The 11th day of the 11th month Armistice Day 96 years on
A potted history ….
1914: the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by a disgruntled 19 year old Serbian in a country most had never heard of.
25 April 1915: ANZACS (Aussies & Kiwis) landed at Gallipoli and were then evacuated out 8 months later with 8,000 men dead. From Gallipoli most of the 5 Aussie Divisions and 1 New Zealand division went to France whilst some went to the Middle East to fight the Turks.
From a population of only 4.5 million, over 60,000 Australians were killed in WW1 (most in France & Belgium) and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. And many more thousands returned to Australia traumatised, crippled and mutilated.
French Fusion Travel is taking two tours to the Western Front in April and May 2015 (nearly sold out) and will continue to offer more tours throughout the next few years as we commemorate the milestones in our ANZAC history predominantly on the Western Front. See details at: http://www.frenchfusion.com.au
2016 is the Big One for any who have relatives from Britain who want to commemorate the July 1st Battle of the Somme in which 23,000 men died in one day. I have two relatives whose names are on the Thiepval Memorial and I shall not be missing the 100th anniversary of the First Day of the Battle of the Somme.
I also want to commemorate what happened to our “Diggers” on the 19th July 1916 when our first Australian soldiers were committed by Lt-Generals Haking and McCay to a battle that had no chance of being anything other than a wholesale massacre in which 5,500 Australians lost their lives.
Australian Brigadier General Pompey Elliot called this day at Fromelles in Northern France “a tactical abortion” with tears streaming down his face as he shook hands with the “pitiful remnant of his brigade”. Other survivors were struck by the intensity of Pompey’s anguish.
“Good God Bill, what’s happened to my brigade?”
A third of Pompey Elliott’s Brigade had been wiped out. For nothing. Nothing At all.
I shall be there to remember Pompey Elliott too. He committed suicide in Melbourne in 1932.
I shall be there to commemorate the horror and sacrifice of 1917 in Belgium and Northern France: to remember the men who fought or who just slipped and drowned in mud or died like sitting ducks at Passchendaele. (This photo below was taken by a German pilot in 1917 who photographed the “English dead” below him)
I do not go to the Western Front to be a ghoul – but to pay respect and remember what these poor young men endured – for absolutely no gain.
And I will be with other like-minded travellers, relatives and historians on the Western Front who will be as reflective and moved and committed as I am to remembering the extraordinary feats of bravery, risk, humanity and honour that is also always part of war.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana
LEST WE FORGET