*Aubers Ridge 2010

The 95th Anniversary of the Battle Aubers Ridge was commemorated on 9 May at The Australian Memorial Park Fromelles.

The Battle of Aubers Ridge was fought by the British on 9 May 1915.  British troops from General Sir Douglas Haig’s First Army took part in the action suffering 11,000 casualties in one day of fighting on a narrow front. For more information on the Battle click here.

The Commemoration Service was organised by the British Representative, Fromelles & Weppes Terre de Mémoire 14-18 (Fromelles Museum), Mrs Victoria Burbidge.

Photo: Aubers Ridge Commemoration Service
Australian Memorial Park Fromelles

The following photo report of the service was supplied by FFFAIF member and Secretary Fromelles & Weppes Terre de Mémoire 14-18 (Fromelles Museum) Carole Laignel.

Photo: The Passchendaele 1917 Pipes and Drums
arriving at the service

Victoria addressed the gathered crowd with Carole acting as translator.

Photo: Memorial address by Victoria Burbidge

Below is a transcript of Victoria’s speech:

“Another Sunday, ninety-five years ago; a clear, bright Sunday.  By this time of day on Sunday 9th May 1915, these now peaceful fields had become a scene of absolute carnage and unimaginable suffering.
“An attack designed to capture a ridge, a ridge which, to us, seems to be totally insignificant, but the capture of which would have meant for the British and French allies, a foothold on the route to Lille and a breach in the German supply line.
“The British were pushed down from the ridge in October 1914 and the ridge and its surrounding villages would remain in German hands for another four years, making this small part of France the scene of such vicious fighting.
“By May 1915, the 8th Division had been in France for six months.  It had already suffered severe losses at Neuve Chapelle in the March, but nothing would have prepared the men for what they were about to experience here at Rouges?Bancs.
“Within just hours of the commencement of battle, more than 4,000 men had become casualties and more than 1,500 of those were dead.  More than 1,300 of these men have no known grave and are commemorated on memorials to the missing which stretch from nearby Le Touret to the Menin Gate in Ypres.
“But it is the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing in Belgium which bears the majority of these names.  More than 10% of the 11,367 names which cover its panels are the names of men killed here on 9th May 1915, from the oldest known casualty, 47 year old Lt. Colonel Osbert Baker of the Royal Irish Rifles to the youngest known casualty, 15 year old Sydney Wyllie, of the City of London Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
“Since 1999, the Comité du Memorial de Ploegsteert has arranged for the Last Post to be played at the memorial on the first Friday of each month.  The Comité has probably done more than any of us to ensure that the memory of these missing men is perpetuated.  I am delighted to welcome to this service representatives of the Comité and I thank them on behalf of the British families.
“Between the northern and southern attacks of this battle, at least 13 pairs of brothers lost their lives.  In August 1914, five friends from the village of East Bergholt in Suffolk enlisted in the Northamptonshire Regiment.  By close of day on the 9th May 1915, three of this group, Frederick and Walter Southgate and Andrew Thurlow, had been killed and their friend, Leonard Clark, had been severely wounded, losing a leg.
“It is easy to forget those who did not die on these fields, but who lay, seriously wounded, for some time until eventually being rescued by the enemy, only to die of their wounds in captivity.
“Jimmy Johnston, of the 2nd Rifle Brigade, is one such case.  Jimmy died at Wavrin on the 20th May 1915.  His name was located within the Red Cross Archives in Geneva by Peter Barton and his story may be viewed as part of the exhibition at La Salle du Temps Libres which will follow this service.
“In July 1916 our British and Australian men underwent an experience incredibly similar to that of the year before, with eerily similar results, many hundreds of men being posted as missing and remaining so.
For the families of these men, Pheasant Wood had offered a chance of closure after many years, but such is the way of these things that the majority of these men will remain missing for evermore.”

Tributes were laid by relatives of those who fought in the Battle Aubers Ridge and on behalf of the British people and the people of Australia.  

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