Families and Friends of the First AIF
PO Box 4028, Oatley West NSW 2223
Claude Durand and his wife Colette welcoming the 2012 FFFAIF Tour Group to the Bullecourt luncheon. Claude observing Maurice Campbell presenting a Gilgandra tea-towel to Yves Fohlen.
It was with great sadness that news has been received of the sudden death of Claude Durand, OAM, former Mayor of Hendicourt on Tuesday, 1 March 2016.
It is thanks to Claude, his wife Colette and Jean Letaille that Anzacs who fought at Bullecourt have not been forgotten. Claude has welcomed many Australian visitors to the battlefield and was Vice President of the Association of the Museum of Jean and Denise Letaille formed to facilitate the upgrading of the Museum in Bullecourt.
Claude’s contribution to the commemoration of the victims of war was enormous. In 1994 Claude was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to Australian / French relations.
In addition to the battlefield memorials of “The Digger” and “The Little Cross”, the upgrade to the Museum provided improved facilities for battlefield visitors and the annual ANZAC Day services at Bullecourt has now become an important part of the ANZAC Trail on the Western Front. In addition, Claude and his wife Colette have made FFFAIF Tours participants feel very welcome and helped make their visit more memorable.
On behalf of the Committee of Management and Members of Families and Friends of the First AIF, I express condolences to the family and friends of Claude Durand.
If you wish to express your sympathy to Colette and her family, her address is:
Mme Colette Durand
Jim Munro, President
At the conclusion of the 2010 ANZAC Day service at Menin Gate, Dr Brendan Nelson as Australian Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxemburg, met Ivan Sinnaeve.
Dr Brendan Nelson at Menin Gate with the crew of the Training Ship Black Swan after receiving bound copies of DIGGER from the FFFAIF 2012 Tour Group.
Australian War Memorial Director and FFFAIF member Brendan Nelson, has been honoured in the Australia Day Honours with an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) for distinguished service to the Parliament of Australia, the community, the advancement of Australia’s international relations, and to major cultural institutions.
Dr Nelson came to prominence as national head of the Australian Medical Association, before entering Parliament. After serving as Minister for Education Science and Training, Dr Nelson became Minister for Defence in 2006. During this time he became familiar with FFFAIF through its DIGGER magazine and after he retired from politics, while serving as Australian Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxemburg, Dr Nelson had greater opportunity to appreciate the Australian contribution in the Great War. In 2010 he became a member of FFFAIF and was able to meet a significant number of FFFAIF members on tours and pilgrimages to the Western Front battlefields.
In 2012, Dr Nelson was appointed Director of the Australian War Memorial, a role that has been particularly meaningful for him. He continues to value his FFFAIF membership and enjoys reading his copies of DIGGER.
Sunday, 20 September 2015
Ministerial Media Release VA103
THREE FIRST WORLD WAR GRAVES REDEDICATED
Three First World War graves in the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery in Belgium will be rededicated today, finally commemorating by name three Australian soldiers who died in the First World War.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson said he was honoured to announce the rededication of the graves of Private Charles Eacott and Private Harry Huntsman of the 7th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and Private John (Jock) Neilson of the 8th Battalion AIF.
“These men died in some of the worst fighting of the First World War. In just eight weeks, Australia suffered 38,000 casualties near Ypres,” Senator Ronaldson said.
The remains of these men were unable to be identified after the war. Their graves were marked as ‘Known Unto God’ and their names engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ieper (Ypres). The Menin Gate records the names of more than 54,000 Commonwealth troops, including more than 6,000 Australians who died near Ypres and who have no known grave.
Before the war, Privates Eacott and Huntsman, both 24 years of age, were farmers in Daylesford and Coburg, Victoria, respectively. They died together at the Battle of Polygon Wood on 20 September 1917. Private Neilsen was a 26-year-old engine driver from West Wallsend, NSW. He died at the Battle of Passchendaele on 10 October 1917.
“Thanks to the extraordinary research of Andrew Pittaway of Fremantle and Dennis Frank of Melbourne, the graves of these three Australian soldiers have been identified,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“Mr Pittaway and Mr Frank compared Commonwealth War Grave Commission burial records, service records held by the National Archives of Australia, Red Cross files and battalion war diaries in the Australian War Memorial collection. These on-line resources have not been compared before. It is hoped this new avenue of research will allow the identification of more graves of ‘the missing’ in the future.”
Images are available on the DVA Flickr page as follows:
Henry Huntsman 1917 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvaaus/21480302176/
Jock Neilson – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvaaus/21506540525/
Jock Neilson’s Grave – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvaaus/21318706588/
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 Sen Ronaldson Media Release VA087
A new Anzac Memorial was unveiled at Deception Bay today by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson and Member for Petrie Luke Howarth MP.
The memorial, situated on the Deception Bay foreshore, features a commemorative walk, with elements that provide a direct connection to First World War events that had an impact on the local community.
“I am proud to see the Moreton Bay community take such an interest in commemorating and remembering its local servicemen and women.”
“The First World War helped define us as people and as a nation, and the Australian Government is proud to stand together with the Returned and Services League (RSL) in honouring the brave Australians who sacrificed so much for our country,” Senator Ronaldson said.
Mr Howarth said the Australian Government provided funding of $30,208 through its Anzac Centenary Local Grants Programme (ACGLP) to help the Deception Bay RSL Sub-Branch to create the memorial, which sits adjacent to the Second World War memorial in the community’s commemorative precinct.
“This new memorial is a fitting focal point for our community to commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who have defended our nation and protected our way of life.”
“I would like to acknowledge the Deception Bay RSL sub-branch and the Moreton Bay Regional Council for partnering with the Australian Government in delivering this fantastic project,” Mr Howarth said.
The ACGLP provides up to $125,000 for each federal electorate to support community-based commemoration of the First World War. More than 1,640 grants across 150 Federal electorates have been awarded funding to the value of $16.72 million (ex GST).
“The Centenary of Anzac will be the most significant period of commemoration in our nation’s history and the Government is committed to providing opportunities for all Australians to participate.”
“During the Centenary we not only remember the ANZACS who served in the First World War, but also commemorate a century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has been involved,” Senator Ronaldson said.
SENATOR THE HON. MICHAEL RONALDSON
MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
Friday, 3 July 2015 Media Release VA072
The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial in Albany, Western Australia, was today declared a Military Memorial of National Significance by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson.
Senator Ronaldson joined the Federal Member for O’Connor, Mr Rick Wilson MP, and the Mayor of the City of Albany, Cr Dennis Wellington, to make the announcement at the Memorial.
The memorial commemorates the men of the Australian Light Horse, as well as the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, the Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps who served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria during the First World War between 1916 and 1918.
“Australia has a proud wartime history and it is important that those who served are remembered now and into the future,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“It is an honour to officially declare the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial in Albany a Military Memorial of National Significance. It is fitting that this memorial receives this recognition during the Centenary of Anzac period – the most important period of commemoration in our nation’s history.”
To be declared a Military Memorial of National Significance, the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial has satisfied the 10 criteria for listing as set out in the legislation. These include a requirement for the Memorial to be appropriately dignified and symbolic, be of sufficient scale and be of commemorative importance to the community and the nation.
“The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial is one of only two Military Memorials of National Significance in Western Australia, joining the HMAS Sydney II Memorial in Geraldton. This special status is awarded to memorials of national importance that are not located in the nation’s capital,” Senator Ronaldson said.
Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the memorial’s bronze cast statue was a copy of the original, which was erected at Port Said in Egypt, and unveiled on 23 November 1932.
“The Port Said memorial was irreparably damaged during the Suez crisis in 1956, however, the masonry was salvaged and brought to Australia for re-erection at the Albany site before being unveiled by former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Menzies on 11 October 1964,” Mr Wilson said.
“The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial has always been a focal point for our community and it is a great honour that we have now received this level of recognition.
“I encourage all visitors to Albany to make sure they visit this important Memorial, and pause to acknowledge the sacrifice of Australians who died for their nation in the Middle East during the First World War,” Mr Wilson said.
Senator Ronaldson noted the support of the people of Albany for the Memorial and for the wider programme of commemoration associated with the Centenary of Anzac.
“The people of Albany played an important role in the commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac, hosting a series of significant events here in October and November 2014. The opening of the National Anzac Centre, and the better than expected visitor numbers over the first six months of operation, attest to the community’s deep engagement with our nation’s military history,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“It is an honour and privilege to again visit Albany and to bestow this honour on the Memorial and, by extension, the people of the community who have cared for it for so many years.”
Members and their guests are invited to attend
The John Laffin Memorial Lecture
Sunday, 5 July 2015
10 AM for 10:15 start at The BAE Systems Theatre
Australian War Memorial
Treloar Crescent, Campbell ACT
On-site car parking is available
Entry: $20 per head for morning tea & a light lunch
RSVP by Friday, 26 June to email@example.com or phone 0401 467 819
Payment preferred by EFT to:
Account # 110142368
Acc name Families and Friends of the First AIF
Reference ‘(your name) JLML’
SORRY: No membership renewals or cash payments can be accepted at the Australian War Memorial.
Tony Cunneen The Home Front 1914-1918
Robyn Van Dyk The Australian War Memorial’s Key Centenary Projects and 100 years of Australian military mapping
FFFAIF is pleased to announce two lectures for the John Laffin Memorial Lecture series for 2015. The Lectures commemorate the contribution of the founder of the FFFAIF, Australian military historian and author John Laffin.
FFFAIF member Tony Cunneen is a Sydney school teacher and a regular contributor to DIGGER.
Tony has had articles published on members of the legal profession who served in WWI, and the Home Front during the war years. Members will recall his extensively researched article on Sydney at the outbreak of the war as an example of his interest in the impact of the war on Australian politics and society.
Robyn Van Dyk is the head of the AWM Research Centre and will talk on the Memorial’s key centenary projects with a strong focus on WW1 stories from the archive – Anzac Connections.
The first of July represents 100 years of the Australian Army Survey Corps and this year represents 100 years of Australian military mapping. Robyn will provide a behind the scenes tour of the research centre with a focus on some of the iconic maps along with their very human stories from the last 100 years – Gallipoli to Afghanistan.
This also coincides with an exhibition that Robyn has been working on with the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation that is running until 31 July.
Lucky door prizes will include books related to World War One
The remains of two soldiers, likely to be Australians who fought in the First World War, were located at Bullecourt in France on Saturday, 23 May 2015.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, said the remains had been discovered by a French fossicker in an area known to locals as the ‘Australian line’ and then recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
“After efforts to identify the soldiers, the remains will be interred in a nearby war cemetery with full military honours,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“During initial examination of the remains, CWGC personnel discovered a button with a map of Australia on it, supporting the likelihood that they are Australian soldiers.
“The First and Second battles at Bullecourt saw some of the most intense trench fighting of the First World War. Australians achieved amazing feats and sadly also suffered significant losses. General Haig described Second Bullecourt as ‘among the great deeds of the war’.
“Australia owes a debt of gratitude to these men, and all those who served our nation on foreign soil. It is our responsibility to ensure that their service and sacrifice is respectfully honoured,” Senator Ronaldson said.
Australian and British troops fought two bloody battles at Bullecourt in April and in May 1917, with the Australian Imperial Force sustaining approximately 10,000 casualties. Hundreds of Australians who died at Bullecourt remain missing.
Courtesy: Sen Ronaldson Media release VA051, 29 May 2015
On 23 July 2015 the State Library of New South Wales will host a symposium exploring Australia’s complex and little-known relationship with Belgium during the Great War. It’s a free event and bookings are filling fast.
Details here: Poppies Propaganda and Passchendaele
|(photo: C. Munro)|
FFFAIF member, Lambis Englezos AM, whose team found the lost Diggers of Fromelles in a mass grave alongside Pheasant Wood in 2008, has turned his attention to what he believes is another mass grave of at least 143 missing Australian Diggers on Gallipoli.
Together with John Basarin, a Turkish Australian volunteer at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, their story was told by 60 Minutes on Sunday night (5 April).
They first put their proposal to the Australian Government in November 2011, but were ignored until December 2014 when they received an email reply stating: “We will not consider any ground search unless we are certain of finding remains.”
Deja-vous? Lambis met with similar resistance for years in his search at Fromelles, but wasn’t put off then. He and John will not be put off now.
“We do have that moral obligation. If you can find your war dead, you gotta do it,” Lambis said.
To view the 60 Minutes story go here
An abridged version of the proposal sent to the Australian Government available here
THE SEARCH ALSO GOES ON IN BELGIUM
An Australian businessman, Len Kelly, leads a team of British and Belgian partners as they continue their search for 83 missing Diggers from the 45th AIF Battalion, lost since the Battle of Messines in 1917.
They’ve pinpointed a field near the cross-roads as the resting place of the 83 men.
Mark Donaldson VC, narrates the story of the search so far, and his report, shown on Channel 7’s 6 o’clock News Sunday (5 April) is available at