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Design of new fromelles cemetery.



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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Mailing List

VA026

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 DESIGN OF NEW FROMELLES CEMETERY

The plans for the new cemetery at Fromelles for the remains of up to 400 Australian and British soldiers found last year were today examined by the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin, during a site inspection in Western France.

The design of the cemetery is classic and simple, allowing the grave markers to be the dominant feature. Hexagonal in shape, the graves will radiate out from a cross of sacrifice in the centre. The grave markers will follow the style of all Commonwealth war cemeteries where each is honoured equally in death, regardless of religion, rank or race.

Similar to others across the Western Front, hard limestone and red Belgian brick will be used in construction of this walled cemetery. Wrought iron gates will mark the entrance, however these remain open at all times as is the tradition.

Mr Griffin said the cemetery is in the town of Fromelles, will overlook the site of the First World War battlefield where the soldiers fell, and is near to the mass grave site.

“We already know that many Australian battlefield tour groups are coming to Fromelles to see the original burial site of the soldiers who were not recovered after the war. I expect many more will visit this cemetery, which will be a formal place for us to honour their sacrifice,” Mr Griffin said.

Mr Griffin said that exhumation of the remains at Pheasant Wood is expected to begin in early May. Oxford Archaeology, which was awarded the archaeological excavation contract this year, will complete the work.

“At the same time the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will be working with French authorities to construct the cemetery, which will be the first official war cemetery built in more than 50 years.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is expected to award the construction contract shortly, with work due to commence in June and be completed by the end of the year.

The Australian Government is also considering options for commemoration at the mass burial site at Pheasant Wood. The site was considered too water-logged and inaccessible to be a cemetery.

“Australia suffered 5533 casualties at the Battle of Fromelles including 1917 killed, 3146 wounded and 470 taken prisoner,” Mr Griffin said.

“More than 90 years after the battle, this new cemetery will become a place of pilgrimage, not just for Australians but for our allies as well. The Australian soldiers of the 5th Division fought alongside the British 61st Division at Fromelles and casualties from both nations will be buried alongside each other.

“More than 46,000 Australians died on the Western Front in the First World War. It has special meaning to visit this place so close to Anzac Day, when we will pay tribute to their courage and sacrifice and that of all Australians who have fallen in the service of our country.”

A computer generated image of the new cemetery is at www.dva.gov.au/media/media_images/images.htm

The Australian Government will be holding the Western Front Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux, France on Saturday, 25 April 2009. Australians travelling in France are invited to attend. For more detail, go to http://www.dva.gov.au/media/mainme.htm

A list of the names of 191 Australian soldiers believed to have been buried by the Germans after the Battle of Fromelles can be found at http://www.defence.gov.au/fromelles/buried.htm

Media inquiries: Laura Ryan 0437 863 109