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ANZACS’ Hardest Battle

  • April 22nd, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

fromelles-coin.jpgOne of the hardest battles of the First World War, at Fromelles in Northern France, will be much in the mind of crowds commemorating Anzac Day, this Sunday.

Reburials have been taking place since January this year, at the new war cemetery near the town, to honour 203 Australians whose remains were discovered in 2008; and a new coin from the Royal Australian Mint has been issued in remembrance.

OPENING BATTLE ON THE WESTERN FRONT

After the Gallipoli campaign the year before, Australian forces sent to France fought their first major battle at Fromelles, outside Lille, in July 1916.

anzacs-western-front.jpgOver 1300 Australians were killed and 4000 wounded, the most costly for Australia in a series of battles on the Western front, which took place up to the 1918 Armistice.

COMMEMORATIVE GESTURE

The Mint this week (20.4.10) issued a twenty-cent coin for Fromelles.

fromelles-memorial.jpgIt is inscribed with the legend “Australia Remembers”, and has a replication of the “cobbers’ statue” at Fromelles – in honour of a hero, Sergeant Simon Fraser, who brought in hundreds of wounded soldiers from no-man’s land.

LOST SOLDIERS RECOVERED

A citizen group led by an amateur historian from Melbourne, Lambis Englezos, carried out the research which in 2008 brought to light an improvised, mass grave of 250 Australian and British soldiers at Fromelles.

Authorities have recovered genetic DNA from 90% of the remains and have expressed confidence in identifying most of the dead, through the cooperation of family members of soldiers listed as missing in 1916.

The last of the soldiers will be re-interred with military honours, in the new cemetery, at a location called Pheasant Wood, on the anniversary of the start of the battle, 19.7.10.

anzac-memorial.jpgRecent years have seen a build-up in  numbers of visitors to the war graves and memorials in France and in Flanders, especially for Anzac day and other special occasions.

Reference

Australians in Belgium and France, WW1; see EUAustralia Online: “Australia remembers – 90 Years Ago” (10.11.08); “Bitter Memory” (7.2.08); “Australians on the Western Front” (22.4.07).

Army (Australia) -Fromelles Home, http://www.army.gov.au/fromelles/ … (31.1.10).

Coin News, San Antonio, Tx, “New coin honours Australia’s lost soldiers of fromelles”, 20.4.10. http://www.coinnews.net/2010/04/20/lost-soldiers-of-fromelles-coin-released-in-australian-remembers-event/

Royal Australian Mint, Canberra; “Lost soldiers remembered in Canberra”, 19.4.10.
http://www.ramint.gov.au/media/press-releases/2010/20100419.cfm

Pictures

Commemorative coin; ANZACs on the Western Front; cobbers’ statue; Governor General Quentin Bryce, commemoration in France, 2008, (Royal Australian Mint, War Memorial – Canberra).

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