Battle of Fromelles remembered by a Bathurst family

ON this day 100 years ago 7000 soldiers of the 5th Division were sent forward towards a cascade of death.

They were cannon fodder.

On the centenary of the Battle of Fromelles, Bathurst woman Sharynne McLeod remembered her great uncle Lance Corporal Edwin Arthur Hubbard who was killed in the fight.

There was nothing glorious about this battle, it has been described as a bloody failure and a hideous defeat.

The ghastly battle claimed 5533 Diggers in one night – 2000 of them were killed in action or died of wounds and some 400 were captured.

Edwin Arthur Hubbard, better known as Ted, was like so many others his age when he signed up to fight for King and country in the Great War at just 21 years old.

Born in Maryvale, near Wellington, on May 16, 1894, he grew up on well-known table grape producing property ‘Seatonville’.

Professor McLeod said after Ted’s essential training, he left Australia aboard the Euripides ship on November 8, 1915 with the 53rd Battalion.

What sets her great uncle’s story apart from others is that he was a dedicated letter, postcard and poem writer during his training, time aboard the ship and while deployed overseas.

Ted was one of nine children and he wrote scores of individual letters and postcards to each sibling and his parents – and they have all been kept.

“He was a very articulate and impressive young man who was going to war,” Prof McLeod said.

“He often mentioned things about home and what he fondly remembered and his friends and family from home.

“It gives great insight into the love our family had, the closeness, the bond.

“He often described what he was doing, but he never described the battles.”

Prof McLeod said it was thanks to the daughter of Ted’s youngest sister Dulcie that so much was know about him.

Marj Smith, who lives in Wellington, has extensively researched Ted’s war service, including his movements, medals and she also collated the large mass of letters that he posted home.

During her research she discovered that Ted had told Dulcie that she had lovely long hair just before he left for the Great War.

“She never cut her hair again. She was six-and-a-half when he left and she only cut it when she was 90 years old,” Prof McLeod said. 

Prof McLeod said the family was again touched by the battle when the mass grave of 250 soldiers was discovered on the Fromelles battlefield in 2008.

The find prompted DNA test of many descendants, and so far more than 140 have been identified and reburied in individual marked graves.

Unfortunately for Prof McLeod’s family Ted was not found in this grave, but she holds out hope he will eventually be found.

“They still don’t know where his body is, it’s probably under a wheat field,” she said.

He often described what he was doing, but he never described the battles.

Sharynne McLeod

Following the reburial of these 140 Australian diggers, Prof McLeod along with her husband David and their children Brendon and Jessica made the pilgrimage to the new graves in 2010 to lay flowers in honour of Ted.

“We took the flowers and photo and signed the register on behalf of the family,” she said.

“It makes me very sad to think of the loss of potential of all those young men.”

The British suffered 1547 casualties in the Battle of Fromelles, while the, German casualties were little more than around 1000.