Fromelles Commemoration – Fromelles, France and Ipswich Queensland

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

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

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

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

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

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

TONY

Tony continues with a more detailed report on the day:

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

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

Pierre’s Facebook page includes about 100 Photos.

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

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

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

Vale – Peter Stewart

Members & Friends,it is with great sadness I have to advise you of the passing of our Member – PETER STEWART this morning (Sunday 18th July 2021). Peter was competing in an Ocean Swim in Darwin and apparently developed a medical episode and was pulled from the water deceased. Peter, was the son of our past member DAVID STEWART, and had turned 60 Years of age earlier this year. Peter & wife Sharon were members of our Team that toured the Western Front – 2016 & attended the 100th Anniversary of The Battle of Fromelles Commemoration Service at Fromelles.

Peter & Sharon & Family would come down from Darwin each year, – late April & would march with us in the Brisbane ANZAC DAY March. Our thoughts and Prayers go to Peter’s wife Sharon & Mother Dawn & Family. This news was passed on to us by friend/member Sean Rooney.

Rest in Peace – our good mate, Peter Stewart.

Tony

Peter and Sharon Stewart

Peter at his competitive best

Vale – Maj Alan Hartley ED

Message from Association Brisbane Branch Secretary, Tony Wadeson –

Members, I have received very sad news from Felix Reitano in Ingham,  – Our great old Mate & Comrade – The man from Charters Towers – Allan Hartley, – Passed away this morning at about 2.30AM (15th July 2021). Many of us served with Allan in the 50’s & 60’s & 70’s in the 31st Bn  & later through  the Association. A great  man who will be missed.

ALLAN HARTLEY – Rest In Peace

Tony

A true Officer & Gentleman

Tribute from Felix Reitano

Allan in a group photo of Officers from 31st Battalion on the occasion of

Presentation of the Colours 25th August 1968

(From Crossed Boomerangs by Bob Burla)

–000–

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

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

LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM – Search for the Missing 250 Diggers

Committee member and regular contributor of articles to this website, Mick James, has sent this interesting story regarding Lambis‘ first efforts to find the missing Diggers from Fromelles. We have Geoff Benn’s permission to post it on our website. With the Commemoration of the “Battle of Fromelles” date coming up in a few weeks it is a fitting time for the story to be told.
“Courtesy of Fromelles Association of Australia Inc. and President Geoffrey Benn we reprint this article from their latest newsletter.
LAMBIS ENGLEZOS’ SEARCH FOR THE MISSING,
AND THE RE-BURIAL OF 250 SOLDIERS AT FROMELLES
[Compiled from posts by Lambis Englezos and Michael James on Facebook, and extracted from the as yet un-published book of Geoffrey Benn – ‘Fromelles: 100 Years of Myths and Lies.]
The location of the missing soldiers at Fromelles became the focus of the now historically famous and long-running investigation by Lambis Englezos, Ward Selby and John Fielding.
It started with Jack Bowden, who along with his mate Lt Wally Vaile, were keen rowers before the War, and Jack was Club Captain of his rowing club for a few years.
When Robin Corfield was researching his book “Don’t forget me Cobber” he looked at many Red Cross Wounded and Missing Personnel files of the missing from the Battle of Fromelles. In only one file – that of Jack Bowden – there was mention of bodies perhaps being buried near ‘Pheasant Wood’ in German records.
It was in a paragraph from Robin Corfield’s book published in 2000, that Lambis Englezos first saw a reference to ‘Pheasant Wood’. Lambis has since referred to that reference as ‘serendipity and chance’.‘None of us knew where it was. Research and advocacy, and Army’s process led us to eventual confirmation and recovery. A wonderful result was that , Dignity and identity for the soldiers of Pheasant Wood, was to come. Lambis had been to Fromelles in 1996 for the battle’s 80th anniversary, but in 2002 embarked on his quest to find the missing. He was aware of the term ‘Pheasant Wood’ but didn’t know what it meant. This was one of the most significant clues to eventually finding the 250 buried diggers.
An article was published in The Australian newspaper on 18 July, 2003. Lambis was cited as believing the burial site for the remains of 250 missing Australia soldiers were believed to have been found. Why 250 specifically? He was pressed for a figure by the journalist, and replied ‘250’, without certainty. The figure was quoted as having some degree of certainty. Little was he to know the exact number until the remains were exhumed in 2009.
Having met Martial Delabarre in 2002, he became aware of local farmers’ comments about soldiers having been buried in a farmer’s field.
Lambis had found aerial photographs of the site at Pheasant Wood, taken after the battle, showing what were believed to be burial mounds. Lambis thereafter concentrated his investigation on the site adjoining Pheasant Wood.
Lambis says: ‘The research and advocacy was a team effort, with a wonderful result. Ward Selby, John Fielding and I presented to an expert panel in 2005. We made our case for a search of the site suspected of being a burial site, next to the Pheasant Wood. We followed due and official process.’
But the panel was insufficiently convinced and un-moved.
Then in 2006 everything changed. The German Burial Order of 1916 was found in archives in Munich, Germany.
This was the turning point in the search.
The Australian Army then established a process by which the excavation of the site at Pheasant Wood could be undertaken, leading to confirmation of the existence of soldiers’ remains, and their eventual recovery.
2007 saw an exploratory non-invasive survey undertaken at Pheasant Wood, led by Tony Pollard of Glasgow University Archaeology and Research Department. In that investigation a heart-shaped medallion with ‘ANZAC’ written on it, and a Shire of Alberton medallion were found at Pheasant Wood, which were of Australian origin, in a location at which Australian soldiers had not reached in battle. There must be soldiers buried at Pheasant Wood after all.
In 2008, a preliminary and limited excavation was able to be undertaken. Human remains were found. This led to the approval of the excavation of the remains of soldiers now confirmed as being buried next to Pheasant Wood in 1916.
2009 saw the unearthing of the burial pits at Pheasant Wood, and the beginning of an archaeological excavation in which 250 soldiers’ remains were located. The process resulted in detailed scientific analysis of the remains found, and a multitude of small items found with them.
One of the archaeological team was Dr. Louise Loe of Oxford Archaeology, who led the excavation of the clay pit graves and has been serving as a subject matter expert on the data analysis team, formed specifically for the identification process. In correspondence with Geoffrey Benn, she wrote that:-
The identification process was of the utmost scientific rigour from beginning to end. Subject matter experts systematically analysed all the pieces of available evidence, including all available military documentation, information from families, family trees, the results of the DNA analysis, items found with the soldiers, the results of the scientific analysis of the bodies and photographs of the soldiers as well. On the basis of this, recommendations were made to the Joint Identification Board for their consideration and the first identifications of the soldiers were made.
Since then, the data analysis team has met annually up until 2019 (with the exception of 2015) and has continued to recommend identifications to the Joint Identification Board. Unfortunately, the board could not meet [in 2020] because of the [Covid-19] pandemic.
In 2010 the new Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery at Fromelles was dedicated with all the remains unearthed in 2009, reburied in their own dedicated plots. The dedication ceremony took place on 19 July,
2010. The remains of the final soldier to be re-buried were interred at the ceremony, 94 years after the battle which claimed his life.
The identities of 96 soldiers had been determined be-fore that dedication took place. It was the result of a long and detailed process of scientific analysis culminating in the first Joint Identification Board at Australia House, London, in the Spring of 2010. Names could now be inscribed in headstones bearing the identity of soldiers lost since 1916.
Dr. Loe was shown photographs of some of the soldiers identified, after the soldiers had been reburied, but before the new cemetery at Fromelles was dedicated. Dr. Loe wrote:-
‘The first time that we saw the faces of the names we had matched with individuals who we had recovered was incredibly poignant.’
[Picture: Robert Courtney Green. AWM P10624.001]
One of those soldiers whose photograph was shown to Dr. Loe, was Robert Courtney Green.
Robert had left Nottinghamshire, England for a better life in Australia, only to encounter the ravages of drought on a farm outside Fremantle. He enlisted and would serve in the 32nd Battalion. He was hit with shrapnel in the chest and bled to death in the German 2nd line trench.
—ooo000ooo—
Lambis was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2009.
Jack Bowden hasn’t been identified as yet although Lambis believes he is buried at the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery. Hopefully, confirming DNA for Jack Bowden can be found.
From Lambis and the families who have been involved in identifying the missing soldiers of Fromelles, we thank the Australian Army for establishing a process that eventually led us to confirmation and recovery of 250 missing diggers. A video from the ABC recorded in 2010, is available on Youtube and is titled ‘Australian Mass Graves Discovered in France’ It mentions 90 having been identified through DNA and other means. That figure is now 166, and we expect there will be more to come following the convening of Joint Identification Boards.
As Lambis frequently says: ‘Dignity and identity for the soldiers of Pheasant Wood, and those to come.’
“LEST WE FORGET.”
 1. Lambis Englezos pointing to the names of Jack Bowden & Wally Vaile on the
WW1 Rowers Memorial on the banks of the Yarra River .
2. Closer photo of Memorial showing names.
3. photo of L/Cpl Robert Courtney Green

Reserve Forces Day Recognition Ceremony – Cancellation

MEMBERS & FRIENDS, –   LAST MINUTE CANCELLATION of RESERVE FORCES DAY RECOGNITION CEREMONY scheduled for this SUNDAY 27th June at 1000Hrs.    THIS CEREMONY HAS BEEN CANCELLED due to circumstances beyond the Committee’s Control

 This Recognition Ceremony has been rescheduled to a Date to be determined in late AUGUST.

The Committee sincerely Apologizes for this Late Cancellation and any inconvenience caused.

If anyone had indicated to me that they were attending this Ceremony, PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS NOTIFICATION. 

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

Battle of Fromelles – 2021 – Commemoration

MONDAY the 19th of July 2021, – IS A SPECIAL DAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE 31st BATTALION. – The 105th Anniversary of the Day the 31st Infantry Battalion AIF went into action, for the first time on the Western Front at Fromelles, as part of the 8th Brigade, – 5th Division AIF.  It ended in a Disaster, resulting in the Highest casualties sustained by a Division in 24 hours in a Australian Military History.

You are Cordially invited to attend The Commemoration Service of the Battle to be held at the Ipswich General Cemetery on Monday 19th July at 1100 Hrs. (REFER ATTACHED) We ask you as members and Friends  to make a special effort to attend. This year we have Students and Teachers from three Ipswich High Schools attending. The Mayor of Ipswich, Mayor Teresa Harding, and the Federal Member for Blair The Hon Shayne Neumann have requested invitations to attend.

PLEASE ADVISE ME IF YOU WISH TO LAY A WREATH.

DRESS:- Anzac Day Attire. Jacket, and Tie, Medals, Beret, and Name Tag.

ASSEMBLY:- No later than 1045 Hours – Cenotaph – Ipswich General Cemetery – Warwick Rd Ipswich. Service will take approx. 1 Hour. You may require a Hat or an Umbrella.

If you require a seat. PLEASE BRING A FOLDING CHAIR.

We will be adjourning to the CSI Club Ipswich for refreshments & a Light Lunch (Own Expense) after the Service. You are most welcome to join us.

RSVP:- by 5.00PM – WEDNESDAY 14th JULY  – (A) If you are attending the Service. (B) If you intend to join us for a light lunch at the CSI Club in Ipswich. Contact TONY WADESON by email.

If you wish to attend but are concerned about Transport. Please advise me & I’ll see what can be done.

Regards TONY

Cpl Edward Kent MM – Old Boy of Ipswich Grammar School


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

  • The 19th July 2021 will be the 105th Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles on the Western Front. Fromelles is situated in France near the Belgian Border just south of Ypres & west of Lille.
  • It was the First battle undertaken by Australian Troops on the Western Front – WW1.
  • It was carried out by the, 8th – 14th & 15th Brigade’s of the Aust 5th Division & on their Right, the British 61st Div. – (raw Territorial troops)

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

  • Fromelles was planned by the British as a Diversionary Attack to convince the Germans not to move troops south to the Somme where the British & French had started a major push on the 1st July. 11 Divisions of the British 4th Army had sustained massive Casualties exceeding 80K, on the Somme around the Pozieres area with little to show for it.
  • A British General, LTGEN Richard Haking planned the attack at Fromelles. This was unfortunate for the Australians, as he had previously been involved with planning an attack 14 Months earlier with British troops, over exactly the same ground with absolutely no gain & very heavy Casualties.
  • After the previous attack, the Germans spent the period improving & fortifying their Defences around Fromelles with underground Concrete Bunkers, & O/Head protective cover from Artillery. They had a clear view of the Australian Front line and an excellent observation of the battlefield from the Church Spire in the Village of Fromelles. The Germans also had the Australian Front line & supporting areas well ranged by their Artillery & Mortars. They had a year to practice their ranging.
  • The attack started with Artillery Bombardments at 11.00 AM & at 6.00 PM (in broad daylight) the troops advanced, with the 8th Bde – 31st & 32nd Bn’s leading the attack on the left, with the 14th Brigade’s 54th & 53rd Bn’s on their right. These two Brigades had to cross about 100 yds of clear open ground of No Mans Land in front, of the 31st & 32nd Bns, & up to 200 yds in front of the 54th & 53rd Bns. But, the 15th Bde on the extreme Right, had to cross about 350 yds of clear open ground to reach the German Front Lines. The 15th Brigade’s two leading Battalions were almost wiped out in “No Mans Land” by heavy machine gun fire, from the “Sugarloaf position” & very few Diggers managed to reach the German Front Line, let alone penetrate it.
  • The 31st& 32nd – & 54th& 53rd Bns although, taking heavy casualties, over ran the German front line. The 31st Bn CO, LTCOL Fred Toll proceeded forward Approx. 400 M looking for the proposed 3rd & 4th Line German Trenches, but found only muddy ditches. They returned back to a dry Ditch about 200 m behind the main German Front Line& started to dig in as their defensive line. They managed to hold it against Heavy German Artillery Barrages, & overwhelming German Counter Attacks, but at about 2.00AM, LTCOL Toll decided to move back to the Main German line.They held out until about 6.30 AM on the following morning, when they were forced to retreat back over No Man’s Land to their own lines, due to lack of ammunition & reinforcements, sustaining further heavy casualties in the process.
  • The Attack was over in 18 Hours but wounded were still trying to crawl back & diggers going out to try to rescue them for many hours after.
  • The Battle achieved nothing, and was a disaster. There were no more attacks at Fromelles for the rest of the war. The bodies of the dead Australians lay in No Man’s Land, until after the War, and many who were killed behind the German Lines, remained as missing. After the war the 410 unidentified remains in NO Mans Land were buried in Groups of 10 at “VC Corner” Cemetery at Fromelles. Those who were killed behind the German Lines remained as missing & would remain unheard of for about 80 Years. That’s another story. (Refer Below)
  • Roll call after the Battle recorded a total of 5533 Casualties by the 5th Division. This was the highest casualties sustained by any Div. within a 24hr period in Australian Military History.
  • However, due to the high casualties, the Battle was basically kept a secret, by the high authority, and as the Aust. 1st – 2nd & 4th Divisions entered the Battle of the Somme on the 23rd July capturing Poziers & the high ground of the “Windmill” behind it, with a Casualty high of 23,000 over the following weeks, the Battle of Fromelles was forgotten, & became part of the British Somme offensive. The British never ever recorded Fromelles as a Battle & it is not recognised as such to this Day. We Australians regard it as a Battle, & the 31st Bn being the only Unit of the 5th Div. WW1, still operational & on strength in the ADF, will continue to recognise it & commemorate the Diggers who fought & died there.

LAMBIS ENGLEZOS  AM

  • In the late 1990’s a Greek born, Arts Teacher & amateur War Historian from Melbourne started taking an interest in the Battle of Fromelles as he had interviewed old WW1 Diggers of the Victorian 15th Brigade living nearby in Melbourne. He became convinced after checking records and reading Corfield’s Book on Fromelles “Don’t forget me Cobber” that there were approx. 250 missing Diggers unaccounted for. Lambis was on a mission. After research of German Aerial Photographs & a visit to Germany to inspect German War records, he identified that a probable Burial site, was an area astride “Pheasant Wood” which was behind the German front Line. Lambis requested authorities to investigate the site, but they weren’t interested. However, due to his drive & persistence, it wasn’t until 2007, that an Archaeological team found evidence of Australian & British Badges on the site. This proved to be enough evidence to make a dig. It wasn’t until 2009 that the dig was made & the bodies recovered.
  • Due to modern DNA, Bodies were identified. All remains were reinterred in a New Cemetery named “Pheasant Wood Cemetery”. As remains were identified new Headstones with their Names & Units etc replaced the Blank ones. Due to modern DNA, remains have continued to be identified each year & their Graves noted, including quite a few 31st Bn men. It was due to the publicity of the find of the Bodies at Fromelles that knowledge of the Battle became more widespread.
  • DUE TO THE COVID-19 SERIOUS SITUATION IN FRANCE – IT IS UNLIKELY THAT THE NORMAL ANNUAL COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY AT FROMELLES WILL BE HELD THIS YEAR, (it will be a smaller closed Ceremony). – OUR SERVICE & SERVICES held in MELBOURNE & SYDNEY MAY BE THE ONLY ONES TO BE HELD WORLDWIDE.
  • Since Lambis’s discovery, new Books have been written, a new Cemetery Established, & a new Museum Built in Fromelles. In 2009, Lambis Englezos was recognised for his outstanding Service and exceptional Achievement, and awarded a Member of the Order of Australia, AM. Lambis is continuing his search for burial grounds of unaccounted missing Soldiers, in various WW1 Battle Fields. Australia owes a great deal to this man.

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

 

 

 

Battle of Fromelles – Commemoration

Members & Friends, Our “Battle of Fromelles” Commemoration Service will be held again this year, at the Ipswich General Cemetery, on Monday 19th July at 1100 Hrs. Please note your Diaries. Further Details will be advised, when arrangements are finalised.

This is the only Commemoration of this Most Historic Battle, held in Queensland. Undertaken by the Australian 5th Division, It was a disaster resulting in the largest List of Casualties (5533) sustained within a 24 Hour period in Australia’s Military History.
As it was the first Battle undertaken by Australia on the Western Front, the disastrous details were withheld & casualties hidden within the Somme casualties which Australian participation started a few days later. As the 31st Bn took a major role in the Battle & is the only Bn from the 5th Division still on strength in the Australian Defence Force today, we feel it is our duty to ensure the Battle & the Men who fought & died are not forgotten. It was a Melbourne School Teacher of Greek ancestry – Lambis Englezos AM who in recent years has made Australians more aware of the Battle.

Mick James, our Coordinating Officer, has ascertained that 11 members of the 31st Bn during WW1, were Old Boys of the – Ipswich Grammar School.  Mick   is contacting Ipswich Grammar School, plus other High Schools in Ipswich inviting them, to attended the Ceremony. Mick has selected an Old Boy of Ipswich Grammar, – Cpl. Edward Kent MM, who participated in the battle, & who is buried in the Cemetery, to be the person honoured on that Day. It is hoped a Student will give the address to commemorate that Soldier. It should be noted that the 31st Bn, – 2IC Major Percy Eckersley & the Adjutant (1918) Capt. Vaux Morisset were Old Boys of Ipswich Grammar School.  Mick is being assisted by the Ipswich RSL Sub Branch.

Mick recently spent a few days with Lambis Englezos AM in Melbourne & was informed that the Project on The Battle of Fromelles undertaken by students of St Clare’s College Waverley in Sydney  had been completed and a Video was now available. Mick has listed the link to the Video in his letters to the Schools. This is an excellent Project which took 3 years to produce by the Students who Graduate this year.
Below is the Link to launch of the Lost Diggers of Fromelles video. Students of St. Clare’s College , Waverley , NSW were assisted in the project by Patrick Lindsay, well known Producer, and Lambis Englezos, who was instrumental in finding the lost diggers of Fromelles in 2008. This is a great project carried out by some of the Students over a three year period. 

 

Vale – Brian Jones

 Associate Member Ross Konowalenko has passed on the sad news of the passing of fellow member Brian Jones on 24/5/2021:

It is with sadness that I inform you that our fellow 31st Battalion Association member (and RSL Life Member) Brian Jones of Beachmere, Qld, passed away peacefully with his family by his side at 0730hrs this morning in Townsville, after a long and courageous fight with cancer.

Brian was a very active RSL and community member for many years and as you may recall, when in better health he volunteered his time to help others through Legacy. His father’s plaque is on his local Beachmere RSL sub branch memorial and Brian was a very proud ‘sapper’, graduate from the Army Apprentices School and saw ‘local service’ during his time in PNG.

As more information comes to hand and with the permission of his family, I will keep you informed accordingly.

My prayers are with his family and each of you at this time.

Yours in service,

Ross Konowalenko

Note from Martin O’Sullivan

Brian and I served together both in Papua New Guinea in PNGVR in the 60s and again in 31RQR in the 70s and 80’s. Brian had started as at the Army Apprentice Centre at Balcombe Vic and subsequently served as a Sapper prior to moving back to civilian  life and heading for PNG in the early 1960s.

He joined up with PNGVR shortly afterward. Like many of us who had prior service in the Army in Australia, we were issued with new service numbers upon joining PNGVR. It was only later when we were both serving with 31RQR that I discovered that our service numbers were not that far apart meaning that we both joined around the same time.

I arrived back in Australia and took up a position in Townsville in 1971 and Brian was subsequently transferred to Charters Towers. Both of us were then posted to 31RQR Brian as a WO2 and I as a Lt. Brian subsequently applied for and was granted a Commission.

After the damaging Miller report reduced the Battalion to 31 Indep Rifle Coy in 1976 we spent 10 years in various staff postings and postings with other units. With a huge effort on the part of many of us at the time, we managed to boost our numbers back to Battalion level.

By 1986 with the unit back to a Battalion again I was appointed as OC Admin Coy with Brian, who by that time was a Captain as 2IC Admin. We held those positions until we both retired in 1989

Some years later Brian and I met up again when we both retired, he to Beechmere and I to the Sunshine Coast.

In more recent times Brian had courageously battled against Cancer over a period of years. He moved to Townsville after his wife Nancy’s tragic death, to be close to his son Richard, who is serving at Lavarack Barracks.

Brian was a fine soldier, a good practical hand and a great mate. My thoughts and prayers are for him and his family.

Well done mate, RIP.

Martin O’Sullivan 

 

Vale – John Gardner MBE

Members, It is my sad duty to advise you of the passing of Association Life Member, – John Gardner MBE. –  John passed away last Saturday night – 8th May after a long illness.

John Gardner was born in Ingham in 1932, educated at Ingham State Primary School & then as a boarder at Toowoomba Grammar School. John’s father was the well established local Pharmacist. John, following his Fathers footsteps studied Pharmacy at The Central Technical College Brisbane, graduating in 1954. Prior to Graduation, John was selected as the Central Technical College’s Student Representative to attend “The Royal Ball” at the Brisbane City Hall. His partner that Night was Patricia Gent, who later became his wife of 62 years.

John then had to complete his deferred National Service Training. His introduction to Military Life showed his future potential as he was chosen as the Servicemen’s OC  at the 11th National Service Training Battalion’s Leadership Parade.

John then returned  to Ingham, to take over the Family Pharmacy formerly owned by his late father, & became very involved in local activities, Apex, Jaycees, Ingham Little Theatre, Archery, & Golf Clubs to name just a few. Invited onto the Ingham Ambulance Committee, he served in various Positions & finally Chairman, he was the longest serving Committee Member in the history of the Ambulance in Ingham. He was involved with many more community Service activities, far to many to list here.

John joined the CMF in Ingham in 1957 as a Private Soldier – C  Company, of the 31st Infantry Bn. He rose through the ranks, and eventually, as a Major, promoted to, OC, – C Company in 1968. John retired from the CMF, with rank of Major in 1971.  John remained in close contact with the Regiment, as Chairman of the Ingham Recruitment Committee for a period, and was the Anzac Day Parade Marshall in Ingham, for many years. John was awarded an MBE (Military Division) in 1970 for service to the Citizen Military Forces. John was the Editor of “The Whispering Boomerang” the  Association Bulletin from 1994 to 2008.  He was made a “Life Member” of the Ingham Branch of the Association in 2006, and in 2019, “Life Member” of the 31st Infantry Bn Association Inc..

John, also was the Editor of the Series “Lives and Times Volumes 1 to 4. – Editor of the Book “Detoured to War” & collator of a collection of Poems titled “Voices in Verse”.

John Gardner was still involved with the 31st Bn Association even whilst he was ill. Providing support, congratulating and encouraging Committee Members in all of our activities. He was a great Soldier, a great Leader and a true friend. John will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him, – But Never Forgotten.

In a final act of Community Service, John bequeathed his body to the Department of Anatomical Services at the University of Queensland.

Johns wife for 62 years Patricia, predeceased him in 2019, his ashes will eventually be laid to rest with Patricia’s at St Andrews Anglican Church, South Brisbane, where he and Patricia met as choristers in 1955, and where they were married in 1957.

John Gardner R.I.P.

Our deepest Sympathy goes to Johns Daughters, Paula, Jocelyn & Hilary & their families.

TONY

Further information has just been received from Association Secretary – Brisbane Branch – Tony Wadeson – regarding a Memorial for John:

Members,  I have been advised by John Gardner’s Daughters, Hilary, Jocelyn, & Paula, that a Memorial Service will be held for John at 10.30 AM, next Wednesday 19th May

VENUE:- Salvation Army Hall, – Sugar Bag Rd,  Little Mountain, – Caloundra. (same Place as Patricia Gardner’s Service was held).

Transport:- Anyone who requires Transport please advise me & I will investigate the courses open. That includes anyone flying down from the North, & requires a lift from the Airport.

Dress:- Jacket & Tie. – Medals, – Beret, – Name Tag.

 

 

-ooo-