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Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
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Julie,

Thank you for sharing this information. How lucky you are to have such wonderful eyewitness accounts. It would seem that perhaps you do have a claim to Pheasant Wood. Have you been in contact yet with Tim, Andrew or Sandra? They may be able to help you in your quest.

V.

Thank you Victoria, I have been in contact with Sandra and we have discussed my information. As I mentioned previously, I don't believe there is any chance of positively saying my great uncle is at Pheasant Wood without DNA and I also realise the complications that this whole scenario opens up in order for this to happen. To exhume or not, to test or not, to rebury or not, as has been discussed at length by many here on the forum, I believe these decisions are out of our hands. I shall be speaking with Lambis on his return and I am just happy to assist Sandra and others should the time arise in any identification process.

Julie

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On the back is written : memory of an English attack at Fromelles

Any clues as to which attack - May 1915 or July 1916?

V.

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......Tell me, if this had been several hundred French and Portuguese troops, would there have been the slightest interest from the Antipodes? .............There are people in Europe and on the Forum who have walked these battlefields for years and spared a thought for every soldier brought in from the cold.

Hang on a minute Tom. Are you saying that Australians and New Zealanders have thoughts 'only' for their own countrymen and couldn't care less about those of other nationalities???? It also appears you're suggesting Europeans care more about the dead of all nations than we from 'down under' do.

I think that's a rather bold statement to be making and I'd be interested to see on what you base that assumption. It's most probably true that as nations we are primarily focused on the war dead of our own countries but that's just natural and doesn't preclude anyone from giving thought to the dead of other nations.

What I find particularly upsetting with your comments are that you seem to wish to dismiss the thoughts of Australians purely because of distance and a personal perception that we are only concerned about ourselves. If you've seen the media here in Australia about the find at Pheasant Wood, you might have noticed that almost every report makes mention that a larger number of British remains were expected to be located. From what I'm lead to believe, I'd also suggest that the British missing at Fromelles received more attention from the Australian press in the past few weeks than they did at home.

Cheers,

Tim L.

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Koen, many thanks.

V.

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I must be Psychic Victoria.What i predicted is about to start...Mums the Word !!!..... :D

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Victoria, you mentioned earlier that at Fromelles the Germans removed all identity discs and returned these to the Red Cross. Was this common practice for all enemy burials by the Germans or just in this case where a large number of men were to be interred? I don't want to hi jack this thread but as an example, when troops were cut off behind enemy lines at Mouquet Farm and 'buried/left' in the trenches there, did the Germans retrieve the identity discs in this case?

Cheers, Elle

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The Account of the Germans removing the A.I.F. Dog Tags and personal Effects,and giving them to the Red Cross seems slightly out of Sync for a Number of reasons.

1) WHY would the Germans want to do this ?,there had surely been an ample Oppourtunity already for them to make this type of gesture after the various Battles previously fought in the area had already left a large amount of Dead from various Nations strewn around the Fromelles and surrounding battle Areas ?.If the Germans HAD wanted to have returned ID Tags it would have been far easier to have passed them across to the Allied lines via a Local truce,or to have them dropped behind Allied Lines by Aircraft.As for Personal effects,i really find that this stretches the Story somewhat.The Personal effects would have either gone with the Bodies into the Burial Pits,or would have been souvenired by the Enemy.

2) I have never heard of,or read of any accounts of it being done any where else by the Germans on the W.F. during WW1,(not even in the Xmas Truce in 1914).Surely there were more pressing matters for the Germans to attend to ?.

3) Is there any Documentary/Photographic Proof available to back up the claims that the Germans returned the ID Tags and Personal effects ?..IE News Paper Accounts etc,etc.?,and was it reported in the German,Neutral and Australian Press ?...Surely it would have been a Massive Propaganda Coup for the Germans.Why did they wait until this Particular Time ?.

4) Why no British Soldiers ID Tags and Personal Effects returned ?.

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4) Why no British Soldiers ID Tags and Personal Effects returned ?.[/i]

Hello PBI,

I am also very intrigued by this question...

Michel

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What I can tell you for the Australian soldiers is that the ID tags WERE returned in ALL CASES. There is also a burial voucher for each man and a full burial list was given to the Red Cross. Additionally, in some cases, paybooks, wallets, coins, letters, photographs and other personal effects were returned by the German authorities.

Having said that, it is a fair indication that the same would have been done with any other nationality buried in these pits.

Bright Blessings

Sandra

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Thanks you Sandra, it would be interesting to know where those Australian and British ID tags are now. I have no great knowledge of this particular mass interment but it strikes me that if as you say all of the IDs plus various personal items were returned and full burial lists were also supplied, why were these locations not discovered earlier say when the battlefields were cleared after the war?.

Best Wishes

Norman

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Norman ... the Australian soldiers ID tags and the personal effects were returned to the families. The pay books I assume would have been retained by the authorities as I have seen mention of this in one of the files.

I am afraid I cannot add anything in relation to the remainder of your question :)

Bright Blessings

Sandra

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As Sandra has said, the Australian serviceman's files contained German documents and/or slips that indicate they had been KIA at Fromelles and buried by the German army. They also sent lists via the Red Cross that gave details of all those they had buried. Also, in almost all cases, the service record notes the return of the men's ID disk's from the German authorities.

I'm not exactly sure how or why these graves were missed by the Graves Registration Unit after the war (I'm not sure if anyone really knows why) but I think although the Germans listed who they'd buried, I don't believe there was an exact location of where. From what I understand, there was a brief reference to Pheasant Wood in one file and Lambis followed that lead up which led to the discovery of aerial photos that showed the pits etc etc.

Nevertheless, the documents do exist in each man's file and can be viewed online at the National Archives of Australia - of that there can be no doubt.

It may well be that similar documents exist within the British records but has anyone ever actually gone searching for them as Lambis did? Perhaps someone could try to identify the British missing of Fromelles in the same fashion. If any of the service records still exist, there may be some interesting documents hidden in there.

Cheers,

Tim L.

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Hello all,

Perhaps one of the reasons that the Germans were so magnamious in victory was that Fromelles was a very quiet sector of the line (by WW1 standards). They OWNED that section of the line for a long time. In the 19th July attack no ground was held by the allies and the Germans were left with a mass of bodies in their lines. In the Australian's case it was mainly the 32nd Bn who left so many dead in the German lines. After the battle all the Germans had to do was to sweep out the litter, repair the parapets and all was back to normal. Just like us cleaning up a bit of storm damage. They had won a maginificent victory having slaughtered the enemy many times to their one. With a big victory genorosity comes easier. Perhaps the local leader admired the Australian & British courage and gave those in their line a soldiers burial. The same was done for the Red Baron a few years later by the allies. Chivalry? Those out in no man's land were left to rot. Some were buried in the sap built in no-mans land (this really needs further archaeological investigation).

In the case of Mouquet Farm the Germans were under incessant attack and eventually were rooted out by the Canadians. They were in no mood or position to care about the enemy. A German at Mouquet Farm would have had a low life expectancy whereas at Fromelles they were the clear victors and held their ground.

As a side note I researched a friends relly, 920 Pte Samuel Devitt MM &bar. He was captured by the Germans at Passchaendaele, escaped but was shot twice whilst doing so. His ID tags were taken by the Germans who handed them into the Red Cross and reported him dead much to the dismay of his family, but imagine their joy when he was reported alive but wounded in allied lines. So even in times of duress the Germans,sometimes, as a matter of procedure were collecting ID tags.

Regards, Len

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Yes, this could well have been a local initiative prompted by a particular officer concerned to do things correctly - the hygiene concerns in the summer were an obvious driver as well.

I too am surprised that these pits were not cleared. It would be interesting to see the post-war body clearance maps for the area and, as suggested, review the NA records for the files of some of the British Fromelles missing - both 1915 and 1916.

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Interesting,

The 2nd Rifle Brigade's attack, on exactly the same ground, in May 1915, got through the German front lines. And yet, despite this and a large number of British dead that were behind the German front line and in the German front line and the high regard the Germans had for these men, nothing similar is recorded.

The 2nd RB men retired to the German front line and made a stand there overnight, each one having to be bombed out during the course of the night where the Germans record that over 100 of these men made a stand, brave and true, and nothing is known of these men, where they finally lay.

Several bodies of the 2nd Rifle Brigade were found in 1924, I think, in the field across the road from Kennedy's Cross, behind the German lines, and buried.

Andy

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Hang on a minute Tom. Are you saying that Australians and New Zealanders have thoughts 'only' for their own countrymen and couldn't care less about those of other nationalities???? It also appears you're suggesting Europeans care more about the dead of all nations than we from 'down under' do.

I think that's a rather bold statement to be making and I'd be interested to see on what you base that assumption. It's most probably true that as nations we are primarily focused on the war dead of our own countries but that's just natural and doesn't preclude anyone from giving thought to the dead of other nations.

Cheers,

Tim L.

Tim,

I think you have read the post the wrong way, I appreciate Tom's observation and I do think he is correct in saying that we here in Australia would have heard less about an equivalent number of Portugese or French troops. Note the number of mentions of Fromelles since last Saturday here, the radar has moved, for the time being. It is simply a matter of "only local news is important" coverage by the media. May I also add my appreciation of Victoria's thoughtful posts, in particular the one yesterday,

cheers,

Chris

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I am not sure if many British dead would have been buried in the Phesant Wood pits, mainly because only the 2/7th Warwicks managed to get into the German lines (some two hundred men reported by the Bav. Res. Regt. No. 17, and its hard to say now many of these men made it back to British line), the rest of the 61st Division were cut down on leaving our trenches or in No Mans Land and few killed on the German wire.

interesting to see the post-war body clearance maps for the area

Yes if one exsists, it would be very interesting to see one for this area.

Annette

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Victoria, you mentioned earlier that at Fromelles the Germans removed all identity discs and returned these to the Red Cross. Was this common practice for all enemy burials by the Germans or just in this case where a large number of men were to be interred? I don't want to hi jack this thread but as an example, when troops were cut off behind enemy lines at Mouquet Farm and 'buried/left' in the trenches there, did the Germans retrieve the identity discs in this case?

Elle, I honestly don’t know. I suspect that the true picture only comes to light when you start digging in earnest, as in the case of Pheasant Wood. That is to say, going through the German documentation and the Red Cross files as Lambis and his colleagues have done.

V.

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I agree with Sandra. If the Germans did this for the Australians, then they must have done the same for the British. Perhaps it is as Tim says - nobody’s been digging! With this in mind, I could say that I’m surprised that no British relatives have come forward with a claim to Pheasant Wood. However, I know from personal experience that if the families have not researched their relative or the details surrounding his death, they may be none the wiser. My great-uncle was killed at Fromelles in 1915, but going on the information given to his parents in a letter from one of his comrades, he had died at Hill 60 - in Belgium! And that was how it stayed for eighty-five years.

Last summer I managed to pinpoint the location of a German trench burial at Rouges-Bancs, Fromelles, the burial referred to by Andy. I managed it quite by accident. I had contacted the CWGC to ask for the original burial location of a Sgt. Kenneth Bastiani, 2/Rifle Brigade, killed 9th May 1915 at Fromelles. The answer I received was that Sgt. Bastiani’s body was recovered in March 1924 having been found in a German trench grave (located in a field opposite the Kennedy Memorial) which contained twenty-two bodies. Kenneth was identified from a German burial list. These twenty-two men had been exhumed and reburied at Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery. Having previously visited Kenneth’s grave, I knew that his headstone carried the inscription “buried near this spot”, so I can only assume that, the Germans having removed all forms of identification, there was nothing left on Kenneth’s body to identify him. Working from the list supplied by the Germans, it would only need for one of the men in the grave to be identified to give the identification of the others, albeit not necessarily which man was which.

As to why the Pheasant Wood grave was missed, I asked this question of Roger Lee whilst he was at the dig site. The answer he gave was that the Germans had supplied a map reference, but no amount of searching located the burial pits. I understand that the map reference given had been incorrect and the search had been located within the Wood itself and not in the field alongside.

V.

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Of course in the years immediately after the war, they had no ground penetrating radar or other geo-phys aids. They were also very busy!

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I am still raising the Questions as to Why there are no records of British Dog Tags and Personal Effects being returned ?,plus there is still no real explanation forthcoming as to why the Germans would have done what they did.Without any hard evidence,everything is just supposition and surmising.I await any further posts than can further impart any more background Information to this Fascinating and emotive Subject.

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I am not sure if many British dead would have been buried in the Phesant Wood pits, mainly because only the 2/7th Warwicks managed to get into the German lines (some two hundred men reported by the Bav. Res. Regt. No. 17, and its hard to say now many of these men made it back to British line), the rest of the 61st Division were cut down on leaving our trenches or in No Mans Land and few killed on the German wire.

Annette

The CWGC records 81 casualties for the 2/7th Warwicks on 19th July. A number of those have known graves and the rest are commemorated on the Loos Memorial. Presumably some of those missing would have been the British dead in the German trenches.

I have managed to check a couple of the service records through Ancestry (Albert Beesley & M. Hulligan) but there is nothing to suggest the return of personal effects.

Perhaps there is a project here?

Regards

Mel

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