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Memories Of The Diggers

  • August 15th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

belgium-chateau.jpgAnother commemoration of the story of the Australians in the First World War is to take place early next month near the Southern Belgian city of Charleroi.

The local Council in the Nalinnes municipality has sponsored the unveiling of a plaque at a 15th century chateau where Sir John Monash had his general Corps headquarters in 1918.

It’s a “good news” chapter in the story from the point of view of the soldiers; Charleroi became the staging area for the movement of troops back home to Australia.

The plaque ceremony on Friday 7.9.07, to be co-hosted by the Australian Embassy in Brussels, will be part of a heritage weekend at the Château de Ham-sur-Heure.

The municipality will also stage a temporary exhibition on the Australians in the area, to include 60 pictures from the Australian War Memorial, uniforms, military objects, and re-enactments in the chateau park

Local historians compiled an outline of what took place in the area, which is adjacent to where the Australians were last in battle, just over the French border; it is not in Flanders, further North, the scene of the famous battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

Historical facts:

  • Until May 1918, the Australians were under British command, but from May 1918, all the Divisions in the Australian Imperial Force served under the Australian Commander-in-Chief, Lt General Sir John Monash. He was later succeeded by General Sir Talbot Hobbs.
  • Most of the Australian Forces were located at Abbeville and Amiens (France) on Armistice Day 11 Nov 1918. Their Headquarters were in Le Chateau Cambrésis, from where the Commander-in-Chief prepared to move the troops east, over the French-Belgian border. At that time the Australian Army Corps had … about 200,000 men. The General’s headquarters, “Grand Quartier General” was composed of 300 men.
  • Plans were made to move the Australian troops in and around Charleroi on their way home … and it was decided the new “Grand Quartier General” would be at the Chateau de Ham-sur- Heure.
  • So, from 12 December 1918, ten Officers and 95 Other Ranks stayed there and liaised with Sir John Monash to organise repatriation of troops via Le Havre and the UK to Australia.
  • 70,000 Australian troops passed through Charleroi as part of their journey back to Australia.

COMING UP: In commemorations of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, in Flanders, Northern Belgium; the designated “ANZAC Weekend” is set to begin on Thursday 4.10.07.

Events will include an Aboriginal performance and military re-enactments.
The battle began in July 1917 and went on for three months.

The commemorations involving all of the allied countries in the battle will continue until Armistice day this year,11.11.07. See “Remembering Passchendaele”, EUAustralia Online, 7.7.07


“Commemoration – News”, Australian Embassy and Mission to the EU, Belgium-Luxembourg. (15.8.07)

Picture: Chateau de Ham-sur- Heure, Google –