Posted on 19. Jul, 2010 in News

The Premier, John Brumby, today led the Australian Fromelles commemoration service at the Shrine of Remembrance ‘Cobbers’ statue on the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles.

At the same time, a dedication service was held at the new military cemetery in Pheasant Wood in France, where British and Australian soldiers were laid to rest. Deputy Premier Rob Hulls led the Victorian delegation attending the French service.

Mr Brumby said today was an important day for many Victorian families related to soldiers killed during the Battle of Fromelles and buried by the Germans in graves beside Pheasant Wood.

“Today we remember all the lost Australian diggers, which included many Victorians, who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front in July 1916,” Mr Brumby said.

“The missing Australian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Fromelles on the Western Front 94 years ago had been considered missing in action and presumed dead until the uncovering of a mass grave at Pheasant Wood in 2008.

“These soldiers have now been buried with full military honours at the new Pheasant Wood cemetery.”

The Battle of Fromelles, the first major action for Australian troops on the Western Front, took place on 19 July 1916 and is often referred to as Australia’s worst 24 hours in battle with 5,533 causalities, including 1,917 killed.

Mr Brumby and Minister Assisting the Premier on Veterans’ Affairs Tony Robinson were joined by veterans, the Friends of the 15th Brigade and award-winning writer Les Carlyon as well as family and friends of the fallen unable to attend the service in France.

Each of the missing soldiers, some as young as 16 years, were named so they could take their rightful place among the honoured dead.

“Today’s opening of the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Pheasant Wood in France is a significant turning point in the rightful acknowledgement of these soldiers and the thousands more men and women who fought and died for our country in the First World War.”

Award-winning writer and author of The Great War, Les Carlyon, said: “Fromelles was arguably the worst night in Australian history. More Australian soldiers died in a single night than the Boer, Korean and Vietnam wars combined.”

Mr Robinson said it was important for family and friends to have a place where the fallen can be duly acknowledged.  

“The names previously referred to as ‘missing’ are not just numbers in a history book. Each has a name, a family, and a story. We must not forget the service and sacrifice of these soldiers in defence of our democratic values,” Mr Robinson said.

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