This annual pilgrimage by the Friends of the 15th Brigade commemorates the Battle of Fromelles, fought on 19 July 1916. This was the first major action involving Australian troops on the Western Front, and was planned as a diversion to prevent German troops moving from a relatively quiet area to the large battle being fought on the Sommes.
The Battle of Fromelles proved to be a disaster. The attack by the largely untried 5th Australian Division was repulsed by determined Bavarian troops who were well dug in with large numbers of machine guns. By the morning of 20 July, Australia had suffered the loss of 5,533 killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. The battle remains the single bloodiest 24 hours in Australian military history.
Stories of bravery and humanity emerged from the carnage. In the days following the battle, rescuers recovered some 300 wounded men from no-man's-land. As one soldier carried a wounded companion from the field he heard a call for help: "Don't forget me, Cobber." This service is held at the Cobbers Statue on the Shrine Reserve, which memorialises that moment and heroic efforts of those trying to save as many lives as possible.
Reviewed 31 July 2023