Gratitude

The battles of The Great War had many devastating effects on those who took part directly and indirectly in the conflict. One of the very positive outcomes of the conflict is the strong bond established with the French people through the efforts of the Australian volunteer army who travelled so far from home to defend the liberty of others. This association lives on throughout the Western Front areas of France to the present time. One only has to visit towns such as Villers Bretonneux or Bullecourt to experience it first hand. But travel overseas is not the only way of experiencing this long lasting friendship and admiration.

During ‘question time’ at the recent John Laffin Memorial Lecture Théodore Arfaras, Président, Association des Anciens Combattants Français (French Veterans Association) spoke passionately about the appreciation of the French people for the contribution Australian diggers made to protecting their liberty. His sentiments reflected those of Marshal Foch on November 7th 1920 at a service in the Amiens Cathedral. The former Allied Supreme Commander said “We intend today in Amiens to express to you and the Commonwealth of Australia our gratitude…… You saved Amiens. You saved France. Our gratitude will remain ever and always to Australia.”

Photo: Théodore Arfaras, Président, Association des Anciens Combattants Français. [Ray Hudson]

The following day, Monday 14 July, President Russell Curley along with members Alan Kitchen and Chris Munro represented the Families and Friends of the First AIF at the Bastille Day Commemorations at La Perouse, Sydney as guests of the Association des Anciens Combattants Français (French Veterans Association).

Photo: Russell Curley laying at wreath at Bastille Day Commemorations [Alan Kitchen]

Photo: Théodore Arfaras laying a wreath. [Alan Kitchen]

Photo: French veterans with French Consul, Mr. Lionel Majesté-Larrouy (centre) and FFFAIF members Russell Curley (left) and Chris Munro (right) [Alan Kitchen]

During the proceedings the French Consul General, Mr. Lionel Majesté-Larrouy, also spoke of the importance of the contribution of Australian soldiers to the liberty of France.

The strength of the bond of friendship between the people of France and Australia was also recently reflected in the French Gift to Australia on 28 June, featured in our NEWS item of 30 June, when the French community in Australia commemorated the contributions of Australian soldiers in France in World War I with the unveiling of a plaque at Memorial Park at Matraville, a suburb of Sydney.

Commemoration of Australian diggers’ sacrifice for the liberty of France continues with the Battle of Fromelles Remembrance services in Sydney and Melbourne.

Photo: Fromelles Remembrance Service, Sydney 2007

The Shrine Melbourne: On Saturday 19 July at 11am a public ceremony to unveil the ‘Cobbers’ sculpture by artist Peter Corlett will take place. Proposed by the Friends of the 15th Brigade, this second casting will commemorate the Battle of Fromelles. This will be followed at 1:30pm by a wreath laying and commemoration service by Friends of 15th Brigade.

The Anzac Memorial Sydney: On Saturday 19 July at 10:45am Annual Remembrance Ceremony for Battle of Fromelles.

Debate continues in the Sydney Media over the destiny of those allied soldiers buried at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles. In response to Tim Whitford’s article in Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald’s Opinion section, entitled Give the Fromelles Diggers their Dignity, a Letter to the Editor was published on Monday [click here to read the letter] and letters of support have been published on Tuesday, including the following:
Decency demands a proper burial of diggers
Anne Glenday (Letters, July 14) has missed Tim Whitford’s point. The difference between VC Corner and the mass graves recently discovered at Pheasant Wood is that the men at VC Corner were given the dignity of an orderly burial, not dragged like some piece of garbage and thrown into pits.
At the very least they should be treated in the same way as all the other unidentified soldiers found after the Armistice and reburied with some form of dignity and ceremony. While this is done, we should try to identify those buried there, as is the case with all other soldiers found on the battlefields after the war.
Jim Iveson – Hornsby Heights 

Anne Glenday asks why the newly found men of Fromelles should be treated differently to the many more unidentified men whose bones must lie under the farmers’ fields at Fromelles. The answer must surely be that we now can treat them differently. We have the means to identify bodies that were not available in 1919.
There are thousands of headstones inscribed “A Soldier Known Only Unto God”. But those bodies were accorded an individual grave and not thrown in a heap. The men now found at Pheasant Wood must not be left in a heap.
Raymond Hudson – Ryde

FFFAIF Policy Statement

The Families and Friends of the First AIF believes that the Australian Government through the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs should commit the to re-burial of the “missing of Fromelles” with individual graves and headstones in a new Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Pheasant Wood after DNA testing.

FROMELLES IS NOT HONOURED ON THE NATIONAL OR ANY STATE MEMORIAL IN AUSTRALIA.

FFFAIF SUPPORTS ALL EFFORTS TO RECOGNISE FROMELLES ON OR AT THE NATIONAL AND ALL STATE MEMORIALS THAT PRESENTLY LIST BATTLES BY NAME.

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