Lambis Englezos AM
The 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours List published today (8 June) proclaims that Lambis Englezos has been appointed a Member of The Order of Australia, within the General Division, for ‘Service to the community through research and advocacy roles relating to Australian soldiers of the Great War buried in Fromelles, France’.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF Committee and Members are very pleased that this well-deserved honour was bestowed upon our fellow FFFAIF member, and a recipient of the RSL’s 2009 Anzac of the Year Award, in recognition for his years of untiring effort to preserve the memory of the First AIF and his service to the ex-Service communities and their families and friends, as demonstrated by:
1) his contribution as co-instigator of the dedication of a plaque and a eucalypt tree to the 60th Battalion AIF, at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne in 1992, which led to the formation of ‘Friends of the 15th Brigade’. This association made and has maintained a friendship with Melbourne’s French community since contacting the French Consul General in Melbourne (Mme Isabelle Costa de Beauregard) and, together, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux at the Shrine on Anzac Day Eve, 1993 – the beginning of a tradition still current. The subsequent dedication, that year, of a plaque (donated by the French Government) and a eucalypt tree to the 59th Battalion on 19 July (the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles) was the first ‘Friends’ Fromelles Commemoration Service at the Shrine which, to this day, Lambis continues to lead each year. His interest in WWI had been ignited by his meetings with WWI veterans, their relatives and friends. He spent years building & nurturing a community network of relatives and others connected with Australian WWI soldiers (who belonged in this instance, of course, to the 15th Brigade). When there were 15th Brigade veterans still alive, Lambis was superb at tracking them down, making them feel good, making them feel special, visiting them, inviting them to functions where they’d be made a fuss of, arranging transport for them etc.
Lambis’ campaign for recognition of Fromelles at the Shrine and his search for the Fromelles burial site had their origins in ‘Friends of the 15th Brigade’– he and this association continue to “Keep The Memory Alive”;
2) his contribution (while maintaining a full-time position as a high-school art teacher) through untiring research efforts and unceasing dedication at great personal expense over a period of six years lobbying and persuading the Australian Government and Australian Army which ultimately realised positive resolution to the mystery of the ‘Missing’ Australian Diggers and British soldiers after the Battle of Fromelles (19-20 July 1916);
3) his contribution to Australian and British WWI Military History that this resolution delivers;
4) his contribution to the subsequent relief that the discovery at Pheasant Wood and the pledge from the UK and Australian Governments to guarantee dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles (and to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier) brings to the ‘Missing’ soldiers’ families and relatives, and to the Service and ex-Service communities;
5) his contribution to the campaign for erection of the ‘Cobbers’ replica statue (unveiled on 19 July 2008) in the grounds of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne in recognition of the sacrifice made by 5,533 Australian casualties – suffered by the AIF’s Fifth Division, in a single night at the Battle of Fromelles – being the first by any State Memorial in Australia; and
6) his contribution to the education of the Australian community through media coverage of his example of dedication to Keeping The Memory Alive of the service and sacrifice made by the First AIF during the First World War.
In Parliament on 28 May 2008, in response to a question by The Hon Chris Trevor MP, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, concluded his reply:
”Finally, can I recognise here the singular efforts of Mr Lambis Englezos and his supporters, who have researched and urged so persuasively that this research be undertaken. I am sure that, without his commitment and dedication, this mystery would never have been solved.”
Honourable members — “Hear, hear!” (Hansard)
On 9 June 2008, the Minister confirmed that an Australian Rising Sun collar badge had been discovered during the limited excavation of a First World War burial site in Fromelles, France:
”Our archaeology team in Fromelles has unearthed a Rising Sun badge in Pit 4, which proves that the remains of Australian soldiers are buried at this important site,” Minister Snowdon said.
“This is a momentous discovery and makes this field at Pheasant Wood on the other side of the world, of national significance for all Australians.” (Media Release 068/2008)
On 14 June, Minister Snowdon again praised and recognised Lambis’ achievement:
“…… And of course we must remember that it is likely that none of this would have happened without the foresight and dedication of Mr Lambis Englezos, the amateur historian and head of the Friends of the 15th Brigade whose research lead to Army’s decision to investigate.” (Media Release 073/2008)
Media coverage recognising Lambis’ contributions includes, but is not limited to:
60 Minutes TV program “Don’t Forget Me Cobber” aired in Australia on 16 July 2006, with a follow up on 1 June 2008 – view transcript/video by clicking here with a link to the video, and here by entering ‘Fromelles’ in the “find video” search box.
ABC TV’s 7.30 Report on 26 May 2008 “Archaeological dig hopes to solve military mystery” – transcript/video available by clicking here.
In addition, he has received extensive coverage in news bulletins on TV, radio, in the printed press and internet-based media, both in Australia and internationally – too numerous to mention. Entering ‘Lambis Englezos’ into an internet search engine will return over 1550 responses which gives some idea of the coverage his contributions have generated.
In the Index to Patrick Lindsay’s FROMELLES (Australia’s darkest day – and the dramatic discovery of our fallen World War One Diggers) Hardie Grant Books – 2008 (ISBN 978 1 74066 684 8), Lambis Englezos has 39 references including 14 multi-page references. For further information and insight to Lambis’ story, members and visitors are encouraged to read Part Two of FROMELLES (A Magnificent Obsession P 183-451) which details Lambis’ long campaign to find the Missing Diggers of Fromelles.
Families and Friends of First AIF.
8 June 2009
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers – presently buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood – dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and applauds Minister Snowdon and his British counterpart, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones MP, for their joint decision to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier.