Dear Inner Circle,
Exactly a year ago, I stood in the battle field of Fromelles, France. Fromelles was of particular interest to me because there was such shedding of Australian blood there. I’m not sure if bloodbaths ever have redeeming features, but this particular battle it seems, was designed to achieve nothing other than a distraction. It was hoped that this battle would prevent Germany from sending large numbers of their soldiers south in preparation for the massive culmination to be known as the Battle of the Somme. The plan failed. Fromelles was so poorly executed that Germany quickly recognised it as a decoy and moved their troops south anyway. Some of the soldiers killed at Fromelles had fought at Gallipoli but many were fresh from Australia with no fighting experience. I stood for ages in front of the grave of Private John Gordon, who enlisted in his older brother’s name, and who had landed in France in June 1916 and died on this field a month later. He was fifteen years and ten months old.
Very few Australian families a hundred years ago could imagine, let alone visit, the places where I stood last year. At Pozières, near the famous windmill sight, I found you could wander into any of the peaceful-looking fields, which were at the time freshly ploughed, and fill the boot of a car with shrapnel if you were so inclined. One hundred years later and still the ground is peppered with metal, now twisted and muddy, but then white hot and cutting through flesh like a butter knife. How many thousands of Australian people had wished to have stood where I stood, trying to understand what kind of circumstance robbed them of their boys, husbands and fathers? Many times, I stood quietly and shut my eyes as if I was communicating with thousands of Australians now gone, to say, “This is where it was”. Standing in peaceful fields, it’s hard to imagine soldiers deafened by artillery night and day without a break, wet, muddy and waiting for an order to...[read more]