as Manager of the Brighton State Aged Care facility Brisbane.

Ken joined the Army Reserve (Then CMF) – The 31st Bn – Kennedy Regiment in 1950. He received his call up for National service, and attended the first intake at Wacol in 1951. He completed his National Service obligation with the 31st Bn achieving the Rank of Sergeant.

Kens proficiency with the cricket bat continued, and indeed grew significantly. After he left school, although only very young, he was a member of the Charters Towers First Eleven and became a fixture. He was selected in the – North Queensland Colts Team to play in Brisbane and scored a century (another 104) against a Brisbane side. Ken held every position on the Charters Towers Cricket Association Executive. He had a big hand in the establishment and conduct of the “Goldfield Ashes” said to be the biggest of its type in the world. (Still going today). Of course he also starred as a player and attained many awards. He and his brother Neal wrote a book about this competition, which was widely read. Many notable players, State and International have taken part in the in the Ashes. I recall a visit by Dougy Walters, which Ken related to me in great detail. Let’s just say that Dougy enjoyed the visit very much

Ken married his wife Pam, and they had five sons, Glen, Geoffrey, Michael, Paul, and Nick. When Ken moved to Brisbane, he did a lot of volunteer work in the memorabilia section of the Queensland Cricket Association at Albion for quite a few years.

Ken joined the 31st Bn Association in Brisbane, but by then had moved to the Gold Coast to live, and this restricted his attendance to many of our functions.

Ken, had an enjoyable and fruitful life, and was well liked and respected by his friends.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

George Stanger.

(George and Ken, grew up and attended school together in Charters Towers, they did their National Service together in the first Intake 1951 & served in the 31st Bn in the early days. They were Life Long friends.)

Tribute Plaque to Ken Sellars by Pierre Seillier

ooooo

 

Fromelles Commemoration 2021 – Ipswich – Address by Brigadier Bill Date

Introducing the address by Brigadier Bill Date is a report on the Fromelles Commemoration at Ipswich by Mick James:
The 31st Infantry Battalion Association (Brisbane Branch) in conjunction with Ipswich RSL sub branch and President Rob Wadley held a Commemoration on the 105th Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles at the Ipswich General Cemetery at 11.00 am  on the 19th July 2021.
This was our 3rd Commemoration and we planned it to be bigger than previous years, in part by inviting local schools to participate. Four schools agreed to participate and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that 16 Ipswich Grammar Old Boys had joined 31st Battalion in WW1, with 5 having fought at Fromelles, including Cpl ER Kent MM
Other schools to participate were Bremer High School and St Edmunds & St Marys Colleges. The Deputy Mayor of Ipswich, Cr Nicole Jonic and Federal Member for Blair & Shadow Minister for Vet Affairs, Hon Shayne Neumann MP were in attendance and laid Wreaths.
Brigadier Bill Date ADC gave the official address with an outline of the Battle and also detailed descriptions of the actions of a few of the 31st Battalion Officers, Lt Col Toll who was awarded a DSO for his role at Fromelles,   2IC Major Eckersley and Lt Still. A student from Ipswich Grammar also gave a short address on their Old Boy,  Cpl ER Kent MM, wounded at Fromelles , later awarded a MM in the Battle of Polygon Wood, and returned from the War and lived until 1951. He is buried adjacent to the Cenotaph where the Commemoration was held.
We again had the services of Padre Peter Woodward (a former Chief Padre of the Australian Army) and Bugler Brad Strong. Additionally this year we had a Piper Major Rolly McCartney from the National Service Pipes & Drums to play the Lament during the Wreath laying & our National Anthem . Also we had 2 representatives from the French Army Association.
I list the relatives of those diggers WIA or KIA in the Battle who attended and laid wreaths –
Jon & Lukas Kent – Grand and Great Grand nephews of Cpl ER Kent MM 31st Battalion
Ken & Tim Spreadborough – Grand & Great Grand nephews of Lt EW Spreadborough 31st Battalion KIA at Fromelles
Bettina Newham – Great Grand niece of Pte George Jones 60th Battalion KIA at Fromelles
We presented Tributes of these soldiers to their relatives. Also theTribute of Cpl Kent MM  was presented to Presidents of Ipswich & Rosewood RSL and Ipswich Grammar School. The other schools were presented with a poster of the “Cobbers” statue, the iconic image of the Battle of Fromelles.
We also had representatives from other Army Organisations including 2 serving members from the 31st/42nd Infantry Battalion. The CO, Lt Col Dave Gandy, sent his apologies as he is heavily involved in Exercise Talisman Sabre currently.
A very successful Commemoration and some of us adjourned to the CSI Club for lunch and fellowship.
LEST WE FORGET
Brigadier Bill Date’s Address:
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls
I am honoured to be invited by the 31 st Battalion Association
to offer today’s address.
This means a lot to me personally…
• My father-in-law – SGT Tex McGrath MM served in the
2 nd /31 st Battalion in WW2.
• The present day 31 st Battalion – known as 31/42 Royal
Queensland Regiment is a Battalion in the 11 th Brigade. I had
the honour to command 11 th Brigade in 2015/2016 – I
always saw hardworking men and women in 31/42 RQR
• Members of the 31/42 RQR are providing operational
service on OP Covid Assist, a large group in participating in
the upcoming Ex Talisman Sabre – still serving their country.
I know many friends and families gathered here today are
descendants of the officers and soldiers from 2 nd /31 st Battalion
and I applaud you for today important service here in Ipswich
——————–
Today (19 th July 2021) is the 105th Anniversary of the Battle of
Fromelles on the Western Front.
My address today will talk about the main attack but every
war is a human tragedy…..so I will also focus on several
officers / soldiers who fought at Fromelles.
Fromelles is in France near the Belgian Border just south of
Ypres and North of the Somme River Valley.
It was the First battle undertaken by Australian Troops on the
Western Front – WW1.
Fromelles was planned by the British High Command as a
Diversionary Attack to convince the Germans not to move
troops south to the Somme where the British & French had
started the disastrous Somme offensive on 1st July.
Fromelles was a military disaster – needless deaths of
thousands – casualties on a scale that characterised much of
WW1 and certainly the 1916 Somme offensive (July-Nov)
The main attack at Fromelles by the Australians and British
was undertaken by British 61 st Division and Australian 5 th
Division, the Australian effort is where I will focus my remarks
today.

In terms of Army structures (for those less familiar with the Army)
• Division – approx. 20,000 men
• Infantry Brigade – approx. 4,000 men
• Infantry Battalion – approx. 800-900 men
Australian 5 th Division structure:
• 8 Brigade
• 14 Brigade
• 15 Brigade
(8 th Brigade is on the Aust Army ORBAT – is now a NSW Army Reserve
Brigade)
8 th Brigade comprised of four Infantry Battalions –
• 29 th , 30 th Battalion, 31 st Battalion and 32 nd Battalion
• 31 st and 32 nd would be the lead Battalions for 8 th Brigade
for the main attack on 19 July
Now a Focus on 31 st Battalion
Commanding Officer of the 31 st Battalion was LTCOL Fred Toll.
a Queenslander (born Bowen)
Boer War veteran
Son killed at Gallipoli
awarded DSO
later gassed at Polygon Wood in 1917
post-war life Toll served as Commissioner for War Service
Homes, Foundation member of the RSL
• died in 1955 aged 83yo at Greenslopes RGH
The Ground/Germans
• Ground had low water table
• In the days leading up to the main assault, there was wet
weather which made the ground very soft under foot.
• front line between the Aussies/Germans ranged from 100-
400m
• Germans trenches and above ground fortifications were
zig-zagged not in straight-lines – reinforced with barb wire
 Defence in DEPTH
• 4-5 rows of fighting trenches to provide layer depth
• Supporting trenches – HQ and supplies
• Germans fortified their defences with concrete shelters,
tunnels that offered the defenders some overhead
protection from British Artillery.
• Clear view in places of the Australian Front line and an
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 – been in this
loc for some 15 months

19 th July – The Attack
• Artillery fire commenced at 1100hrs – 7hrs but there was
counter-fire by German heavy artillery.
• German artillery fire impacted the Australian and Brit
positions
• H-hour for the Attack was 1800hrs or 6pm (in daylight as its
summertime in Europe) the troops climbed out their
trenches and commenced to advance.
• As the men advanced into No-Man’s land they were
attacked by German MG fire, artillery and rifle fire and in
many places the wire was undamaged by the artillery fire
• 8th Bde – 31st & 32nd Bn’s leading the attack on the left
with the infantry battalions of 14th Bde on their right.
• 14 th Brigade captured their objectives and advanced beyond
them
• However, 14 th Brigade forward elements were very much
isolated as Australian forces on their right flank were not
able to capture German trenches.
• uneven positioning of forces enabled the Germans to attack
the rear of 14 th Brigade forward elements.
• Let me focus on 8 th Brigade and the 31 st & 32nd Battalion –
although taking heavy casualties, over ran the German front
line.
• LTCOL Toll CO 31 st BN proceeded forward Approx. 400 M
looking for the 3rd & 4th Line German Trenches, but found
only muddy ditches.
• The CO and his team (incl LT George Still) returned back to a
dry ditch about 200 m & started to dig in as their defensive
line.
• They managed to hold it against German Artillery & Counter
Attacks until about 6.30 AM on the following morning when
they were forced to retire due to lack of ammunition &
reinforcements.
• The main 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.
• By mid-morning on 20 th July – German estimates were of
approx. 2,000 corpses on no-man’s land across the Fromelles
front-line.
• Refer to CO 31 st BN War Diary – EXTRACT
LT George Still MC
As the CO 31st Battalion mentions in his War Diary….“I wish to
mention for special consideration” LT G.Still……
• LT Still was a draftsmen in Lands Department
• Enlisted in May 1915
• Appointed as Intelligence Officer under LTCOL Toll
• Fought at Fromelles
• Toll wrote in his write up for Gallantry AWARD…
For gallantry in organising struggling troops and advancing
over open country in rear of the enemy’s position, for
keeping up communication with Brig HQ by means of pigeon
and later runners and in German main breastworks during
the night, assisted with consolidating positions won, and
generally devotion to duty”.
• LT Still suffered eye wound and was discharged in June 1917.
• Lived until 1968 passed away 85yo at Iona Retirement
Village Kenmore.
• George Still father was school-teacher Maryborough West
State School and lived in Ariadne St, Maryborough
———————–
• The Battle achieved nothing, and was a disaster. There were
no more attacks at Fromelles for the rest of the war.
• The awful casualty toll
  •  5 th Australian Division – over 5500 men
  •  31 st Battalion War Diary – 544 men (Killed, Wounded,
    Missing)
• This was the highest casualties sustained by any Div. within
a 24hr period in Australian Military History but this
disastrous AUS casualty figure was to be exceeded in other
actions as part of the Somme offensive.
• one the German Divisions opposing the Aussie attack was
the 16 th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Division, a runner in the
List Regiment of the 16 th Bavarian was a LCPL ADOLF HITLER
Fromelles Post Script – IMPORTANT LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM
• The remains of these Aussie soldiers were buried by the
Germans in Mass Graves behind their Lines in Pheasant
Wood after the main attack
• This mass burials incl diggers from 31 st Battalion.
• Melbourne School Teacher, “Lambis Englezos” realized that
the Graves of Unidentified bodies from the Battle, fell far
short of the number of Missing.
• Lambis set out to find the whereabouts of these remains.
After years of research & then having to convince the govt
authorities that the bodies were buried by the Germans at
Pheasant Wood, 250 bodies were recovered in 2009.
• These Aust diggers were reburied with full military honours
at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery.
• Modern DNA supplied by relatives approximately 166
Bodies have so far been identified.
• YouTube video project – St Clare’s College Sydney “Lost
Diggers of Fromelles” – fantastic overview
————————————————————————————-
• In conclusion – I congratulate the 31 st Battalion Association
• This is very fitting tribute to commemorate the deeds of the
officers and diggers of 31 st Battalion at Fromelles…..the
tragedy, their bravery, their spirit and and mateship.
LEST WE FORGET
00000

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 🙂
Cheers.

LEST WE FORGET.
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

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
oooo
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………………
—ooooo—

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.
LAMBIS ENGLEZOS’ SEARCH FOR THE MISSING,
AND THE RE-BURIAL OF 250 SOLDIERS AT FROMELLES
[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.
—ooo000ooo—
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.’
“LEST WE FORGET.”
 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.