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

26 September 2017

Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan has urged Australians to pause and reflect on the sacrifice made by the Australians who served in the Battle of Polygon Wood, on its 100th anniversary today.

Australia suffered more than 5,700 casualties at Polygon Wood, out of a total of 38,000 during eight weeks of fighting, known as the Flanders Offensive, between September and October 1917 on the Western Front.

Mr Tehan will represent the Australian Government at a Dawn Service held in Belgium today attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, Princess of Belgium, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret’d) and Lady Cosgrove, and Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) and Mrs Hurley.

Prior to the Dawn Service, visitors will experience the Reflective Trail that stretches more than one kilometre through the forest from the edge of Polygon Wood to the entry of the Buttes New British Cemetery.

Mr Tehan said the Flanders Offensive had resulted in massive casualties on both sides and contributed to a manpower crisis in the Australian Imperial Force.

“Today we commemorate those involved in the Battle of Polygon Wood and we remember they were just some of the more than 300,000 Australian volunteers who served on the Western Front, where 45,000 lost their lives and more than one-third of those have no known grave,” Mr Tehan said.

“For Australian soldiers, the third year of the Great War was the worst they had ever experienced. More Australians died in battle in 1917 and more were taken prisoner than in any other year. There has never been a year when Australia lost more to war than 1917.

“One hundred years on, we honour the service and sacrifice of those Australians who fought and died far from home in our country’s name.”

Media enquiries:

  • Minister Tehan’s Office: Byron Vale, 0428 262 894
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6466

 

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.