Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Fromelles Provides Poignant Reminder; Louise Richardson Takes a Trip to the Western Front

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Fromelles Provides Poignant Reminder; Louise Richardson Takes a Trip to the Western Front

Article excerpt

THE intense smell of cow droppings hangs thickly in the air. Quite different to the stench of blood, death, gun powder and fear that once lingered here.

I am driving through the French countryside near Fromelles on my way to find the graves of two of my ancestors - two brothers who never came home.

The area is beautiful, and despite the chaos of the past, it is quiet now - small towns surrounded by farms, most of them running cattle and growing crops. The Australian flag is to be seen everywhere, including in the town of Fromelles.

It is hard to think this peaceful place was the site of what the Australian War Memorial dubs the worst day in the country's military history - 5533 Australians lost their lives at Fromelles in 24 hours. This contributed to the 45,000 who were killed on the Western Front during the First World War. It is also where Hitler got his first taste of war as a soldier. And while the French farmland appears serene, if you look closely reminders of the carnage are everywhere.

Some of the fields are home to bunkers. Their walls are pocked from artillery fire, and twisted bits of metal stick out from the cement blocks. We see some up close at VC Corner, an Australian cemetery. It has been raining, and the bunkers have about a foot of water in them.

The most confronting reminders are the graves. It seems every 10 or so kilometres we drive, there is another graveyard full of perfect white headstones. I imagine those headstones as men, many of them only boys. It's hard to fathom.

The first relative we visit is Private Raymond Charles Bishop of the 55th Battalion, my great great uncle. Ray was only 20 when he went missing in the Battles of Fromelles.

The last time he was seen he volunteered with a mate to go ahead of his brigade and drive off the Germans with bombs. …

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