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Prince of Wales pays tribute to Australian and British war dead: The Church of England Newspaper, July 30, 2010 p 6 July 30, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Ninety four years after they were buried in a mass grave, 250 British and Australian soldiers were re-interred in a memorial service in the French village of Fromelles on July 19.

The Prince of Wales dedicated the new Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery for the British and Australian dead, whose bodies were discovered by an amateur historian on the edge of a small wood in 2008.

“I am profoundly humbled by the outstanding bravery of these men, who fought so valiantly,” Prince Charles said.

On July 19, 1916, a combined British and Australian force sought to retake a salient in the German lines north of the German-occupied village of Fromelles, 10 miles from Lille.  The night attack by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was the first Australian action on the Western Front in the war, and was designed to draw German forces away from the Battle of the Somme taking place 50 miles to the south.  Following eleven hours of artillery bombardment the Australians went over the top at 6:00 pm.  While some units were able to reach their objectives, the attack failed to break through the German machine gun emplacements.

When the attack was called off the next day, 1,500 British and 5,533 Australian soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in what the Australian War Memorial described as the “worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history.”

The Germans, among whose troops that day was a Corporal Adolf Hitler, buried the Allied dead on their side of the lines in a mass grave, which was only found in 2008 by an amateur historian exploring the battlefield area.  Forensic analysis have identified the remains of 96 of the soldiers by name, while 109 have been confirmed to have belonged to the Australian and 3 to the British army.  The remaining 42 have been classified as unknown, the organizers said.

Monday’s ceremony began when the coffin of the last soldier was borne from the grave site by the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The procession journeyed through the village of Fromelles, and was met by the Prince of Wales, the Governor-General of Australia Quentin Bryce, Chief of the General Staff General Sir David Richards, Australian Army Chief Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, and soldiers from the British and Australian Armies for a memorial service at the cemetery.

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