Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 6 2010 Contents The French community of Fromelles gathered on
19 July to remember Australia’s darkest day in war
The Battle of Fromelles, on its 94th anniversary.
RIgHT: His Royal Highness Prince Charles meets members of Australia’s Federation Guard. BeLOW: Chief of Staff of the French
Army General Elrick Irastorza (left), British Army Chief General David Richards (2nd from left), and Australian Chief of Army
Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie (3rd from left), salute for the national anthems. LOWeR: The bearer party carry the coffin of the
250th soldier into the Fromelles Military Cemetery.
Australia’s war dead from the Great War 1914-1918
are commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission (CWGC). The casualties recovered from the
mass burial site at Pheasant Wood will be permanently
commemorated by the CWGC in the Fromelles (Pheasant
Wood) Military Cemetery.
Since its inception in 1917, the CWGC has followed
the principles of equality and uniformity in the official
commemoration of war dead. In practical terms the
› each of the war dead is commemorated individually
by name, on either a grave headstone (or headstone
plaque), or an inscription on a Memorial to the
› headstones and memorials are maintained in
› inscriptions on headstones and memorials are
uniform in content, and
› there is no distinction in style of commemoration
made on the basis of military rank, civil rank or
wealth of the veteran or his family.
The CWGC cemeteries and Memorials to the Missing
in 150 countries around the world are the tangible
expression of these principles.
The Australian casualties buried at Pheasant Wood
will have been listed by the CWGC as having no known
grave, and accordingly they are currently commemorated
by name on the Memorials to the Missing at VC Corner
Australian Cemetery or the Australian National
Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
When casualties recovered from Pheasant
Wood are identified, a headstone,
with the following information will be
› service badge (in the case of
Australians, this will be the Rising
Sun AIF Badge)
› name (initials and surname)
› date of death
› age (optional)
› religious emblem (optional), and
› a personal inscription chosen by relatives (optional).
In due course, the name of each identified casualty will be
removed from the Memorial to the Missing where it is now
found as the casualty will finally have a known grave.
“I think it’s extremely important that it’s happened
because they were heroes, they died for their
country, they did what they were told to and
what was right, so they’re finally getting the
appreciation they deserve.”
- 27-year-old Heath Stook from Perth,
whose second cousin Raymond Bishop was among the dead
The Battle of Fromelles, on a 400-metre
patch of French soil, was the first time
Australian Imperial Forces fought on
the Western Front, where 1900 young
Australian men lost their lives, with
another 3100 injured or never found.
This year’s annual remembrance
ceremony was held at the Australian
Memorial Park, where wreaths were
laid at the famous Cobbers Monument
and VC Corner by military and
Chief of Army Lieutenant General
Ken Gillespie, the Mayor of
Fromelles Monsieur Hubert Huchette,
Commonwealth War Graves
Commission Fromelles project manager
Mr David Richardson, relatives of fallen
soldiers and members of the public
attended the event.
This year’s service was held two days
earlier than the anniversary of the July
19 1916 battle, due to the upcoming
official opening of the Fromelles
(Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery,
where the final and 250th soldier was
laid to rest with full military honours.
Of the 250 men recovered from
Pheasant Wood, 205 have been
identified as Australians (96 by name),
three are British and 42 are ‘Known
unto God’ including the identity of the
final soldier to be buried.
Reinterment of the soldiers recovered
from the Pheasant Wood grave
commenced on 30 January 2010.
Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie said
Australians should all take time to
remember Australia’s darkest day.
“Australians need to understand
Fromelles and where it fits in our history
and what it meant to us,” he said.
“I find it to be something that we can
reflect on as we are experiencing in
Afghanistan at the present time with
“I can consider it a bit of a pilgrimage
back to where this all began, the sense
of sacrifice of such large numbers of
Australian soldiers who set an ethos
that we try and live up to today.”
In plots at VC Corner lie the remains
of 410 unidentified Australians, and
behind these graves a plaque carries
the names of 1299 men from the 5th
Division who were killed in action.
Principles of Official Commemoration
LeFT: Regimental Sergeant Major - Army, Warrant Officer Class One Stephen Ward pays his
respect to each of the 250 soldiers at the cemetery dedicated to the men who lost their lives in
the Battle of Fromelles.
RIgHT: Captain Katherine Christie from Australia’s Federation
Guard bows her head as a sign of respect during the Fromelles
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