Rendez-vous at Fromelles Australian Memorial Park

  • Cobbers - Fromelles Australian Memorial Park - Nord (59) - Nord-Pas de Calais

    Cobbers - Fromelles Australian Memorial Park - Nord (59) - Nord-Pas de Calais

    © CRT Nord-Pas-de-Calais/E.Roose

Rendez-vous at Fromelles Australian Memorial Park Rue Delval 59249 Fromelles fr

"The worst 24 hours in the history of the Australian nation," is how some described Australia's baptism of fire in the Battle of Fromelles on 19th July 1916. For over two weeks prior to the battle, the British Army had been engaged in the largest military operation of the First World War: the Battle of the Somme.

In order to prevent the German Army from concentrating reinforcements in the sector of Fromelles, General Richard Haking, at the head of the British XI Corps, launched a diversionary attack on the village of Fromelles and on Aubers Ridge. Two divisions took part in the operation: the British 61st and the Australian 5th.

Badly prepared and with no clear objectives, the battle turned into a disaster. The Allied troops were cut down by the German machine-guns as soon as they left the trenches; however a few Australians succeeded in taking the first line of German trenches. Unable to hold their position in the face of the German counter-attack, the Australians tried to retreat and were attacked from the rear. By the end of the day 5,533 Australian, 1,400 British and about 1,500
German soldiers had been killed, wounded or declared missing.

The statue in Memorial Park evokes an event which happened the day after the Battle of Fromelles. Despite orders to the contrary, Sergeant Simon Fraser and several others left the safety of the trenches to recover their wounded companions lying in the mud of no man's land. During one trip a soldier called out the immortal words, 'Don't forget me, Cobber'. Today, perched upon a German bunker of the first line, the statue of Sergeant Fraser is shown carrying a fellow Australian on his shoulders.

Inaugurated in 1998, the monument is symbolic of the heroism and the sense of camaraderie shown by the soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force in their baptism of fire on European soil.

A replica of this statue by sculptor Peter Corlett, who also designed the Digger of Bullecourt, can be seen on Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.

 

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