Saturday, 16 July 2016


"Fromelles" is a word these days which strikes dismay in Australians' hearts, and as we approach the centenary, it is worth reflecting how this battle was covered up and forgotten for so long.  The British command reported inadequately about the fiasco in official communiques, and Australian historian CEW Bean’s report of the battle, needing the censor’s approval, has been described as a “travesty”.  Fromelles was promptly forgotten, as it was followed by other intense Western Front battles - Pozieres comes next. It was a slaughter that failed to generate even a tragic legend. The name was almost lost to popular war memory.

But Lambis Englezos, a retired Melbourne school teacher, worked tirelessly and persistently to locate 'missing' Australian soldiers from the Fromelles battle. In 2007, archeological searches uncovered the remains of 200 Australians who'd been buried by the Germans in a mass grave after the battle.  The story of Fromelles came to public attention.

The Australian War Memorial provides a brief recount of what happened that day in 1916.

Ross McMullin, well known historian and author, has written at length on Fromelles and the men who served and were killed there.  He is the biographer of Harold "Pompey" Elliott, who lived in Ballarat during his school days. Ross's article Disaster at Fromelles was published in the War Memorial's journal Wartime.

On that evening in July 1916  "Pompey" Elliott was leading the 15th Brigade, 5th Division, AIF, into its first battle on the Western Front. The Brigade was made up of many Western District men. Along with the 8th and 14th Brigades, they "went over the top" as ordered - into withering enfilading machine gun fire.

The Australian 5th Division suffered 5,533 casualties - dead, wounded and captured. Ross McMullin has described it as the worst 24 hours in Australian history.

Panorama of Fromelles, 1914.  Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

To commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of Fromelles and the connections to Ballarat through "Pompey Elliott" and the men of the 60th Battalion (many drawn from Ballarat's 8th Battalion) the Ballarat Ranger Museum will hold an Open Day on the centenary of the battle.  A Special Guest between noon and 2pm will be Carole Wilkinson, author of the 2011 book Fromelles - Australia's Bloodiest Day at War.

Ballarat Ranger Military Museum - Tuesday July 19th 2016 10AM to 4PM

Gold Coin Donation.

"Pompey" Elliott


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