Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Diggers at Rest after 94 Years

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Diggers at Rest after 94 Years

Article excerpt

FOR almost a century they lay in the earth in a mass grave, nameless and relegated to history.

Crudely buried beneath the thick clay at Fromelles in France, families at home knew little of their fate.

On Monday, 250 Australian and British soldiers who were killed in one of the First World War's worst battles will be finally laid to rest in a new cemetery, and given the recognition they deserve.

The Battle of Fromelles was the costliest in Australian military history, with 5533 soldiers either killed, wounded, taken prisoner or missing in just 24 hours.

An estimated 1780 Australian Diggers died, while 503 British troops were killed.

"For historians, it was, and remains, an unmitigated disaster," writes historian Nigel Steel in a new book titled Remembering Fromelles.

"No tentative lessons or any kind of positive outcome can be claimed for the Cybattle' that took place in the area between the villages of Fromelles and Fleurbaix in northern France on July 19 and 20, 1916.

CyCyIt truly was the First World War at its worst.''

The remains of these 250 soldiers lay undiscovered until an amateur historian from Melbourne tracked down their resting place.

In 2009 they were unearthed from a mass grave on the edge of a nearby wood, where they were buried by German soldiers in 1916. The process of reburying the soldiers at the new Fromelles Military Cemetery began in January, when one of the men was laid to rest with full military honours.

All but one of the remaining soldiers were reburied gradually during similar ceremonies held throughout February.

On Monday, on the 94th anniversary of the battle, the final soldier will be laid to rest.

Up to 6000 people are expected to descend on the small northern French village of Fromelles for the ceremony, and about 500-600 of them are expected to be relatives of the soldiers. …

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