Time to Right a Wrong

The wonderful news that another 19 missing Fromelles Diggers have been identified highlights two things: one, that the original bureaucratic dismissals of the chance of any identifications were well wide of the mark; and, two, that the time has come to have the name of the battle inscribed on our major war memorials.

Currently, of 250 sets of remains discovered, 203 have been identified as Australian and, of these, 94 have been individually named. This result far exceeds the authorities’ expectations.

Indeed, when Lambis Englezos originally approached our bureaucrats asking that they search Pheasant Wood, he was told there was almost no likelihood that any remains would be found and, further, if any remains were found they would have virtually no chance of identification.

So, having overcome both these hurdles, surely the time has come for the name of this tragic battle to be added to our war memorials. Many Australians will be staggered to learn that Fromelles, the worst loss of life in a single night in our nation’s history, does not appear on our major memorials.

The long-term advocates of Fromelles, call their quest for the battle’s recognition on our war memorials, the Third Battle of Fromelles: the first was the original in July 1916; the second was the fight to find the missing soldiers, now in its final stages.

Fromelles appears on the Australian Memorial in London’s Hyde Park and on the 5th Division’s Memorial at Polygon Wood, near Ypres in Belgium, but it does not appear on any of Australia’s major memorials.

The original argument that prevented Fromelles being inscribed on our memorials was that it formed part of the Battle of the Somme. Certainly, Fromelles was originally designed as a diversion to hold German troops away from the Somme, about 80 kilometres away, but it was a separate battle and, in scale and importance, far outweighed many other battles that have been long since carved into our history. (For example, almost four times as many lives were lost at Fromelles than those who died in all our years fighting in Vietnam.)

Inclusion of Fromelles on the memorials would in no way denigrate the battle honours already there. Rather it would right a wrong that has endured for almost a century.