Rendez-vous at Fromelles Australian Memorial Park
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
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.
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.
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.
of this statue by sculptor Peter Corlett, who also designed the Digger of
Bullecourt, can be seen on Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.