Office of the
Minister for Defence
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Monday 6 July 1998
GREAT-HEARTED BRAVERY COMMEMORATED
The wonder of Fromelles was the sheer great-hearted bravery of Australians saving their mates, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Bruce Scott, told hundreds of French and Australians who gathered in northern France yesterday for the dedication of a new memorial park to the men of the First AIF.
The new Fromelles Memorial Park is located not far from the village of Fromelles, and is near VC Corner Cemetery where many Australian casualties of the battle who fought on 19/20 July 1916, are buried.
Mr Scott and the Minister for Defence, Ian McLachlan, representing the Prime Minister, laid wreaths at VC Corner Memorial before travelling to Fromelles.
"These special and touching commemorative events over the past three days have revitalised the strong friendships forged between the Australian and French people on the battlefields of France 80 years ago," Mr McLachlan said.
"Not only did we forge a valuable and lasting relationship - the Australian identity and our reputation as a staunch ally was also reinforced.
"Today the spirit of our veterans remains an inspiration to all of us. The awarding of the Legion of Honour to Ted, Eric, Charlie and Howard and all the other surviving veterans of the Western Front campaigns, shows the French people will not forget their courage and sacrifice - nor will the people of Australia."
The new memorial, which is mounted on the site of old German trenches which were captured and briefly held by the Australians, is a larger than life-size figure of an Australian Digger carrying a wounded mate on his shoulder. The sculpture is based on an incident reported in the official Australian war history and typical of many others in which hundreds of wounded Diggers were rescued from no man's land by their comrades.
"The Battle of Fromelles was the first major action in France in World War I, not only for the men of the Australian 5th Division but for the AIF as a whole," Mr Scott said.
"This battle cost our young nation over five and a half thousand casualties in just 27 hours of fighting.
"Amongst this carnage and somewhere near where we stand today, a badly wounded Digger, huddled in a shell hole yelled out 'Don't forget me, cobber'. His plea, answered when Sergeant Fraser returned with a stretcher party to take him to safety, has carried beyond his time into our own. Like Sergeant Fraser we have returned to say we haven't forgotten," Mr Scott said.
Earlier on Sunday morning, Mr McLachlan read a lesson and Mr Scott delivered an address at the burial of Private Russell Bosisto of the 27th Battalion who was killed on August 4, 1916 but whose remains were discovered by a French farmer earlier this year.
"We come as understudies from another time, another world, to mourn the tragedy of a young life lost. We stand in the place of all those who knew and loved Russell to say the farewell to a son, a brother, a mate that they were never able to say," Mr Scott said.
Private Bosisto was buried at Courcelette War Cemetery beside nine other members of the 27th Battalion who lost their lives on the same day.
Liz Bennett (Mr McLachlan's office) 0419 438 490
Copies of Mr McLachlan's and Mr Scott's speeches are available