Appointment – Commander 2nd Division – Major General David Thomae AM

The former Commander 11th Brigade has recently been appointed to Command the 2nd Division

Major General David Thomae assumed command of the 2nd Division on 17 July 2021.

Major General Thomae joined the Army in 1985, graduating from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1988 to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. His regimental service has been with the 2nd/4th Battalion and 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, 16th Battalion, The Royal Western Australian Regiment, 25th Battalion and 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment, which he commanded in 2007-08.

Major General Thomae’s senior leadership roles have been as Commander Joint Task Group 629.3, Commander 11th Brigade and immediately prior as the Adjutant General – Army. As a Colonel, he served as Colonel Projects Headquarters 1st Division, Director of Studies (Reserves), Australian Command and Staff College and Assistant Commander Training, 11th Brigade.

His operational experience includes being a military observer with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in Lebanon and Syria, rifle company commander in the 6th Battalion Battle Group with the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor and as Senior Military Advisor to the Special Representative to the Secretary General, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Recently he was Commander Joint Task Group 629.3 as part of Operation COVID19 ASSIST, the task group supporting the Australian Defence Force’s response to the COVID19 pandemic.

In addition to his command and senior leadership roles, Major General Thomae gained broad experience across Army in a range of staff, training and representational duties, including as an instructor at the School of Infantry and the Queensland University Regiment, Aide de Camp to General Officer Commanding Training Command, as an operations and plans officer at Headquarters 1st Division and as a staff officer with the Directorate of Reserve Soldier Career Management.

Major General Thomae is a graduate of the Australian Command and Staff College. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New South Wales, a Bachelor of Laws from the Queensland University of Technology, a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the Australian National University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern Queensland, and a Master of International Relations from the University of Queensland. He has completed the Joint Task Force Commander Course conducted by Joint Operations Command.

In 2021 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his command and leadership in the senior appointments of Adjutant General – Army, Commander 11th Brigade and Commander Joint Task Group 629.3. Additionally, he was awarded a Chief of Defence Force Commendation for his leadership as a company commander in East Timor and a General Officer Commanding Commendation for his leadership as an instructor at the School of Infantry.

Since 2003, he has been a commercial barrister practicing at the Queensland Bar. He is a nationally accredited mediator and is a member of the Bar Association of Queensland’s, Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. In January 2018, he was appointed as a Senior Member (part time) to the Veterans’ Review Board, the statutory tribunal reviewing decisions of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Major General Thomae is married to Nicole, a global knowledge manager for EY. They have three children. He enjoys cycling, sailing and golf in his free time.


Message Re Afghanistan – CO 31st/42nd Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment

To the men and women of the Battalion,

No doubt our leadership will post something soon regarding the situation in Afghanistan, however in readiness for that message I would like to offer the following:

Whilst we are all shocked at the speed in which the ANA and the Afghan government capitulated as evidenced in the Taliban taking Kabul, we must not be down-heartened or entertain any thought that we have been defeated and that the sacrifice made by our mates was for nothing. We all went into that conflict under the hope that our efforts were in the best interest of the Afghani people. We all hoped that we would be creating a strong democratic government that would represent the best interests of the collective ethnic communities within Afghanistan that was supported by a strong and corrupt free ANP and ANA. We did it to stop the horrific acts of ethnic cleansing as well as provide opportunities to all Afghani people regardless of their gender. We did it to disrupt Islamic terrorism freedom of manoeuvre. We did it out of hope, and whilst we were there, I personally saw that ‘we were making a difference’. We also did it to demonstrate what the Australian people stand for… and that’s worth fighting for.

It was not for nothing!

Team – lets get around and support each other.

The thoughts of the RSM and I are with you all.

LTCOL Dave Gandy | Commanding Officer | 31st/42nd Royal Queensland Regiment

Semper Paratus Defendere / Cede Nulius

Vale – Ken Sellars

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

Ken Sellars – Rest in Peace.   Tony

Vale Ken Sellars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in Peace, my friend.

George Stanger.

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

Tribute Plaque to Ken Sellars by Pierre Seillier



Kennedy Regiment Commemorative Service – Townsville – 2021

The Annual Commemorative service of The 31st Battalion and The 42nd Battalion 
The Royal Queensland Regiment was held on the 26th July 2021. 
The Church Service was conducted in St James Cathedral in Townsville. Adedication ceremony 
was held at the grave site of William Edward McIlwaine and his wife Alice at the Townsville Cemetery. 
Edward McIlwaine was a soldier of WW1 and a well remembered North Queensland Identity.
The colours of both the 31st Battalion and the 42nd Battalion were in the  Cathedral for the Service.


Current Serving Members of 31st/42nd Battalion were well Represented

Association Members from Ingham were strongly represented at the Service 

Brigadier Bruce Scott at Dedication Service at Townsville Cemetery 

The above photo shows (left to Right) The pastor Dr Kenneth Lay, Mr Lux Foot
( Decendent of Alice McIlwaine), Brigadier Bruce Scott, and Mr Eric Christie (NQ Rifle Assn)

Bugler is Kevin Blackford formally one of our soldiers in C Coy 31 RQR Ingham


Grave site of Alice and Willian "Edward" McIlwaine

Plaque on Grave of Alice and Edward McIlwaine

Fromelles Commemoration 2021 – Ipswich – Address by Brigadier Bill Date

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

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

19 th July – The Attack
• Artillery fire commenced at 1100hrs – 7hrs but there was
counter-fire by German heavy artillery.
• German artillery fire impacted the Australian and Brit
• H-hour for the Attack was 1800hrs or 6pm (in daylight as its
summertime in Europe) the troops climbed out their
trenches and commenced to advance.
• As the men advanced into No-Man’s land they were
attacked by German MG fire, artillery and rifle fire and in
many places the wire was undamaged by the artillery fire
• 8th Bde – 31st & 32nd Bn’s leading the attack on the left
with the infantry battalions of 14th Bde on their right.
• 14 th Brigade captured their objectives and advanced beyond
• However, 14 th Brigade forward elements were very much
isolated as Australian forces on their right flank were not
able to capture German trenches.
• uneven positioning of forces enabled the Germans to attack
the rear of 14 th Brigade forward elements.
• Let me focus on 8 th Brigade and the 31 st & 32nd Battalion –
although taking heavy casualties, over ran the German front
• LTCOL Toll CO 31 st BN proceeded forward Approx. 400 M
looking for the 3rd & 4th Line German Trenches, but found
only muddy ditches.
• The CO and his team (incl LT George Still) returned back to a
dry ditch about 200 m & started to dig in as their defensive
• They managed to hold it against German Artillery & Counter
Attacks until about 6.30 AM on the following morning when
they were forced to retire due to lack of ammunition &
• The main attack was over in 18 Hours but wounded were
still trying to crawl back & diggers going out to try to rescue
them for many hours after.
• By mid-morning on 20 th July – German estimates were of
approx. 2,000 corpses on no-man’s land across the Fromelles
• Refer to CO 31 st BN War Diary – EXTRACT
LT George Still MC
As the CO 31st Battalion mentions in his War Diary….“I wish to
mention for special consideration” LT G.Still……
• LT Still was a draftsmen in Lands Department
• Enlisted in May 1915
• Appointed as Intelligence Officer under LTCOL Toll
• Fought at Fromelles
• Toll wrote in his write up for Gallantry AWARD…
For gallantry in organising struggling troops and advancing
over open country in rear of the enemy’s position, for
keeping up communication with Brig HQ by means of pigeon
and later runners and in German main breastworks during
the night, assisted with consolidating positions won, and
generally devotion to duty”.
• LT Still suffered eye wound and was discharged in June 1917.
• Lived until 1968 passed away 85yo at Iona Retirement
Village Kenmore.
• George Still father was school-teacher Maryborough West
State School and lived in Ariadne St, Maryborough
• The Battle achieved nothing, and was a disaster. There were
no more attacks at Fromelles for the rest of the war.
• The awful casualty toll
  •  5 th Australian Division – over 5500 men
  •  31 st Battalion War Diary – 544 men (Killed, Wounded,
• This was the highest casualties sustained by any Div. within
a 24hr period in Australian Military History but this
disastrous AUS casualty figure was to be exceeded in other
actions as part of the Somme offensive.
• one the German Divisions opposing the Aussie attack was
the 16 th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Division, a runner in the
List Regiment of the 16 th Bavarian was a LCPL ADOLF HITLER
• The remains of these Aussie soldiers were buried by the
Germans in Mass Graves behind their Lines in Pheasant
Wood after the main attack
• This mass burials incl diggers from 31 st Battalion.
• Melbourne School Teacher, “Lambis Englezos” realized that
the Graves of Unidentified bodies from the Battle, fell far
short of the number of Missing.
• Lambis set out to find the whereabouts of these remains.
After years of research & then having to convince the govt
authorities that the bodies were buried by the Germans at
Pheasant Wood, 250 bodies were recovered in 2009.
• These Aust diggers were reburied with full military honours
at Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery.
• Modern DNA supplied by relatives approximately 166
Bodies have so far been identified.
• YouTube video project – St Clare’s College Sydney “Lost
Diggers of Fromelles” – fantastic overview
• In conclusion – I congratulate the 31 st Battalion Association
• This is very fitting tribute to commemorate the deeds of the
officers and diggers of 31 st Battalion at Fromelles…..the
tragedy, their bravery, their spirit and and mateship.

Fromelles Commemoration – Fromelles, France and Ipswich Queensland

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tony continues with a more detailed report on the day:

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

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

Pierre’s Facebook page includes about 100 Photos.

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

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

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

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.


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 – Alan Hartley, – Passed away this morning at about 2.30AM (15th July 2021). Many of us served with Alan in the 50’s & 60’s & 70’s in the 31st Bn  & later through  the Association. A great  man who will be missed.

ALAN HARTLEY – Rest In Peace


A true Officer & Gentleman

Tribute from Felix Reitano

Alan 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)

The Cover of Alan’s Funeral Service Handout

Below is the Eulogy Authored by Felix Reitano and delivered at the service for Alan


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

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

LAMBIS ENGLEZOS AM – Search for the Missing 250 Diggers

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