Lest we forget

MONDAY, July 19 marked the 94th anniversary of the battle of Fromelles in which the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) suffered over 5500 casualties as they attempted to capture German positions in Australia's first major battle on the Western Front in World War I.

Fromelles is located in central France and once was a thinly populated area not far from Lille. Until recently, many Australian soldiers were still listed as missing in action (MIA).

The recent discovery of 250 bodies lying in a mass, unmarked grave at the edge of Pheasant wood (probably buried by German soldiers after the battle) identified some of those of belonging to Australian soldiers.

Those remains were recently reburied in the war cemetery at Fromelles, the last was buried with full military honours.

A half a century later, on the opposite side of the world to Fromelles another battle took place-involving Australian servicemen.

This time it was in Vietnam; a small South East Asian country that was engaged in conflict between the communist forces of the Vietcong supported by North Vietnamese regulars and the Republic of (South) Vietnam.

This year marks the 44th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, which commenced in earnest on August 18, 1966.

 

The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong hoped to inflict not just a military victory but to embarrass Australia politically and by doing so cause the Australian government to withdraw its forces from Vietnam.

The communist forces commenced their bombardment on the nights of August 16-17.

The next day 250 bodies belonging to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army were discovered on the battlefield, 17 members of 6RAR died in the battle and one later died as a result of injuries sustained.

One of those soldiers, PTE Francis Topp is commemorated in the Helidon cemetery.

At this year's service, cadets from 205 Squadron (AAFC) will provide a catafalque party at Gatton and supported by elements from TS Ipswich will also mount guards for the Laidley and Lowood services.

Story by Ken Slater


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