Today is the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles which was fought during World War I. You might have heard about the discovery of a mass grave of soldiers who died in that battle and their recent reinterment. Fromelles is a village in France near the battlefield. In a few hours, a new cemetery will be dedicated in Fromelles where the soldiers have been buried. A large proportion of them have actually been identified by matching DNA from their remains with the DNA of a living relative.
The battle was a disaster for the Allies. More than 5000 Australian soldiers died, were wounded or taken prisoner in an attack which lasted less than 24 hours. No ground was gained.
You may be wondering why I am interested in this. Well, as it happens, the book I have been writing for the last six months is a non-fiction book about this very battle. So today, on a crisp but sunny Melbourne winter’s afternoon, I went to the wreath laying ceremonies at the Shrine of Remembrance. Family members of those soldiers who took part in the battle, school children and people who, like me, have an interest in this tragic episode in Australia’s history attended, laid wreaths and listened to the names of the dead being read out.