Raising The Standard At Fromelles - 2

Raising The Standard At Fromelles - Part 2

When the dignitaries had taken their place there followed a short introduction to the service describing the events that took place on 19 July 1916. Then the body of the first soldier to be reburied at Fromelles arrived and was carried by serving Australian and British servicemen to his final resting place.

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He was laid to rest with full military honours concluding with a Firing Party firing three volleys.

The ceremony was very dignified and touching. There were tributes from representatives of the British and Australian governments. Below is an excerpt from the speech made by Admiral Sir Ian Garnett, Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

"Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen…For more than 90 years the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has helped to repay some small part of that debt of honour we owe to those who gave their lives during two world wars. Our cemeteries and memorials around the globe are physical reminders of a painful past, but they are also places that have the power to bring enormous comfort to the families and comrades of those buried and commemorated there. As time passes, these sacred places also take on a new importance - reminding future generations of the importance of those events, and of the need for continued remembrance of the fallen, their achievements and sacrifices."

The ceremony lasted for one and a half hours in very cold and severe conditions and my respect for the work carried out by our Standard Bearers of the British Legion has grown significantly. I doubt that I was raising the standards that they achieve on a regular basis but I do hope that on this occasion I was at least up to the minimum expected. Following the ceremony a reception was hosted by the Mayor of Fromelles in the Mairie and I think this was the first time I ever refused wine in preference to hot soup.

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A Dignified and touching ceremony

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Tributes came from representatives of British and Australian governments

With the ceremony over we were then back on to the bus and taken to lunch with Rod Bedford and the Somme Branch Members. This was a most fitting end to the morning’s event and on behalf of Rodney, Kate, Angie, Yves and myself I sincerely thank Rod and his branch members for being such wonderful hosts. The sing-along was most enjoyable even though some of the words were a little different to the ones I knew and even the most ardent ‘Pommie Basher’ surely would not have disapproved of our rendition of waltzing Matilda.

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Rodney (with his new beret), Yves Cuziat and Mick on the right

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Lunch with members of the Somme Branch ended proceedings

Of the 250 bodies recovered, and following this first burial, 248 will be laid to rest in the new cemetery in February as described above. The body of one serviceman will be held back for reburial during the cemetery’s dedication ceremony on 19 July 2010. This will be a significant event and the town of Fromelles is preparing to host 100,000 visitors for this event. Local hotels are almost all fully booked and prices have risen significantly but, if you wish to go, be prepared for a long hot and extremely crowded affair. The Chairman and I will do our best to keep you informed as the time draws near to this

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