Dr Brendan Nelson honoured with an Officer of the Order of Australia (OA)


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.

Brendan Nelson WF Tour Day 4 CM 308 small

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.


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Three WWI Diggers identified in Belgium

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ministerial Media Release VA103


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/

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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.

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Desert Mounted Corps Memorial Albany – a military memorial of National Significance


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.”


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2015 John Laffin Memorial Lecture

John Laffin 1922-2000

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 secretary@fffaif.org.au or phone 0401 467 819 

Payment preferred by EFT to:

BSB                 012-402

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

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Remains of First World War soldiers recovered in Bullecourt

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

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Poppies, Propaganda and Passchendaele: Australia, Belgium and the Great War

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

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FROMELLES to KRITHIA – The Journey continues


 (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


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



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Penrith Poppy Park Open

poppy field YF IMGP0960

[A poppy field nearby Le Hamel Memorial: courtesy Yves Fohlen, France.]


Saturday, 21 March 2015 VA18


Penrith’s Judges Park has been transformed by 102,804 commemorative poppies, arranged in the formation of a single large poppy, to honour every single Australian soldier who has given their life for our country.

The Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson joined the Federal Member for Lindsay, Fiona Scott MP, in Penrith today to pay tribute at the commemorative field of poppies.

“This excellent local initiative demonstrates how communities can creatively and thoughtfully acknowledge those Australian men and women who have died in the service of our nation,” Senator Ronaldson said.

“This is a powerful representation of the loss incurred during war and conflict. Seeing more than 102,000 poppies laid over two thousand square metres, gives you some perspective of the sheer enormity of the sacrifice our servicemen and servicewomen have made for our nation.

“During the Centenary of Anzac, we mark a hundred years of service and sacrifice, encompassing all wars, conflicts and peace operations in which Australia has been involved. The Centenary will be the most significant period of commemoration in our nation’s history.

“I would like to congratulate all of those involved for encapsulating this spirit of commemoration for all Australian service in such an unique and moving way,” Senator Ronaldson said.

Fiona Scott added, “I can’t speak highly enough of Owen and Martin Rogers’ – the fantastic and inspirational brothers behind this most honourable event whereby our community will remember every single one of the 102,804 brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country and the pursuit of our freedom.”

“This event has been a huge community effort from the team at Thorndale, who have made the poppies, as well as St Dominic’s College student Connor Jurkovic who designed the “Poppy Park” and the hundreds of residents, families of service personnel and school children who have donated their time to planting the poppies in Poppy Park,” Fiona Scott MP said.

Attached to each poppy in Poppy Park is a card bearing the name of a fallen soldier. At the conclusion of the commemorative event, the poppies will be collected, packed and posted to people who have purchased them as mementos.

All funds raised from the sale of the poppies will be donated to the City of Penrith RSL sub-Branch and Nepean Legacy.

More information at:


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 13 March 2015 VA015

The wait is over for Australians attending Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli this year, with attendance passes to begin arriving in the mail from today.

Prime Minister the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, yesterday joined the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, and Member for Deakin Michael Sukkar in visiting ballot recipient Mr Kimberley Cornish of Blackburn North to present him with the very first double attendance pass.

Mr Cornish is the son of First World War veteran Albert Edwin Spencer Cornish who fought and was wounded at Gallipoli in 1915.

Mr Cornish will take his son Dominic to the service at Anzac Cove where he will also be met by his brother Christopher, who was also successful in the ballot.

“I am pleased to be here with the Prime Minister and the Minister to mark the beginning of the Anzac Day Dawn Service mailout by personally delivering the first double attendance pass to a local direct descendant of one of our Gallipoli veterans,” Mr Sukkar said.

“Kimberley’s father Albert Cornish was 37 years old when he left his job as a station and stock hand in Western Australia to volunteer for the Australian Imperial Forces in February 1915.

“He trained in Egypt before joining the 10th Light Horse at Gallipoli, suffering a gunshot wound to the head in October that year before being evacuated and ultimately discharged and returned to Australia in 1916.

“Albert’s story is one of 420,000 similarly brave examples of those who volunteered to serve our country in the First World War and I wish Kimberley, Christopher and Dominic all the best at Gallipoli for the Centenary of Anzac next month,” Mr Sukkar said.

Senator Ronaldson said the Centenary of Anzac would be our nation’s most significant period of commemoration and encouraged all Australian’s to participate on one of the many services that will take place on Anzac Day.

“For those who have received passes to the Gallipoli Dawn Service, they will be sent to the primary pass holder’s nominated address via express post over the coming weeks,” Senator Ronaldson said.

“Those without attendance passes to the Anzac Day commemorations may consider visiting Gallipoli on 6 August 2015 for the Battle of Lone Pine Centenary commemoration service. The Battle of Lone Pine saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Gallipoli campaign.

“Australians may also consider attending another Dawn Service in Australia or overseas or watch the television broadcast of the Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux services on the ABC,” Senator Ronaldson said.

Australian passport holders travelling to Gallipoli must obtain a Turkish entry visa before leaving home. The application is available online at www.evisa.gov.tr and costs US$60 per visa. Australians are also encouraged to register their travel on the Smartraveller website at www.smartraveller.gov.au

Gallipoli Dawn Service attendees who depart Australia before receiving their passes can collect them from a Ticketek pop-up office in Eceabat, Turkey from 20 to 23 April. Information on location and opening times can be found at www.gallipoli2015.dva.gov.au.

Gallipoli Dawn Service attendees who have not received their passes by the beginning of April should contact Ticketek on 1300 364 002 or email gallipoli2015@dva.gov.au.


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