Texas Terror Commemoration – Ingham – 2022

The “Texas Terror” commemoration was held in Ingham on Sunday 18th December 2022. This commemoration is held yearly in remembrance of the lives lost when a WW2 B24 Liberator aircraft of the US Air Force designated the “Texas Terror”  crashed into the summit of Mt Straloch on Hinchinbrook Island on 18th December 1942 during a fierce tropical storm. It was on its way to Iron Range on Cape York , having just departed Garbutt Airbase Townsville after picking up passengers.

The ceremony is organized by President of the Ingham branch of the Association by Felix Reitano and fellow members of  the Association..

“Texas Terror” Commemoration – 2022

A gathering of members after the Commemoration Ceremony

A Glimpse of 31 Battalion History From WW1

Association Member, Tim Lewis, has unearthed a newspaper clipping of the handover of the 31st Battalion Flag from WW1 to the Army Museum North Queensland . The article dates back to 2010 when president of the 2/31st Battalion Association,  Ken Gladstone and five other veterans of WWII travelled to Townsville to present the WW1, 31st Battalion Flag and the 2/31st Battalion Banner from WWII, to the Museum which is based at Jezzine Barracks, Townsville.

The 31st Battalion has served continuously in one form or another since 1886. In its current form is now known as:

The 31st/42nd Battalion The Royal Queensland Regiment.

New Identifications of Diggers – Fromelles and Zonnebeke

Vet Affairs Minister , Hon Matt Keogh announced today that 2 soldiers who fought at Fromelles have been identified.
They are:

No 1537 Walter Allen Grace of 31st Bn and

No 20 Edwin Charles Gray of 32nd Bn.

They will have new grave headstones next year at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery at Fromelles.

Another digger who was one of 5 discovered in 2006 at Zonnebeke and reburied at the British Buttes Cemetery has also been named. He is Pte Thomas Allen Gibbens of 29th Bn.

Thanks to our friend and chief driving force behind the finding and identification of the lost diggers of Fromelles Lambis Englezos AM for the good news.


Lest We Forget.

Walter Allen Grace – 31 Battalion

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
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Below: Gallery Photos