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Burial of Fromelles Soldiers - Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military

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					                            The Hon Alan Griffin MP
                         Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
                                        Speech
                                  28 January 2010
                  BURIAL OF FROMELLES SOLDIERS
   FROMELLES (PHEASANT WOOD) MILITARY CEMETERY

We come together here today at the charming village of Fromelles. A peaceful and
tranquil place, not unlike so many other villages in the beautiful French countryside.
And yet as we are all too painfully aware, it was not always thus.

During the Great War, the war that was meant to end all wars, this village was also
typical of many along the frontline, devastated by shot and shell, a muddy blood
drenched killing field where too many of the cream of a generation were slaughtered
and maimed.

For my country, Fromelles represents a tragic chapter in our history. The first battle
involving our forces in the horror of what was the Western Front. And, the bloodiest
24 hours in our military history, before or since. And this, for a new nation still in the
process of establishing itself. A nation, then, of only 4 million people. Our troops
had come halfway around the world and sadly many were never to make the trip
home again to those who they loved and who loved them.

It has been said that the ANZAC legend was born on the shores of Gallipoli. I also
believe it then “came of age” here and across Flanders Fields and the Somme.

But today Fromelles holds additional significance beyond the appalling tragedy of the
battle. Today we gather to honour those who were lost here and thought never to be
found. We give our thanks to those who were committed to finding those who were
lost, and were determined that they should be given the dignity of a proper burial. In
particular, Lambis Englezos, and the Friends of the 15th Brigade, who left no stone
unturned in pushing for a full investigation. There is no doubt that without Lambis
we would not be gathered here today.

I thank the village of Fromelles and the French authorities for their unflagging
support, Madame Demaissiet for donating the land from which the soldiers were
recovered and to Monsieur Desruelles for enabling access to the site.

“Je vous remercie tous d’honorer la mémoire de nos compatriotes tombés ici.”

We should also remember that when one man dies, many live on to grieve. I know
that today some of those who still grieve are here representing the descendants of
those who lost loved ones so long ago.




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The story of Pheasant Wood and the 250 brave men found there will now be a central
part of the history of what has taken place here. In some ways, made even more
poignant by the passing of nearly a century. The courage and sacrifice of those who
fought and died here sadly typical of what took place across the Western Front for far
too long.

They represent a generation lost in time, the best and bravest who gave their all.
Although today we lay to rest Britain and Australia’s valiant sons, we know the blood
of many other nations lies here with them.

In honouring them all today I’m reminded of the statue of Sergeant Simon Fraser just
down the road from here at the Fromelles Memorial Park. The Cobbers Statue
commemorates the bravery and compassion typified by one mans action in rescuing
the wounded in no mans land. It bears the inscription of the cry for help from one
wretched soul lying wounded in the mud. Words that I believe hold particular
significance on this day.

“Don’t forget me Cobber.”

ENDS




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