Gulgong RSL honours guests from Fromelles

GREETINGS FROM GULGONG: Martial Delabarre OAM and his wife Catherine, flanked by the Gulgong RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Peter Leotta and president David Henderson, on Saturday.

GREETINGS FROM GULGONG: Martial Delabarre OAM and his wife Catherine, flanked by the Gulgong RSL Sub-Branch vice-president Peter Leotta and president David Henderson, on Saturday.

The Gulgong RSL Sub-Branch honoured a visit by special guests all the way from France on Saturday, Martial Delabarre OAM and his wife Catherine, the man who played a key role in the rediscovery of Australian and British soldiers who died in the 1916 Fromelles battle.

The organisation held a ceremony and dinner to commemorate the visit by Mr Delabarre, whose spent most of his trip to Australia in major centres.

Mr Delabarre grew up near the former battlefields of Fromelles and during his regular visits would find and collect numerous artifacts from the freshly ploughed soil.

He would go onto to be a part of the establishment of an Association to remember those of the Allied armies who fought around his village, which led to working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

His local knowledge was utilised in the mission to locate missing Australians at Fromelles and Pheasant Wood following enquiries made about the possibility of mass graves which were located in 2008.

This also saw him awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

A century after the battle Mr Delabarre is in Australia and on Saturday in Gulgong he said that he’s always made to feel welcome in this country on the other side of the world which shares this link with his.

“Coming to Australia, I’ve been here four times, is fantastic because for a long time I always imagined what the soldiers left behind when they joined the army,” he said.

“When they joined the Cooee Marches and the Kookaburra Marches, recruiting in villages, and seeing what they left for the war in Europe to fight for democracy, liberty and freedom all the way in France.

“It’s a way to imagine where and how these soldiers lived.

“Everywhere we’ve gone we’ve been welcomed by all the people that we meet, I’ve been very touched by it, like here.

“We can share the big links of friendship between our two nations and today [at the ceremony] with the French flag and with national anthem it’s a great honour for myself and my country and I’m very proud to represent it here.”

Mr Delabarre has been instrumental in the building of a new, larger museum to house the myriad of artefacts, at Pheasant Wood.

Following the discovery of mass graves at the site the first 75 bodies were identified through DNA testing and were ceremoniously re-interred with full military honours in a new cemetery in 2010.

During this period he was closely involved with the recovery of the missing Australians.

Of the around 250 soldiers who were found so far 150 have been identified and re-interred in marked graves with new headstones inscribed with their names and messages from their decendants.

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