VC Awardees Attend Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

Awardees of the Victoria Cross including past member of the 31st Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, Keith Payne VC  joined a contingent of the Australian Defence Forces together with the Prime Minister and selected members of the Australian community to attend the Funeral Service for our late Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey on Monday 19th September 2022.

Australia’s oldest living Victoria Cross recipient, Keith Payne VC

has been given the medical all clear to travel to London for the Queen’s funeral.

Keith (standing in front beside wheelchair) with other VC and GC winners

outside Union Jack Club London

Another photo of Keith Payne VC AM entering Westminster Abbey for

the Queen’s funeral with fellow Aussie VC Awardee Mark Donaldson to the front left.

Keith is being pushed by serving British VC Awardee Johnson Beharry.

Thanks to Pierre Seillier (Association Honorary Member)  for the photo.

The Bearer Party. The real heroes of the day with the most responsibility, given

THE hardest job of the day bearing Her Majesty’s coffin time and time again with

perfect precision and control. Respect to these guys. 

Part of our Australian Contingent alongside Scots and Canadian Contingents

Our ADF Contingent at the Funeral of Her Majesty.

Lt R A Lewis – Japanese Surrender at Kotawaringin – Borneo

The following copies of letters, orders, diary extracts relate to the the part played by Lt Richard Aubrey Lewis (B Coy 2/31st battalion) in the surrender of the Japanese forces in the Banjarmasin/Kotawaringin areas of Kalimantan, Borneo in September 1945.

Note: For ease of reading some of the documents and hand written script a high resolution screen may be necessary. Older computer monitors may present some difficulties. Modern mobile phones or tablets are likely to have greater definition than older computer monitors allowing easier reading of the documents herein.

They were gathered and collated by his son, 31st Battalion Association member Tim Lewis.

From the diary of NX177993 Lt Richard Aubrey Lewis Recollection No9 Dated 11th Dec 1945:

“On the 25th of September I left Bandjamasin to proceed to Kotawaringin to accept the surrender of the Jap garrison. It was an interesting trip Lieut C Allan Hard and Sub-Lieut Col Gillespie were the naval officers of HMAL 1359 which carried portion of my party. The remainder under Sgt Hewston, travelled on a Jap coastal steamer.”

 

Lt Lewis with Navy personnel on HMAML1359 moving to Kota Waringin to

accept the surrender of members of Japanese Forces 

Above and Below – Lt Lewis meeting with the Sultan at Pangkalan Bun

This is the main administration centre of the Kota Waringin Area

Chart of the Kalimantan Coastline East of Banjarmasin

 

Warning Order given to Lt RA Lewis and key personnel on the day prior (22 Sep 1945). The order was for the move to Kota Waringin on 23 Sep 1945 to bring back Japanese 156 Soldiers and 18 Civilians.

With him was a Pl of B Coy (4 NCO plus 32 OR)

2 RAP Orderlies

1 Int Sect

1 Cook

Lt Hard and crew of  HMAML Q1359

Tke Kotawaringin Region of Central Kalinantan, Borneo

Below is an extract from the War Diary covering the period between 23 Sep 45 to 28 Sep 45.

It covers the move to Kota Waringin for the purpose of accepting the surrender and

Transporting of Japanese forces for processing at Banjarmasin.  

The Kota Waringin area is approx 450km to the west of Banjarmasin. The journey took just over 24 hrs to complete

Because of Navigation concerns they spent the night of 24/25 anchored (with the HAPGOAN, the coastal vessel that was to transport the Japanese) at the mouth of the river before going upstream to Kumai on 25 Sep. At Kumai, the village headman reported that majority of the Japanese had been assembled 1km north of Kumai.

 

A number of Japanese Officars (4 Naval and 1 Army) presented themselves to Lt Lewis at the Kumai wharf. Lt IIzuka reported that 153 soldiers and 18 Civilians  were in their party north of Kumai, 9 of whom were hospital cases suffering from (2 x appendicitis, 6 Malaria and 1 a Violent Lunatic). Weapons were centralised and stored. The OC of their sub unit Sub-Lt Takare had previously committed Hari Kari. Lt Lewis was able to inspect and confirm these reported numbers.

All Japanese were moved to the wharf and placed under guard. Lt Iizuka was given a warning order that they were to be moved to BANJARMASIN on 26 Sep. An English speaking Chinese was interrogated. Report shown below.

Arrangements were made for meeting with the Sultan in PANGKALAN BUN.

Travelled to PANGKALAN BUN by car (approx 15KM via road) to Sultans palace.

Lt Lewis was received by the Sultan at a civic reception at his Palace. The civil administration was 

returned to the Sultan whose position had been eroded during the Japanese occupation.

The Sultan returned with Lt Lewis to Kumai to be briefed on the stores and supplies that were to be policed.

The Japanese and one of their local collaborators (Hadji Mochamad Kasim) were loaded on the vessels.

Both boats (the “HMAML Q 1359” and the coastal vessel “Hapgoan”) set sail for Banjarmasin on 26th Sep at1555hrs.

Arrival in Banjarmasin was two days later.

The above list is the weapons and equipment handed over by the Japanese. A number of rifles and LMGs most of which were dumpted at sea. The Dutch captured weapons were returned to the Dutch.

The Japanese swords were returned to the Bn store. 

Equipment included Diesel and Petrol engines, Generators for lighting and radio equipment, workshop equipment (lathe drills, saws, grinding wheel, etc) and 10 vehicles of various types.

Most of this equipment was left to be policed by the Sultan’s men.

This image was taken from either NAA or AWM footage.

This note is from Tim Lewis (the son of Lt RA Lewis)”I can only assume that my father accepted the garrison surrender from Captain Iizuka with WO Iwase by his side. ( These names appeared elsewhere in my father’s diaries)”.

These are some of the handwritten notes written during the conduct of the operations at Kota Waringin

Covering note to the CO 2/31 Battalion 28 Sep 1945

Below is a hand written description of the meeting between Lt Lewis and the Sultan

to discuss the restoration of the civil administration.

The Sultan expresses his concerns regarding his reduced status during the Japanese Occupation.

Lt Lewis held meetings with district headmen to re-establish the Sultan as the centre of Administration in the district

pending the arrival of the Dutch Administration. 

Document F is a Patrol Report

The patrol was to ascertain whether and large numbers of Japanese were in the area and to locate any Japanese weapons.

It was determined that no large numbers of Japanese were in the area and that all former store houses were

searched but no weapons were found. Weapons previously founded were handed to a patrol from C Coy.

Document C is an Interrogation Report

This report is from the interrogation of an English speaking Chinese concerning the man Hadji Mochamad Kalim who was brought back from Kumai to Banjarmasin on the Naval vessel. Kalim was named as a Japanese collaborator. He had lived in the Kumai area since 1936 There were two occasions where Kalim received a token punishment from the Japanese for trying to buy a radio and for fishing. The same offences perpetrated by others would result in much harsher punishment.

In 1942 There were 1000 British and Dutch troops in the area but these had subsequently been transferred to Banjarmasin. since then there were not many Japanese in the area until they built an airstrip 6 months before the end of the war. The factory and equipment at Kumai was used in the manufacture of swords and in support of the air strip operations.

Below is the report from the Chinese person in his own handwriting.

—o—

 

 

 

Defence of Kokoda – 80th Memorial – August 2022

Today (Sunday 14th August 2022) the Sherwood-Indooroopilly RSL Sub branch held their annual Kokoda Day Memorial Service. See attached program. Along with the 39th Militia Battalion, the 2/25th Bn & 2/31 Bn also fought on the track.
Both Battalion Associations laid wreaths and we also laid a wreath on behalf of the 2/31st Bn. Both Battalion Associations had their Banners there and after the Commemoration we had a photo of the Secretary of 2/25th Bn Assoc, Cecily Wilson together with her husband, Doug & son, Daniel and members of the 31st Bn Assoc (from L to R) Tony Wadeson, Bill Markhew, Doug Hastie, Mick James & Brisbane President Ray Fogg.

The 2nd Division Ceremonial Parade – July 2022

A Ceremonial Parade was held at the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park Sydney, to mark the establishment of The 2nd Division Australian Army as a functional command. The parade was attended by Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart AO, DSC and Commander 2nd Division Major General David Thomae AM together with COs and RSMs and  key members of units of 2DIV.

A video clip of the Ceremonial Parade is contained in the attached link:

 

Historic photo of all 11 bde unit flags Comd Brig Armstrong, with COs and RSMs and Key Pers on the steps of the Anzac Memorial – Sydney as part of the Ceremony announcing 2DIV as an independent Formation.

Inspection of Unit flags of 2Div Units by

Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart AO, DSC and

Commander 2nd Division Major General David Thomae AM

Some of the Unit Flags

2DIV Unit Flags


 

Vale – Passing of Mme Marie Paule Demassiet

The 31st Infantry Battalion Association was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mme Marie Paule Demassiet.
Our Association President in Townsville, Col. (Retd) Greg Stokie expressed our thoughts in a letter to Marie Paule’s family. Our Honorary Member in France Pierre Seillier, has tells us how he heard the sad news himself:

Pierre continues:

·Hello to all my Aussie friends, many of you know that Lambis Englezos my great friend is in France, I’m back from Fromelles where I caught up Lambis at Pheasant Wood… But I was surprised to see him with tears in his eyes… He told me the sad news and asked that I inform all our friends in France and Australia. It is with a great sadness that I must to inform all the friends of the great Fromelles’ Family that Ms Marie Paule Demassiet passed away this morning… Ms Marie Paule Demassiet was the great lady who gave the permission to do the researches for the mass graves at Pheasant Wood because she was the owner of the land, She was the lady who said after the discovery of the remains of our brave soldiers “I give my Land to Australia…”
We are all devastated, because we loved her so much, by a strange coincidence the funeral will take place on next Tuesday, 19th July at 10.30 am…gathering at the church of Fromelles at 10.15am. She will have been with her “beloved young soldiers” as she said always, until her last breath… If some of you want to send condolence message, they can do it on my email ( pierreseillier@hotmail.fr ) and I will pass it to Marie Paule’s daughter, Ms Annie Moreel and her family, who are my friends since a long time…


Bonjour à tous mes amis Australiens et Français, vous êtes nombreux à savoir que Lambis Englezos mon grand ami est en France, je reviens de Fromelles où j’ai rejoins Lambis à Pheasant Wood… Mais j’ai été surpris de le voir les larmes aux yeux … Il m’a annoncé la triste nouvelle et m’a demandé de prévenir tous nos amis de France et d’Australie. C’est avec une grande tristesse que je dois prévenir tous les amis de la grande Famille Fromelles que Madame Marie Paule Demassiet est décédée ce matin… Madame Marie Paule Demassiet est la grande dame qui a donné l’autorisation de faire les recherches pour les fosses communes à Pheasant Wood parce qu’elle était la propriétaire de la terre, elle était la dame qui a dit après la découverte des restes de nos braves soldats “Je donne ma terre à l’Australie…”
Nous sommes tous dévastés, car nous l’aimions tant, par une étrange coïncidence les obsèques auront lieu le mardi 19 juillet prochain jour anniversaire de la Bataille de Fromelles à 10h30…rassemblement à l’église de Fromelles à 10h15. Elle aura été avec ses “jeunes soldats bien-aimés” comme elle le disait toujours, jusqu’à son dernier souffle… Si certains d’entre vous veulent envoyer un message de condoléances, ils peuvent le faire sur mon mail ( pierreseillier@hotmail.fr ) et je le transmettrai à la fille de Marie Paule, Mme Annie Moreel et sa famille, qui sont mes amis depuis longtemps…
Marie Paule nous t’aimons tellement, tu nous manque déjà…

Mme Demassiet with John Fielding (L) and Lambis Englezos AM (R)

Mme Demassiet Signing the Official Documents to allow the Search for the Missing Diggers

The start of the Pheasant Wood Cemetery

Mme Demassiet with Pierre Seillier and her Family at the Pheasant Wood Cemetery

At a Service where another Australian Soldier has been Identified

At Pheasant Wood Cemetery

Mme Demassiet with a relative of one of the Soldiers who has now been Identified

The story of Lambis Englezos AM and his search for the missing 200 diggers from the Fromelles Battle is in the archives of this website (see Archives of June and July 2021) The 31st Battalion association  and indeed all Australians are indebted to this great and generous lady, Mme Marie Paule Demassiet for allowing the recovery and reburial of our missing diggers.

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

Battle of Fromelles Commemoration – 2022

Members and Friends, please find the attached Notice of our – “BATTLE of FROMELLES” Commemoration Service to be held on Tuesday the 19th July at 11.00 AM at the Ipswich General Cemetery, Warwick Rd Ipswich.

This will be the Fourth year that the 31st Bn Assoc. (Brisbane) have held this Service. The attendance at the first two years was small due to the Covid 19 restrictions, however last year was well attended with the presence of the Various High Schools.

It is important that this Battle at Fromelles is not forgotten, as it was the first Battle by the Australians on the Western Front – WW1, and resulted in the Highest Casualties sustained within a 24hour period, in Australian Military History. The Battle was hurriedly & badly planned by the British High Command and ended in a Disaster. (Refer to the attached “Brief”)

We are pleased to now advised that the Commanding Officer of 31st/42nd Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment, – LTCOL David Gandy accompanied by the RSM – WO1 David Harding will be traveling down from Townsville to attend the Service. LTCOL Gandy will be presenting the – “Address of Commemoration”. at the Service.

We ask you to make a special effort to attend this year. We have selected Ipswich to Commemorate the Battle as a large number of men from Ipswich enlisted in the 31st Bn some of whom fought at Fromelles, & some of those that survived the war are buried in the Ipswich Cemetery.

DRESS:- Anzac Day Attire – (31st Bn Members – Jacket & Tie, Berets, Medals, Name Tags.)

Assemble no latter than 10.45AM. The Service will take about an Hour, and we suggest you bring your own Seating if you require it.

After the Service you are invited to adjourn to the CSI Club for refreshments or a light lunch. (Own Expense)

RSVP:- Email Secretary Tony Wadeson – wadesonriver@aapt.net.au    no later than Friday 15th July.

Regards TONY

 

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

The 19th July 2022 will be the 106th Anniversary of the “Battle of Fromelles” on the Western Front – WW1. Fromelles is situated in France near the Belgian Border just south of Ypres & west of Lille.

It was the First battle undertaken by Australian Troops on the Western Front.

It was carried out by the, 8th – 14th & 15th Brigade’s of the Aust 5th Division & on their Right, the British 61st Div. – (raw Territorial troops)

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

Fromelles was planned by the British as a Diversionary Attack to convince the Germans not to move troops south to the Somme, where the British & French had started a major push on the 1st July. 11 Divisions of the British 4th Army had sustained massive Casualties exceeding 80 thousand, on the Somme around the Pozieres area with little to show for it, up to the time of 19th July.

A British General, LTGEN Richard Haking planned the attack at Fromelles. This was unfortunate for the Australians, as he had previously been involved with planning an attack 14 Months earlier with British troops, over exactly the same ground with absolutely no gain & very heavy Casualties. His plan for the Australian 5th Division was basically the same plan with less troops & less Artillery, against a now Improved, fortified in-trenched enemy

After the previous attack, the Germans spent the period improving & fortifying their Defences around Fromelles with Concrete Bunkers, & O/Head protective cover in their trenches from Artillery. They had a clear view of the Australian Front line and an excellent observation of the battlefield from the Church Spire in the Village of Fromelles. The Germans also had the Australian Front line & supporting areas well ranged by their Artillery & Mortars. They had a year to practice their ranging.

The Battle of Fromelles attack started with Artillery Bombardments at 11.00 AM & at 6.00 PM (in broad daylight) the troops advanced, with the 8th Bde – 31st & 32nd Bn’s leading the attack on the left, with the 14th Brigade’s 54th & 53rd Bn’s on their right. These two Brigades had to cross about 100 yds of clear open ground of No Mans Land in front, of the 31st & 32nd Bns, & up to 200 yds in front of the 54th & 53rd Bns. But, the 15th Bde on the extreme Right, had to cross about 350 yds of clear open ground to reach the German Front Lines. The 15th Brigade’s two leading Battalions were almost wiped out in “No Mans Land” by heavy machine gun fire, from the “Sugarloaf position” & very few Diggers managed to reach the German Front Line, let alone penetrate it.

The 31st& 32nd – & 54th& 53rd Bns although, taking heavy casualties, over ran the German front line. The 31st Bn CO, LTCOL Fred Toll proceeded forward Approx. 400 Metres looking for the proposed 3rd & 4th Lines of German Trenches, but found only muddy ditches. They returned back to a dry Ditch about 200 m behind the main German Front Line & started to dig in as their defensive line. They managed to hold it against Heavy German Artillery Barrages, & overwhelming German Counter Attacks, but at about 2.00AM, LTCOL Toll decided to move back to the Main German line.They held out until about 6.30 AM on the following morning, when they were forced to retreat back over No Man’s Land to their own lines due to lack of ammunition & reinforcements, sustaining further heavy casualties in the process.

The Attack was over in 18 Hours but wounded were still trying to crawl back & diggers going out to try to rescue them for many hours after.

The Battle achieved nothing, and was a disaster. There were no more attacks at Fromelles for the rest of the war. The bodies of the dead Australians lay in No Man’s Land, until after the War, and many who were killed behind the German Lines, remained as missing. After the war the 410 unidentified remains in NO Mans Land were buried in Groups of 10 at “VC Corner” Cemetery at Fromelles. Those who were killed behind the German Lines remained as missing & would remain unheard of for about 80 Years. That’s another story. (Refer Below)

Roll call after the Battle recorded a total of 5533 Casualties by the 5th Division. This was the highest casualties sustained by any Div. within a 24hr period in Australian Military History.

However, due to the high casualties, the Battle was basically kept a secret, by the high authority, and as the Aust. 1st – 2nd & 4th Divisions entered the Battle of the Somme on the 23rd July capturing Poziers & the high ground of the “Windmill” behind it, with a Casualty high of 23,000 over the following weeks, the Battle of Fromelles was forgotten & 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. We Australians regard it as a Battle, & the 31st Bn being the only Unit of the 5th Div. WW1, still operational & on strength in the ADF, will continue to recognise it & commemorate the Diggers who fought & died there.

LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM

In the late 1990’s a Greek born, Arts Teacher & amateur War Historian from Melbourne started taking an interest in the Battle of Fromelles as he had interviewed old WW1 Diggers of the Victorian 15th Brigade living nearby in Melbourne. He became convinced after checking Casualty records, and reading Corfield’s Book on Fromelles “Don’t forget me Cobber” that there were approx. 250 missing Diggers unaccounted for. Lambis was on a mission. After research of German Aerial Photographs & a visit to Germany to inspect German War records, he identified that a probable Burial site, was an area astride “Pheasant Wood” which was behind the original German front Line. Lambis requested authorities to investigate the site, but they weren’t interested. However, due to his drive & persistence, it wasn’t until 2007, that Authorities allowed an Archaeological team to investigate the Site. They found evidence of Australian & British Badges on the site, almost immediately, with the lay of the Ground etc it proved to be enough evidence to make a dig. It wasn’t until 2009 that the dig was made & the bodies recovered.

 

Due to modern DNA, Bodies were identified. All remains were reinterred in a New Cemetery named “Pheasant Wood Cemetery” with Blank Headstones. As remains were identified, new Headstones with their Names & Units etc replaced the Blank ones. Due to modern DNA, remains have continued to be identified each year & their Graves noted, including quite a few 31st Bn men. It was due to the publicity of the find of the Bodies at Fromelles that knowledge of the Battle became more widespread.

Since Lambis’s discovery, new Books have been written, a new Cemetery Established, & a new Museum Built in Fromelles. In 2009, Lambis Englezos was recognised for his outstanding Service and exceptional Achievement, and awarded a Member of the Order of Australia, AM. Lambis is continuing his search for burial grounds of unaccounted missing Soldiers, in various WW1 Battle Fields. Australia owes a great deal to this man.

 

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

Vale – LtCol Doug Angus RFD (Retd)

Members & Friends, it is with great sadness I advise you that our good mate, – Proud ex CO of 42Bn RQR, – and staunch member of 31st Bn Assoc (Brisbane Branch), – DOUG ANGUS passed away last evening (Tue 10th May 2022) about 6.30PM at the PA Hospital Brisbane.

Doug, has been suffering from a weak Heart after his Quadruple By-Pass some years ago. He has also has been suffering constant pain from a bad back for many months.

A bit over a week ago, Doug had a bad fall and has since been at the PA Hospital where he subsequently passed away.

DOUG ANGUS – RIP dear Friend.

TONY WADESON

Tony has now posted the following notification of Doug’s Funeral:

Please note the Funeral arrangements of our good Mate – past Commanding Officer of the 42nd Bn Royal Queensland Regiment, – LTCOL Doug Angus (Retd)

TIME & DATE:-  12.30PM – Friday 20th May 2022.

WHERE:-  Mt. Thompson Memorial Gardens – EAST Chapel. – 329 Nursery Rd. Holland Park Qld 4121

DRESS:- Members:- Anzac Day attire – Jacket, Tie, Medals, Beret, Name Tags. Doug’s Family has indicated they would welcome the Association’s & 31/42 Bn RQR Personnel attendance.

The Family have given us permission to liaise with them & the Funeral Directors for us to either, form a Guard of Honour, or a Final Salute. I hope members will make a special effort to attend, to provide a last Fairwell to Doug, who made every effort to attend all Association Functions despite his Ill Health during the past few years.

Regards, Tony

Tribute to Doug created by our Honorary Member in France Pierre Seillier

Doug as CO 42RQR (second from left) with members of the Unit in the Field

Doug (third from left) on Joint exercise.

Doug newly promoted to LtCol

Doug enjoying a get together with members after a recent meeting

Maj Henry William Murray VC DSO and Bar

Information on Maj Harry Murray VC DSO and Bar was put together by Mick James. Normally this website concentrates on members of the 31st Battalion in all of its various forms however Harry’s rise from Private to LtCol and his multiple awards for bravery make him one most decorated of Australia’s sons in WW1. The investiture ceremony for his bravery awards is included below.

“The Times” described the event held on 2nd June 1917 in the “Times History of the War.”:

“For the first time in the war, an investiture ceremony would be held in public, and in Hyde Park rather than Buckingham Palace. The event was scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday 2 June, announced in advance to ensure a good turn-out.
An enclosure was prepared in an area of the park between the Serpentine and Knightsbridge Barracks, and a canopied pavilion set up for the King to make the presentations. Areas were set aside with seating for various dignitaries, and for several hundred wounded servicemen from the hospitals in the London area, and there was ample space for thousands of the general public.”
“No less than 351 presentations were scheduled, including fifty posthumous awards to be received by next-of-kin. Also, there were to be 11 Victoria Crosses presented.
Saturday 2 June 1917 was a beautiful summer day in London. Spectators and guests began to assemble in the early afternoon, and at 2.00 pm the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards, leading a guard of honour from the Scots Guards, began to march up Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner, and along The Row, which was lined with spectators, to the enclosure in Hyde Park. The men and women receiving decorations filled several rows of seats in front of the pavilion. Observers noted the wide variety of uniforms, and the row of people wearing black, who were receiving the awards of their dead relatives.”
The reporter from “The Times” was moved to note that the gathering included “men of every class and from many walks of life….. who, before the war had no thought beyond peaceful employment…. gathered here to receive from their King….. decorations for acts of war which three years ago would have seemed impossible to them.”
The King left Buckingham Palace at 2.35 pm in the royal carriage, accompanied by the Queen and Princess Mary, and followed by further carriages conveying various aides and equerries (including Sir Ian Hamilton, erstwhile commander-in-chief at Gallipoli). The royal party was cheered enthusiastically by the large crowd during the 10 minute drive to the pavilion; alighting from his landau, the King saluted as the Royal Standard was broken out, inspected the guard, and mounted the pavilion to begin the investiture.
The recipients were allocated numbers designating their place in the order of appearance; these had been published in the press with the corresponding names, and were displayed on large cards around the area as each came up to the King. Number one on the list, first of the distinguished company to march up the ramp, was Major Henry William Murray of the 13th Australian Infantry Battalion.
It was most unusual to present a Victoria Cross and a double Distinguished Service Order to one man at the same time, and it was reported that the King spoke to Murray at considerable length; one account said for fifteen minutes, but this was probably an exaggeration as the whole investiture was scheduled for only an hour and three-quarters.
“The Times”, taking note of the wording of Murray’s VC citation, commented that “he seems to have accomplished nearly every task it was possible to set himself in an attack”, a statement with which it would be hard to disagree.
From Jeff Hatwell’s book “No Ordinary Determination- Percy Black and Harry Murray of the First AIF”.
May be an image of text that says 'ÛP The scene at Park, London, on 2 June 1917, for the presentation decorations by King GeorgeV. (Inset] Murray leaving the dais after receiving his decorations. History of the War, Vol XII)'

Harry Murray VC DSO and Bar Investiture by King George V

VC Citation  10th March 1917 –

Capt. Henry William Murray, D.S.O., Aus. infy.

For most conspicuous bravery when in command of the right flank company in attack. He led his company to the assault with great skill and courage, and the position was quickly captured. Fighting of a very severe nature followed, and three heavy counter-attacks were beaten back, these successes being due to Captain Murray’s wonderful work.

Throughout the night his company suffered heavy casualties through concentrated enemy shell fire, and on one occasion gave ground for a short way. This gallant officer rallied his command and saved the situation by sheer valour.

He made his presence felt throughout the line, encouraging his men, heading bombing parties, leading bayonet charges, and carrying wounded to places of safety.

His magnificent example inspired his men throughout.

The award of the VC was for actions in the attack on Stormy Trench at Gueudecourt just north of the Somme in February 1917.

Previously in August 1916 Harry had been awarded the DSO for his successful company attack on Moquet Farm then in a later action (April 1917) at Bullecourt he was awarded a bar to his DSO.

Full awards for Henry William Murray

Victoria Cross
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Mentioned in Despatches (4)
Croix de guerre (France)

 

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.