News World Diggers’ll never be forgotten

Diggers’ll never be forgotten

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Lest we forget, the Fromellois will remember them.

The tiny French country town, situated two hours north of Paris with a population generously estimated at roughly 900 people, reaffirmed this weekend its everlasting gratitude for the fallen diggers who fought to protect them in World War I.

The brave soldiers were the first Australians to join the Western Front fight in 1916, with 5500 killed or wounded in the horrific first 24 hours of the Battle of Fromelles as they teamed with British troops in a futile attack on the attacking German forces.

The town’s former mayor, Hubert Huchette, described the bloody battle as a turning point in Australia’s history, while his successor, Jean-Gabriel Masson, said their efforts will never be forgotten.

“We are proud of the relationship we have with Australia, it is very important to us,” Mr Masson said.

As a result of the horrific bloodshed, 250 Australian and British soldiers were buried in a mass grave – which in 2010 was exhumed and reburied with military honours at Pheasant Wood cemetery in Fromelles.

With the aid of DNA evidence, soldiers have been identified and have been given dedicated headstones – with 20 more such headstones unveiled on Saturday to take the total to 144.

“The commemoration of the fallen soldiers is very important, but it is not a relationship built only on war,” Mr Masson added.

“We wish to have this (cemetery and museum dedicated to Australia’s war efforts) because we, the Fromelles inhabitants, are the keepers of the Australians.

“We had war. But now we are here to build peace and to have relationships between the two nations.”