Fromelles and the australian cemeteries
This village located in the Weppes area is famous all over Australia for its bloody battle. Fromelle is now a peaceful place but the Australians locate here “the worst 24 hours in the history of the australian nation”.
In July 1916, troops -too inexperienced to take part in operations in the Somme battle- have to create a diversion in Frommelles so that the German opponent does not dispatch reinforcements in the Somme area.
Two divisions (61th british and 5th australian) practice under ennemy eyes: the germans know they will be attacking soon. Thereafter, an artillery bombardment of several days announce an imminent attack.
On the 19th of July, diversion works fine at first, but it turns to tragedy when General Hawking order a charge on enemy positions.
With 5,533 dead soldiers in less than 48 hours, the 5th australien division almost ceased to exist.
The British division suffered 1,547 dead soldiers.
[cocorico_message type=”error”]The tour guide (in French) on the Battle of Fromelles is available in the lobby of the Museum of the battle of Fromelles, or by clicking here to download. I recommand you get it, because it’s very useful for the visit.
From April to October, you can also book a 3h tour that will take you to the Trou Aid Post, the V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial Park, Pheasant Wood Cemetery, and the Museum of the Battle of Fromelles. The tour begin and return in front of the Lille Tourist Office, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.[/cocorico_message]
V.C. Corner Australian cemetery and memorial
After the Armistice, identification of the remains of 410 soldiers gathered on the battlefield proved impossible. They were buried in two mass graves that are now the two squares lined with roses and covered with a white cross. At VC Corner there are no headstones. The wall of the memorial opposite the entrance shows the names of 1299 missing Australian soldiers. Some of them have been identified following the discovery of mass graves in 2009 and now have a grave stone at Pheasant Wood cemetery.
The V.C. Corner is the only exclusively Australian cemetery of the Great War in France.
Location: Rue Delval – 59249 FROMELLES
The memorial Park
The Australian memorial was erected in 1998 to commemorate the Australian soldiers who fought and died during the Battle of Fromelles. In the center is the statue of Sergeant Simon Frazer who carries on his shoulders one of his comrades – in Australian slang: “Cobbers”. He had promised to pick him up if, during the attack, his friend was wounded. Gathering some men, he saved 250 soldiers. In May 1917, he was killed during the second Battle of Bullecourt. His name is engraved on the wall of Villers-Bretonneux memorial.
Location : Rue Delval – 59249 FROMELLES
Pheasant Wood cemetery
When the attack was aborted, the no man’s land was covered with 8,000 dead or dying soldiers, screaming for help. The British commander had refused the truce proposed by the opponents and prohibited the soldiers out of the trenches to recover their comrades at dusk. The enemy buried, in addition to its own losses, approximately 300 Allied soldiers. To this end, the germans dug 5 pits on the edge of “Bois des Faisans”.
In 2009, it was decided to exhume the soldiers to bury them again in a new military cemetery called Pheasant Wood. A “recovery mission” was launched in May 2009 by experts from the University of Oxford.
All the elements that allowed the identification of the bodies were carefully identified and, for each individual, a DNA sample was taken. With these elements and careful research, 250 British and Australian soldiers have been identified. Each of the 250 bodies were reburied with honors rendered jointly by British and Australian forces to Pheasant Wood Cemetery. Each one of them has a stone with his name.
This military cemetery was inaugurated on 19th of July 2010.
Location: Rue de la Basse Ville 59249 Fromelles
Museum of the battle of Fromelles
Just nearby Pheasant Wood cemetery lies the Museum of the battle of Fromelles. “Follow the battle, the archaeological research and the history of fallen soldiers through the permanent exhibition. Discover a story that keeps on being written.” The museum is small but very well thought. With audioguides, it describes the work of the archeology team who identified the soldiers in Pheasant Wood grave pits. It explains what the british and australian soldiers suffered during the battle. And the pictures of the identified soldiers are very touching.
The website of the museum
Location: Rue de la Basse Ville 59249 Fromelles
Open: everyday from 9:30am to 5:30pm
Closed on: Tuesdays, 1st January, Easter Sunday and Monday, 1st May, 1st week-end of September, 25th December, between Christmas and New Year, 3 weeks in late January / early February.
The Trou Aid Post cemetery
Just nearby Fromelles, in Fleurbaix, is located this very nice and peaceful cemetery. At first, you see a large bouquet of willow trees in a secluded corner of Fleurbaix, a few hundred meters from the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles. If you approach, there is a stocky porch which leads to a small bridge. Surrounded by moats and trees, this place is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cemeteries of the Commonwealth in north of France.
The cemetery is the final resting place of 356 officers and men killed in heavy fighting at Le Maisnil (October 1914), the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9-10 May 1915), the Battle of Loos (25 September – 14 October 1915) and the Battle of Fromelles (19-20 July 1916). Over 200 burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate five casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There are also two French war graves.
Sadly, you vcan see that 80% of soldiers buried on this site were very young: 18 to 25 years old. You can also find there the tomb of General Lowry Cole, killed at the Battle of la Côte d’Aubers in May 1915, while trying to reorganize his troops in disarray.
Location: Rue Pétillon – 62840 FLEURBAIX
Le Trou is a hamlet of Fleurbaix, south of the village, on the side road, off the D175, known as the Rue Pétillon.
Rue Pétillon Cemetery
Also in Fleurbaix, you can find the Rue Pétillon cemetery. British soldiers began burying their fallen comrades at Rue Pétillon in December 1914 and the cemetery was used by fighting units until it fell into German hands during the Spring Offensive of 1918. The cemetery was enlarged in the years after the Armistice when graves were concentrated here from the battlefields around Fleurbaix and a number of smaller burial grounds. A whole range of different Commonwealth units served in this sector during the war and the cemetery contains the graves of British, Irish, Canadian, New Zealand, and Indian soldiers, as well as over 260 men who were killed while serving with the Australian Imperial Force. Today over 1,500 war dead of the First World War are buried or commemorated here.
Some 30 tombstones are litteraly stuck to each other: Australian soldiers who all died in the same trench during a German raid, 4 days before the battle of Fromelles began.
Location: Rue Pétillon, 62840 Fleurbaix.
This cemetery will be found by taking the D175 from Fleurbaix towards Fauquissart, then the D171 towards Pétillon. The cemetery is on the south side of the road from Pétillon to La Boutillerie.