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Remembered Today:

Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
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This Fromelles Business is rapidly starting to develop into yet another Cosy little Clique.

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PBI, one has lived with other Cliques through time, why pick on this one?

Lest We Forget

Any, or all of them.

No matter the nationality or the culture, they gave their all, and for what?

Only they know.

We can but stand in awe of their actions and their deaths.

To quote Mo.

Its better to regret things you've done, than things you haven't.

But.,,

Never regret growing old, because some people never have the privilege.

5,533 casualties in how many hours? And that is only the Aussies, there were so many others, and you mention Cliques.

Who gave the orders for those 5,533 casualties?

And the other nation's casualties?

At least some have been found.

How many more have not been found?

They lie silent and unknown.

May They Rest in Peace.

Kim

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To complement the earlier account by Victoria, the following few posts show some of the photographs taken of the three combined services at Fromelles last Saturday.

Starting at VC Corner, Colonel Duhr (German military attaché in Paris) receives a wreath to lay at the Cross of Sacrifice. The colourful choir from Sing Australia can be seen in the background.

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Mike (Guzzie T3) lays the wreath on behalf of the British families.

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The Australian military representative, whose name I failed to make a note of, pays his respects following the laying of a wreath.

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On to the Australian Memorial Park where a further service was held.

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Jean-Marie Bailleul (Vice-President of the FWTM) led the services. Two buglers from the Last Post Association were also present to sound the Last Post and Reveille.

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Victoria read The Exhortation.

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The two Australian military representatives present. Can any forum members put a name to the faces for us?

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Then on to Pheasant Wood.

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Peter Barton (Secretary of the All Party War Graves and Battlefields Heritage Group) lays a wreath at the Pheasant Wood service and remembers the fallen.

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Pheasant Wood after the service.

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The memorial plaque at Pheasant Wood.

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This is yet another example of what i mean by "Clique",this whole event seems to me to have been very much a long term pre planned affair,with only the above Group of worthies privy.The rest of us "Proles" having been ignored or deliberately frozen out yet again.The Event itself has taken place so quickly,that it without doubt must have been pre arranged and a secret itinerary already in place from way back.I am pleased to see a Memorial at the Site,but yet again who decided on the Design and when was the Motion put in place ?...most of us seem to have been only given info on a need to know basis..and then in small amounts...Baffled at being fed Bulls**t yet again.The CWGC were very guilty of this kind of "Need To Know" Secrecy,but after Lobbying from some of us here on the Forum they have agreed to post all future events regarding commemorations,Services,etc on their Web Site,and to be more Transparent.I also notice from the Photos the Absence of any members or representatives from any Official British Regimental Assc,MOD,CWGC,or the British Legion.I feel sure that some of the Relatives of British Soldiers KIA at Fromelles would have liked to have attended had they had known about this event.

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I also notice from the Photos the Absence of any members or representatives from any Official British Regimental Assc ,MOD,CWGC,or the British Legion.

PBI

I would point out that these are only a selection of photographs taken at the service; I probably ended up taking around 100 in total. As Victoria stated in her account of the service, amongst others attending were David Symons (CWGC Director for France), Sir Ian Andrews (Second Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence and a Trustee for the Imperial War Museum) and Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Chairman of the All Party War Graves and Battlefields Heritage Group) so there were representatives present from the MoD and CWGC. I am not best placed to answer this but I feel sure that if official British Regimental Associations or the British Legion wished to send representatives to the service then they would have been very much welcome to do so and no doubt this will go for any future services there.

I don't know how many of those present were relatives but Mike (Guzzi T3) who attended the service with 3 of his friends certainly is. He laid a wreath on behalf of the British Families.

I understand that the service at VC Corner and The Memorial Park has been held on the anniversary of the battle for a number of years. The events at Pheasant Wood this year meant that there was an additional service. There is no secret to this as it was mentioned in an earlier post in this thread back in June.

I will bite my tongue on some of the accusations that you make. Not that I don't have a viewpoint or completely disagree with what you have said but others are in a better position to provide you with a more in depth answer.

This was my first visit to Pheasant Wood so I cannot comment on the background behind the plaque. All I would say is that in my view what has been done at the site (a white low level chain-link fence surrounds the whole area of the dig) is fitting and that I did not see the plaque as anything more than a temporary marker pending a decision on what to do with the site - it acted as a mark of respect to the fallen that lie in that ground and I was pleased to see it there.

Marc

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Firstly, thank you Marc for posting the photos. They’re a good selection. If it had been left to me there would have been no photos to post. It was difficult enough in the strong wind to hold onto my dress and various pieces of paper!

Secondly, I don’t know how the memorial plaque at Pheasant Wood came to be, but I am equally curious. I had assumed that it was just a temporary fixture until such time as a decision is reached as to the future of the site, but I’ll ask some questions of my French colleagues and see if I can get PBI (and myself) some answers.

As to British representation, you should have been in Fromelles on 9th May last year, and the year before and the year before that, etc. This year was the first time in ninety-three years that there was any sort of a service at Fromelles on 9th May to mark the fact that a horrifically disastrous battle had been fought there. When the men went over the top on 19th July 1916, they would have been making their way across the mummified remains of our men from the year before. Those mummified remains were the “British Representation” every 9th May for ninety-three years. Last Saturday I walked from VC Corner to the Australian Memorial Park and thanked God for Lady Evelyn Kennedy. If she hadn’t bought the small piece of land on the bend of the road where her son had died (just behind the German lines) and had a memorial to him erected there, there would be no earthly sign at all that the British had ever been there. Now there’s something to mull over.

V.

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Hello all,

I do have some empathy for PBI's point of view - it can be hard to get general info even of forums such as this. My wife & I flew down to Melbourne for the Fromelles ceremonies and some of the GWF members went out of their way to meet us and we had a good chat. However I only found out about the Fromelles ceremonies in Melbourne by accident when I was trawling the net.

Just a heads up for everyone. The General in charge of the dig gave an interesting presentation on Pheasant Wood. Here are some of the highlights:

He put a figure of 315 bodies in the pits but then mystifyingly said that there could me lots more. The final numbers won't be known unless they exhume each body. During the dig when they encountered a body on the top row they would dig around it somehow to get to the next row down.

The state of the bodies is that they are individually able to be exhumed and only in one pit were there a small amount of jumbled remains - presumably of men literally blown to pieces.

British & Australians in some cases are buried side by side.

The major differences in kit between Aussies and Tommies in 1916 were boots, badges and the belt buckle on the Australian tunics. However it is difficult to identify nationalities as most of the boots and badges had been souvenired by the Germans.

Some men still had remnants of bandages where their mates had tended to them before they died.

Most of the clothing had rotted away but the GUARD team were incredibly able to identify blow fly lava on clothing fragments.

One man still had his legs tied together from when the Germans dragged him from the battlefield.

About 100 people attended this lecture at the Shrine of Remembrance and the general but not unanimous feeling was that the men should be individualy reburied and perhaps DNA identified but admittedly no-one in the room could really comment on the ability to do this.

Of the 130 odd Aussies in the pit, 15 per cent were born in the UK, and several from other countries making the tracking down of rellies even harder.

In Australian society it is the role of the Army to recover and identify each soldier killed in action. The general did not give a personal opinion but he did rightly point out that Pheasant Wood & Fromelles is of national significance given that it was our most disastrous day ever, in our military history. It is the decsion of Warren Snowden our minister for Defence Science & Personnel who apparently will make the decision "before too long". No Federal politicians to my knowledge, attended either the talks or the unveiling of the Cobbers Statue to determine the mood of the families and interested parties -typical. Obviously there will have to be liaison and agreement with the British governmet as to what they want to do. The CWGC is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of cemeteries. I believe it was them that put the temporary marker at Pheasant Wood.

One of my highlights of the day was meeting an old WW2 sailor whose dad was wounded at Fromelles. He had two bits of shrapnell with him - one a large bit that hit his dad in the shoulder and was dug out half way down his ribcage. The second bit was a piece the size of a match head that fell out of his dad's scalp many years later when the son was cutting his dad's hair!

Len

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...and still on Fromelles. This picture is one of the most famous of Fromelles and one of very few photos showing Aussies about to hop the bags. The look of trepidation on their faces is unmistakable.

The photo was taken by Lcpl Lorking of men of Section 2 (1 Platoon) A Company 53rd Battalion AIF. But have these men ever been identified? I have never seen their names anywhere and would love to do a bit of research on them. Anyone know who they are?

Len

post-35120-1217129971.jpg

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As Poppy Appeal Organiser, of the the Ypres branch of the RBL, as far as I am aware, we were not informed of the ceremony and yet we are certainly the closest branch to Pheasant Wood.

We are very busy at the moment, attending the funerals of recovered soldiers however, we can only lay a wreath and pay our respects, if we are invited and as far as I am aware, we did not receive notification or any official invitation whatsoever! Please don't think we did not just turn up, if we are unaware of ceremonies and services, then there is nothing we can do!

Best wshes.

Chris Lock Ypres branch RBL.

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Chris & Len have raised some very interesting points here about the lack of Information being made available.

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Yes russ lack of information and a lack of British representation going by the photos. I think you and and a few others saw it coming .tom

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One man still had his legs tied together from when the Germans dragged him from the battlefield.

Sorry just picked up on this why? would you presume that his legs were tied together to be dragged from the battlefield ?

couldnt it have been that he was buried in a groundsheet or some other covering and then his legs tied together to keep it in place ???

tafski

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I have to agree with Tafski,it was common practice for both the Germans and British to secure Bodies in this way,so as facilitate handling.Another question that i was thinking about..will the Fromelles Site will become the First "Unauthorised and Unofficial" Cemetery on the Western Front ? as it seems to already have achieved the Status of Battlefield Cemetery for a Number of People already.Will the Final Decision rest with the CWGC ?,or have the "Clique" and other Privy parties already decided the matter for them ?..

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The service at Fromelles on 9th May this year is testimony to the fact that, with effort, things can change and steps can be taken to ensure that the British presence at Fromelles in the Great War is recognised and remembered equally as that of the Australians.

If there is a real desire to increase the profile of the British representation at the ceremony on 19th July the emphasis must surely be on us, the British, to make the effort by engaging and interacting with members of the local community in Fromelles; to put forward ideas for change at the service and to provide help in achieving this change. The comments from Chris Lock are a good example of where this change is probably merited.

Victoria has shown by her efforts for 9th May that a lot can be achieved if things are approached in the correct manner.

I would like to point out here that the local community at Fromelles worked really hard to ensure that the combined services last Saturday went well. I would not wish my comments above to be regarded as any implied criticism of the ceremony or those efforts.

Marc

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Over the course of the last few weeks I have been asked to clarify some statements which I have made in this thread and some which have been made by other Forum members. Now would seem as good a time as any to address certain of these points.

Following the battle, the German infantrymen were told to prepare to bury 399 enemy dead. As the German documentation mentions no other burial site for the Australian and "English" than Pheasant Wood, we can only assume that all 399 were buried within the six pits. If this is the case, we have 175 Australian (I understand this to be the correct figure) and 224 British. As was shown in the early days of the excavation, with the bodies having been souvenired for regimental badges etc., it was impossible to tell if the remains were British or Australian. It was some time before the AIF collar badge was found and a few days later that the team were able to say for sure that they had found the body of a British soldier.

Whilst DNA testing is a possibility, all 399 sets of remains would need to be tested, but it should be remembered that we will probably be able to match a maximum of 175 men with surviving relatives. Without a burial list or a Red Cross list of any sort, we cannot match the 224 British.

I stated that the men had, to all intents and purposes, been buried with dignity. When the evidence of the six "crumpled" bodies came to light, it suddenly seemed that perhaps "they may not have been as properly buried as some thought". The majority of the men were buried with dignity. Six crumpled bodies do not say otherwise. As to "placing them in a coffin with some kind words and a funeral service", I very much suspect that a funeral service of sorts would have been held when the pits were filled at the time of burial and how many men were buried on the Western Front in a coffin?

I expressed concern earlier on in this thread that the inclusion of photographs without proven provenance could cloud the issue. I referred to one photograph in particular of the bodies of several men having apparently been thrown into a pit. In actual fact, this photograph showed the bodies of men lying in what could be a German trench. It is thought that these men were Canadian. A few weeks later I was asked why I had not mentioned the fact that there were photographs of the men having been thrown into the pits at Fromelles.

Both Martial and I were extremely distressed when the details of the men's wounds were posted in this thread. When I was given this information I was told that under no circumstances was this information to be released. Perhaps not all relatives would wish to know the circumstances in which their relative had died. With regard to the tourniquet tied around the lower part of an arm, do we know that it was his mate who tied the tourniquet? Could it not have been done by a German administering first aid - too little, too late? Unlikely, but not impossible. The personal effects of every Australian buried at Pheasant Wood were meticulously and individually bagged by the four or five Germans given this task and every package was returned to the next of kin via the Red Cross. In all, the Germans did a very good job under difficult circumstances. We should all remember this when commenting on the Germans' approach to these men ("the last person to ever handle these lads shouldn't be a German") and also remember that there are German members of this Forum. I'm sure that I wasn't the only Forum member to feel no small degree of embarrassment.

And finally, the comment regarding the tying of the man's legs with wire "which has been used to drag him into the pit" or "legs tied together from when the Germans dragged him from the battlefield". It is worth noting that binding the legs of the dead with signal wire was standard practice on BOTH sides. Of the five Australians who were recovered in Belgium last year, certainly one (and possibly one other) had had their legs tied together with signal wire - and that was done by the Australian CCS which dealt with them. As I have pointed out on many occasions during the last few weeks, it was designed to keep the remains together and not, as some would imply, in any way disrespectful.

It seems unnecessary to point out that we weren't there 92 years ago. We are looking at early twentieth century warfare through twenty-first century eyes and with twenty-first century opinions. The two do not gel. There is nothing we can do to alleviate the suffering experienced by these men or the heart-crushing grief experienced by their loved ones, but we can ensure that they are not only remembered, but properly commemorated. Whatever decision is taken by Warren Snowden AND his British counterpart will be the right one - no matter what that decision may be.

V.

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