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Cemetery Details

V.C. CORNER AUSTRALIAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL, FROMELLES

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Casualty Record Detail
Casualty Record Detail
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V.C. CORNER AUSTRALIAN CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL, FROMELLES Print this image


Country:
France
Locality:
Nord
Identified Casualties:
1184

Location Information

Fromelles is a village 16 kilometres west of Lille and V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery is 2 kilometres north-west of Fromelles on the road to Sailly.

Historical Information


V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial

V.C. Corner Cemetery is the only uniquely Australian cemetery on the Western Front. It was formed after the Armistice and contains the graves of 410 Australian soldiers who were killed during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916 and whose bodies were found on the battlefield. As none of the bodies could be identified, it was decided not to mark the individual graves, but to record on a memorial the names of all the Australian soldiers who were killed in the engagement and whose graves are not known. Many of those originally listed on the memorial were subsequently identified and re-interred at Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Cemetery.


The Battle of Fromelles

On 19 July 1916, the officers and men of the British 61st (2nd South Midland) and the 5th (Australian) divisions, under the overall command of General Richard Haking, staged an assault on the German lines around the village of Fromelles. The attack was designed to prevent the Germans from sending units from this sector to reinforce their divisions on the Somme front, which was then the scene of a major Allied offensive. As little heavy fighting had taken place in the area since the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915, the Germans had been able to strengthen their lines with concrete blockhouses, machine gun emplacements and thick barbed wire entanglements. The Bavarian troops defending Fromelles also enjoyed a slightly elevated position on the Aubers Ridge from which they could observe any preparations for an attack. The British and Australian troops who were selected for the attack had little or no experience of combat on the Western Front but would be facing a well-organised and determined enemy. This section of the front had nonetheless been chosen for a localised assault as an attack further north was not thought to be possible and although the German breastworks were well reinforced with barbed wire they were believed to be defended by a relatively small number of troops.

A key objective of the attacking troops was the capture of the Sugar Loaf salient, a small but heavily reinforced section of the German line north-west of Fromelles. The attack was originally planned for 17 July and the preliminary artillery bombardment duly began on the 16th. Thick mist and rain the following morning prompted Haking to request a 24-hour delay and the attack was postponed until 6 p.m. on the evening of 19 July.

Advancing with three brigades side by side the men of the 61st Division came under withering machine gun fire as soon as they left their positions and immediately suffered heavy casualties. Only a small number of British troops on the extreme right of the assault managed to get near the German lines, but these were all either killed or forced to retire. The Australians also attacked in three brigades. The 15th Brigade, advancing alongside British units, was badly cut up by German machine gun and artillery fire and suffered very heavy casualties. To begin with, the men of the 14th and 8th brigades fared better, managing to cross no-man’s land and overrun the German front-line and communication trenches just north of Fromelles. They separated into small units as they advanced into enemy territory, however, and as night fell the Germans counter attacked the now surrounded Australians. At 3.30 a.m. they were ordered to return to their own trenches and for the next six hours they fought their way back across no-man’s land.

The attack at Fromelles made little impact on German troop movements toward the Somme and is now seen as a costly failure. In just over one night of fighting, over 5,300 Australian and more than 1,500 British soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. The incident was the first major deployment of an Australian division on the Western Front and the only one in which none of the original objectives were achieved.

The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, commemorates over 1,100 Australian casualties.

(updated - August 2012)

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