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Tuesday
Apr222008

Fromelles - When The Australians Almost Got Hitler

Fromelles

, France is particularly interesting to me as an Australian living in Paris. It was in this French village that the worst 24 hours in Australian history occurred 90 years ago. Not the worst in Australian military history, the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history. The Australians suffered 5,533 casualties in one night. The Australian toll at Fromelles was equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam War put together. It was a staggering disaster. And this catastrophic attack at Fromelles - advocated and orchestrated by a British corps commander - had no redeeming tactical justification whatsoever. It was, in the words of a senior participant, Brigadier General H.E. "Pompey" Elliott, a "tactical abortion".

The truth behind this event, like a lot of the First World War campaigns, was that it was a fiasco that was covered up initially and reported as an important raid in which 140 German prisoners were taken - when in reality thousands of troops died (and 400 captured) in a pointless and needless exercise that was originally planned as a feint to draw German support away from the main battle at the Somme. In a word it was slaughter and the British and Australian troops were cannon fodder.

Now here's where it gets interesting. I've been writing about Corporal A. Hitler and his paintings - including watercolours executed...hmmm maybe that's the wrong word...made on French battlefields of the First World War. Amongst the aquarelles I found a reference to a "Dressing Station, Fromelles" painting. Yep, Hitler took part in the Fromelles battle. In fact he was in a machine-gun bunker that was very nearly taken by the Australians. And he re-visited the site in 1940 when France capitulated.

I've written elsewhere about Fromelles and I've just discovered this video on YouRube -

Fromelles, First World War, Aussies, Diggers, Hitler, France

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