Killing fields of Fromelles
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