Australian travellers have always been drawn to the World War I battlefields in France and Belgium. Whether is it a pilgrimage in search of the graves of lost relatives or simply an awareness of the place these soldiers have in our heritage, the interest has not declined with passing generations.
You have the opportunity to join a special tour of the region, accompanied by Major-General Mike O'Brien, the decorated Austraian soldier who was in charge of the Australian Fromelles Project.
Major General Mike O’Brien
CSC, BSc (Mil), MDefAdmin
With a small Army team, Major General Mike O’Brien worked with British, French and Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) officers. He was present at Fromelles throughout the investigative dig in 2009 which confirmed the presence of soldiers' remains at Pheasant Wood. He briefed government authorities on the options for the site and played a major role in the joint Australian-British decision for the full recovery and identification process. He and his team planned the contractual processes and the complex and demanding procedures for contacting potential relatives of those likely to be buried there. Their involvement also included planning for the new CWGC cemetery and the detailed ceremonial aspects of the reburial. He witnessed the commencement of the recovery of all the bodies and was the Australian Co-Chair of the Joint Identificiation Board in London.
The remains of 250 soldiers were recovered from the Pheasant Wood site and individually re-buried starting in January 2010. The last soldier was buried on the anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July, 2010. To date, over 100 Australian soldiers have been identified using DNA, historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence. The Fromelles undertaking was unique and achieved identification results far beyond expectations.
DAY 1: Somme Battlefields -
Villers Bretonneux (The Victoria School and Australian Memorial), Peronne and Mont Saint Quentin (2nd AIF div. memorial), Rancourt German cemetery, Pozieres area: Gibraltar, 1st AIF div. Memorial, Thiepval memorial to the missing 1916 battlefields.
DAY 2: Bullecourt, Arras and Fromelles –
Bapaume, Bullecourt Battlefields: the “Digger” memorial, Arras, Fromelles: new cemetery, VC corner, “Cobbers” memorial. Last Post at the Menin Gate at 8pm.
DAY 3: The Ypres salient -
Messines Ridge, Ploegsteert Wood and Toronto Avenue cemetery, Hill 60 (First Tunnelling coy. Memorial), Ypres, Polygon Wood, Passchendeale museum and “the Dug-out experience”, Tyne Cot memorial and cemetery.
NUMBERS ARE STRICTLY LIMITED TO 12 PEOPLE PER TOUR.
CONTACT US FOR TOUR DATES AND COSTS