Bodangora service remembers Fromelles

Remembrance: Martial Delebarre OAM and service organiser Maurice Campbell lay a wreath at the Fromelles Memorial Service held at Bodangora, 100 years after the battle. Photo: FAYE WHEELER

Remembrance: Martial Delebarre OAM and service organiser Maurice Campbell lay a wreath at the Fromelles Memorial Service held at Bodangora, 100 years after the battle. Photo: FAYE WHEELER

A Frenchman committed to ensuring Australian sacrifice in a disastrous First World War battle is not forgotten has attended a special memorial service at Bodangora.

Martial Delebarre OAM and wife Catherine were guests of honour at the service marking 100 years since the Battle of Fromelles.

Fromelles, the first major action by Australian troops on the Western Front in the First World War, claimed the lives of thousands and many more were wounded.

Mr Delebarre co-founded the Fromelles war museum two decades ago and he and fellow citizens have over many years built up an extraordinary range of almost 3500 battlefield artefacts.

In 2006 he was awarded an OAM for his work on the ground and dedication to honouring Australian sacrifice.

On September 16 Mr and Mrs Delebarre came to Bodangora, home to a memorial that records the names of 47 young men from the district who fought in the First World War, including 16 who didn’t return.

Mr Delebarre unveiled a new plaque to remember the Battle of Fromelles at the Bodangora memorial. 

He said they were pleased to make the journey to the service, organised by Maurice Campbell.

“It was a unique time for us and a very moving ceremony,” he said. “One of the best we have attended, if not the best.”

Bodangora, Wellington and Dubbo residents attended the service, many remembering family members who fought in the First World War.

Australian flags decorated the scene, and rosemary grows in the grounds of the memorial that has been restored in recent years.

Fromelles came into the spotlight after the discovery of a mass grave near the town in 2009.

The subsequent identification of Australian war dead through anthropological, archaeological, historical and DNA profiling techniques, has generated a fresh wave of popular interest in Fromelles. 

Australian Jim Munday attended the dedication service of the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery at Fromelles in 2010.

His great uncles Sam and Eric Wilson lay there side by side – they had been two of the missing soldiers recovered and identified. It was at that time he met Mr Delebarre and they became firm friends.

The service began with the Australian and French national anthems. 

Mr Delebarre and Mr Campbell laid a wreath and the Last Post was played. 

The service had special significance for one Wellington woman. Marj Smith’s uncle, Edwin ‘Ted’ Hubbard was killed during the First World War battle on July 19, 1916. Mr Hubbard was only 22 when he died.

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