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  • Lost Diggers of Fromelles, The
  • Lost Diggers of Fromelles, The

Lost Diggers of Fromelles, The

SKU: SG727
    Until recently the Battle of Fromelles has been little known to most Australians – even though it was the first time Australians fought on the Western Front, and was probably the bloodiest single day in Australia's military history. It was a staggering disaster that should never have happened. Not one inch of ground had been gained.

    In one night, 5533 Australian soldiers were killed, wounded, taken prisoner of war or went missing – more than the total casualties in the Boer, Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

    For almost a century, over 1600 bodies remained missing from the battle. Now in an astonishing discovery, 250 of these men – mostly Australian – have been discovered in five unmarked graves on the outskirts of the quiet village of Fromelles, in northern France. It's the single largest discovery of World War One dead in modern times.

    But ninety-four years after the battle, 250 of the Australian and British soldiers who died at Fromelles were re-buried in a new war cemetery – the first new Commonwealth War Cemetery created in over fifty years.

    The Lost Diggers of Fromelles (Janine Hosking, 2010) is a 46-minute documentary about this battle, and the search to recover the remains and identities of those missing Australian and British soldiers from that battle.

    It shows how the mystery of the missing diggers was unravelled by Lambis Englezos, a Melbourne schoolteacher and amateur historian who spent five years of painstaking detective work locating the mass graves. With the help of British historian Peter Barton he found evidence that the Germans buried the Allied dead behind their lines at a place called Pheasant Wood. The hundreds of decomposing bodies left on the battlefield were a certain disease risk, and the Germans had no choice but to bury their enemy with speed and efficiency. They piled the bodies on a light railway and brought them to the pits they had specially dug at Pheasant Wood. They would lay there, undetected, for almost a century.

    Through extraordinary forensic science and newly unearthed historical records, the film tells the unique story of the soldiers who have been carefully exhumed, and tracks down some of the living descendants – people who, nearly a century later, are trying to find resolution to a loss that only a marked grave can bring.

    The archaeologists uncover poignant keepsakes found with the bodies – a heart-shaped leather pouch, a return train ticket, an engraved matchbox. Every fragment recovered is a vital piece of evidence that could reveal a soldier's identity. Those who are positively identified are reburied with their own named headstone in a new Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Fromelles – the first to be built in fifty years.

    The Bavarian military archives in Munich holds extensive records that recount in startling detail the true events of the battle. Recorded, with an astonishing degree of diligence, is the exact location where individual soldiers fell on the battlefield, the detailed accounts of interrogated prisoners and intercepted intelligence.

    Through these historical records, along with poignant family archive, DNA testing and military forensics, the film pieces together the truth behind the Battle of Fromelles, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

    Curriculum Applicability

    The Lost Diggers of Fromelles is a resource that can be used in

    • History/Society and Environment
    • Media studies.

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