Ipswich support for campaign to remember Pozieres sacrifice

SOLDIER’S KIT: Phil Gilbert accepts the trenching tool from Barry Gracey. The First World War relic is from the battlefield at Pozieres.
SOLDIER’S KIT: Phil Gilbert accepts the trenching tool from Barry Gracey. The First World War relic is from the battlefield at Pozieres. Inga Williams

IPSWICH has acquired a relic from the battlefield of one of the bloodiest exchanges of the First World War.

The Ipswich RSL Sub-branch's support for the Pozieres Remembrance Association, and its mission to put the spotlight on the devastation of the key stage of the Battle of the Somme, will hopefully contribute to the construction of a permanent memorial to the 7000 Australians who lost their lives on that cold, muddy battlefield in 1916.

The man behind the cause, Barry Gracey, said Pozieres was one of the forgotten battles of the war, even though it involved one of the greatest losses of Australian lives in a relatively short space of time.

"Australia lost 7000 men in six weeks, with 16,000 wounded," Mr Gracey said.

"Out of those 7000 killed, 4000 where never found.

Although Pozieres received widespread acknowledgement in the time immediately after the war, Mr Gracey said it had fallen almost completely from public consciousness in subsequent years.

"Pozieres was much shorter in duration than Gallipoli, but there were almost as many Australian deaths," he said.

"The fact that they didn't find 4000 of the bodies gives you an indication of how bad a battle it was. Most of those men would have been killed by artillery fire."

Mr Gracey's campaign to bring attention back to the sacrifice of the men killed has taken him back to the small farming area of France nine times in the past decade.

He has lobbied far and wide for his cause but, having received little support from official sources, has decided to raise money to build a memorial at the site.

The Ipswich RSL Sub-branch responded to a call for individuals and organisations to "buy a brick" for the cause. As a reward, Mr Gracey presented sub-branch president Phil Gilbert with a trenching tool, which he said had been dug up from the battlefield.

The tool will be displayed in the sub-branch's Memorial Hall museum, alongside an Australian bayonet that was donated by Mr Gracey last year.

His campaign to sell all 7000 bricks required has a long way to go, with only 500 sold so far.

"Ipswich is one of the few to support us," Mr Gracey said.

Ipswich war researcher Eddie Habben said he was aware of 22 men from the region who lost their lives during the main two-week period of the Pozieres battle - from July 23 until August 7, 1916.

"However, there could be many more as I have not had a chance to produce a roll of honour for the men who appear on honour boards around Ipswich," Mr Habben said.

Topics:  first world war ipswich rsl services club

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