Killing fields of Fromelles

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Western Front: Last Sur­vivors Tell All,

Western Front: Last Sur­vivors Tell All Nar­rated by Jack Thomp­son in that lovely, sonorous voice that al­ways evokes Henry Law­son’s bush he­roes, this land­mark film com­mem­o­rates the cen­te­nary of one of Aus­tralia’s worst bat­tles, Fromelles.

Here, 10 World War I vet­er­ans de­scribe how thou­sands of young Aus­tralians were killed in one day, in their first Western Front bat­tle, when Bri­tish gen­er­als or­dered them to charge in broad day­light across flat fields to­wards Ger­man ma­chine­gun­ners.

Many were left stranded for days in no man’s land, cry­ing for help.

The doc­u­men­tary is based on mil­i­tary his­to­rian Jonathan King’s 2008 book The Western Front Diaries and in­cludes footage he shot with th­ese brave men in the late 1990s for a dif­fer­ent pro­ject.

Th­ese bru­tally hon­est old warriors, some of whom en­listed at 16, tell hor­ror sto­ries about the ter­ri­ble deaths of their com­rades and bat­tle­field bungling and blood­shed that will make you gasp in shock, mak­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing footage, faded and dream­like, even more har­row­ing.

And this cat­a­strophic at­tack at Fromelles — ad­vo­cated and or­ches­trated by a Bri­tish corps com­man­der — had no re­deem­ing tac­ti­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion what­so­ever.

Jack Lock­ett, one of King’s sub­jects, says of the bat­tle, “What the colonels and that done was real mur­der. Ab­so­lutely mur­der. You know, when they sent them over like a swarm of bees.”

In its hon­est, un­adorned fash­ion this fine piece of archival his­tory is a cel­e­bra­tion of mate­ship, courage and en­durance, the demo­cratic qual­ity of Aus­tralian mil­i­tary service, and heroic self­sac­ri­fice. 7.30pm, His­tory (611) Tues­day,

Great War vet­eran Ted Matthews; is based on a book by mil­i­tary his­to­rian Jonathan King

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.