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Media releases & speeches

The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Minister for Defence Materiel

17 July 2016

Australia to honour the 100th Anniversary of Western Front Battles

Australia will honour the service and sacrifice of our First World War soldiers this week at the centenary commemorations for the battles of Fromelles and Pozières.

The Battle of Fromelles (19 July, 1916) was the first major engagement by Australian soldiers on the Western Front where the Australian 5th Division suffered 5,533 casualties in just 24 hours — Australia’s bloodiest single day in military history.

The Battle of Pozières (23 July to 3 September 1916) involved three further Australian Divisions capturing and holding the village of Pozières and launching 19 attacks.

Almost 300,000 Australians served on the Western Front, where 45,000 lost their lives and more than one-third of those have no known grave.

A commemorative service on Tuesday (19 July) at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery will mark the start of a series of 100-year anniversaries of battles involving Australians on the Western Front. This will include a Headstone Dedication for six soldiers whose remains were identified by the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties Fromelles project team.

On Saturday (23 July), a service will be conducted at the site of the 1st Australian Division Memorial, Pozières and the remains of three unknown soldiers will be reinterred with full military honours.

Mr Tehan will be attending the events with the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, the Governors of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland, Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell DSC, AM, Australian Ambassador to France Stephen Brady, French Secretary of State for Veterans’ and Commemorations Jean-Marc Todechini, Military Governor of Lille General Bernard Maitrier and other dignitaries.

Mr Tehan said three unknown Australian soldiers would be reinterred with full military honours at Pozières on Saturday.

“Even one hundred years after the fighting took place we will bury our unknown soldiers with respect and honour because it is the right thing to do,” Mr Tehan said.

“The Australians at Fromelles, Pozières and across the Western Front were volunteers fighting for our values and freedom — their bravery has become legendary, especially in this corner of Europe.

“They are custodians of the Anzac tradition and set a standard that continues to this day in the men and women who serve in our defence forces. As a country we must never forget the service of the men and women who fight and die defending our way of life.

“We should reflect on the experiences these Australians endured so far from home, the things they saw and the sacrifices they made and we should be grateful for the liberty we enjoy today because of their selfless actions.”

Media Contacts:
Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale: 0428 262 894
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.