Today's Honour Roll

Today's Honour Roll recognizes 1298 Australians who fell on this day in history.
See Full List
Name Date of Death Conflict
SLOCKWITCH, Anthony 19 Jul 1916 World War 1
PHILLIPS, Edwin John 19 Jul 1916 World War 1
LAWSON, Samuel 19 Jul 1916 World War 1
SHINE, Henry Frank (Francis) 19 Jul 1916 World War 1
LANE, Thomas Arthur 19 Jul 1916 World War 1

Fromelles Project

Warren Melling

Over the past few months, one of our volunteers, Warren Melling, has done an amazing amount of work researching and filling out the details for all those members of the Australian Imperial Force who were killed on the first day of the Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916.

Warren enlisted in the Army in 1994 and is a veteran of East Timor and the Iraq War. In the past year he has come on as one of our incredible volunteers.

The battle of Fromelles was a bloody initiation to warfare for Australian soldiers who were fighting on the Western Front. Soldiers of the newly arrived 5th Australian Division, together with the British 61st Division, were ordered to attack strongly fortified German front line positions near the Aubers Ridge in French Flanders. The attack was intended as a feint to hold German reserves from moving south to the Somme where a large Allied offensive had begun on 1 July. The feint was a disastrous failure. Australian and British soldiers assaulted over open ground in broad daylight and under direct observation and heavy fire from the German lines

The result has been described as the worst 24 hours in Australian military history. You can visit over a thousand of the profiles HERE.

Thank you for this great set of work, Warren. You can read Warren's account of this project below.

Men of the 53rd Battalion waiting to don their equipment for the attack at Fromelles.

Fromelles Project - By Warren Melling

On the 19th July 2023, my 7 year old son Isaac came to me with his latest library book. It was about the Battle of Fromelles, quite a deep subject for a young bloke but he seemed interested.

After reading the first chapter he asked me to look up some names on the VWMA so he could see their tribute profiles. We looked up the first one but noticed his profile had yet to be completed, so together we started adding in the information, it seemed easy and a cool thing to do together.

Then we looked up the second and third and so on, but I quickly noted that these tribute profiles were yet to be completed as well. So we went to the start of the list, ABBOTT David Roylestone Leslie, and we started there, 19th July 1916.

I didn't really know that much about the Battle of Fromelles, I still don't to be honest, but I figured with around 1200 KIA on the first day I would learn about the people that fought there on that hellish day in 1916. I was soon shocked, appalled, amazed, inspired, humoured, saddened and that was just the end of the first page of 50 names, there was still 26 pages to go.

Over the coming months when I would have my boys with me, Isaac would say "Let’s do some soldiers Dad". We got to spend some valuable time together, while adding to the number of competed tribute profiles, he would type, honing his skills on the keyboard and spelling as a bonus. An all-round win.

As the time went by, I became obsessed, spending countless hours compiling information, reading documents and learning the stories of these soldiers. It went from a simple fill in the blank profiles, to much, much, more. I started to see how the VWMA actually works, how all this information can be used by future generations and even started to ask questions about how it might be used to see things we might not have even thought of yet. It’s a very powerful tool now, but has so much more potential.

I began to assess the quality of information we were adding, I wanted this to be as close to a complete piece of data related to all the dead from a single day of a battle. I have been told that this is the first project of its kind to be completed for the VWMA but I could see that the more information that is added gives a more complete picture of what happended on that day and its impact. We started to trace family connections, brothers and sisters, cousins or fathers and mothers, mates that served with them, their children that would serve in World War 2, Korea and in some cases grandchildren in Vietnam.

A bigger picture of the people who served began to appear, the A.I.F while made up of "Australians", in reality was made up of many different nationalities who came together as part of a fledgling Australian identity. These included, English, English(2), Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Belgian, Dutch, New Zealand, Englishman born in India, Polish /Russian, South African, Norwegian, Mauritian /Australian, Danish, American, Canadian, Aboriginal /German, Swiss, Egyptian /Australian, German /Australia and natural born 1st and 2nd generation Australians.

Age demographics were also very interesting and showed how A.I.F recruiting of the day was willing to turn a blind eye to almost anything from a 14 year old Private James Gordon at enlistment to 54 year old Private Duncan McPherson, a Boxer Rebellion veteran being killed on the 19th July 1916, there was no discrimination, if you could fight and met the minimum criteria you would be accepted.

While the 19th and 20th were Australia's darkest day militarily in overall losses, this single 24-hour period also ripped apart family's back home with 20 sets of siblings being killed in action on the same day, 1 father and son pair, and a further 5 sets of siblings with one killed on the 19th and the other passing of wounds soon after. Many killed on the 19th had other siblings killed during World War 1 and World War 2. Of all the siblings who were killed on this day, the story of Private Robert Charles Miller and Private William Henry Miller brothers hit the hardest. After going over the top William was the first to fall, Robert ran to his brothers aid and was then gunned down by machine gun fire, they died in each other’s arms.

While not war related, an interesting correlation I started to recognise was the infant mortality of late 1800's early 1900's Australia. In some cases, families might face 50% or more mortality of their children. I understood infant mortality was an issue, but this really showed through while tracing the family ties and was quite stark.

The individuals who fought and died on this day have many amazing stories to tell, unfortunately I can't possibly tell them all here, but I will lead you to some of the ones that caught my eye.

Second Lieutenant John Charles Bowden, while his body was never found, his service file is the reason why they were able to locate the forgotten soldiers of Pheasant Wood.

CSM John Conway, an Irish Warhorse that served with distinction with the A.I.F as well.

Lance Corporal Edgar Charles Holmes, the prize-winning educator soldier.

Private William Lewis Laing, his parents never gave up hope the military had made a mistake about their son being killed at Fromelles.

Private John William Lancaster, his son would go on to serve in World War 2 and then become the 3rd Director of the Australian War Memorial. Major William Ronald Lancaster's, son Sapper Ross Adrian Lancaster would go on to serve for Australia in Vietnam.

Private Charles Henry Layton, came from a founding family of the Richmond Football Club, with his father playing in Richmond’s first ever VFA game in 1885

Captain Spencer Edward Maxted, joined as a digger, became a Chaplain, was killed while bandaging up the wounded on the front in the thick of it during the attack.

Private John McCook, on page 22 of his service file is the last letter to his parents indicating what he would like done in the event he was killed.

Private Walter O'Malley Miles, father never gave up looking for his son, even contacted the Countess of Harrowby for assistance.

Private Albert Edward Mitchell, his mother expresses the loss of her son has left her in sorrow, little did she know another son would soon be dead also because of the war.

Private's James Parsons Murphy and James Thomas Murphy. Father and son killed on the same battlefield within 24 hours, a family forever torn apart.

Private David Charles Cook. Died 2 days before his 17th birthday.

CSM Edward Alfred Bassett, a 20-year-old Company Sergeant Major.

Sergeant Ernest Davey Morshead, younger brother to Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead.

Some of the people mentioned in this article.

These are merely a snapshot of those killed in action on the 19th July 1916. There are 1180 KIA (1204 in total) stories that need to be remembered, told and learned from, we promised we would remember and with this I hope we have.

On the 20th July 2024 Isaac and I will begin the next group from the 20th July 1916, we will let you know what we find in 2025.

Note from the VWMA Team: if anyone reading this story is interested in adopting a project like Warren's, please contact us at: [email protected]