Friday, July 18 2014

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State


Today at the opening of the Musée de la Bataille de Fromelles in France, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson paid tribute to Australians who fought in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles.

“I am pleased that the Australian Government has been able to contribute more than $1 million to construct this new Musée de la Bataille de Fromelles. The Museumwill help ensure the story of Australian service and sacrifice in this bloody battle will never be forgotten. The new museum will share this extraordinary Australian story with an international audience as well as the growing number of Australians who make the pilgrimage to the battlefields of the Western Front,” Senator Ronaldson said.

Fromelles was the first major battle fought by Australians on the Western Front and remains the darkest day in our nation’s military history. In less than 24 hours, Australia suffered more than 5,500 casualties, with almost 2,000 killed in action or dying as a result of their wounds, and some 400 taken prisoner.

The Battle of Fromelles Museum tells the story of that bloody 24 hours. It also tells the story of the recovery of the remains of 250 Australian and British First World War soldiers from a mass grave at Pheasant Wood, near Fromelles. The remains of these men, who died in 1916, were exhumed and reburied with military honours at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in 2010. 

Fromelles is one of 12 key sites on the Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front. The Trail is a $10 million Australian Government initiative, in partnerships with French and Belgian authorities, comprising walking trails, museums, battlefields, memorials, and cemeteries. 

All of these sites can now be explored online through the new interactive features of the Australian Remembrance Trail Virtual Visitors Centre at www.ww1westernfront.gov.au.

“The extraordinary experience of our soldiers on the Western Front deserves to be better known. For Australians able to travel, I recommend visiting the sites along the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium. For those unable to travel, the Virtual Visitors Centre provides an outstanding opportunity, from the comfort of home, to immerse yourself in the rich historical information and resources it contains,” Senator Ronaldson said.

Media Note: Media backgrounders on the Australian Remembrance Trail and the Battle of Fromelles are available from the DVA Media Centre www.dva.gov.au/about-dva/media-centre

Media inquiries:      Minister Ronaldson: Jordi Procel 02 6277 7820 or 0448 232 908

                                Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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