The morning was crisp and cool as the villagers and all the Aussies made their way to the ceremony.
The crowd swelled as the ceremony commenced with Mayor Bernard DeLattre outlining his vision for the Pozieres Memorial Park and the story behind the Mayor’s Windmill project. The Mayor praised Barry and Yvone Gracey and the Pozieres Remembrance Association for their support of Pozieres and how important it will be to retain these grounds as a memorial park given that so many Australians lie here. He also praised Mr Yves Pottard of the Digger Cote 160 for his work with the Son et Lumiere (The Sound and Light show) which reenacted the stories of Pozieres and brought the battle to life.
The President of the Association Mr Barry Gracey gave a Remembrance service for the fallen in the fields of Pozieres with 4,112 of our Australians having a white cross laid for the first time in 100 years. The Australian, New Zealand, British, Canadian and German flags were symbolically placed on the ground. These flags would normally be placed on a soldiers coffin, however the grassed field of the Pozieres Memorial Park represents the thousands of coffins of the fallen that were never found. Father Keith Dalby blessed the land and gave a touching memorial to the Fallen. There was a wreath laying ceremony including flowers laid representing the three Australian Services and those RSL’s across Austalia who have been strong supporters.
Each family present with relatives lost at Pozieres laid flowers and collected their named cross as a memento of the solemn occasion.
Barry told the story of the famous Captain Margett’s cross which was laid by his men in the field after he was killed on 24th July 1916. This became a famous iconic image of Pozieres desolate landscape during the Battle with the single white cross. Soon after being laid in 1916, the cross was destroyed, but the large white cross stood proudly in the Memorial Park with a wreath of knitted poppies attached. Descendants of Captain Margett laid flowers and were present at the event.
During the ceremony, Australian gum leaves from the “Dog on Tuckerbox” location were symbolically burnt on a mini BBQ so our troops could remember the smell of home. Soil from Australia was also laid for the fallen.
The lone piper played on top of the Windmill site and it was very poignant moment as Barry read the Ode to the Fallen.
The backdrop of the 7,000 crosses in the rising sun design with Margetts cross and all the flags and flowers in the foreground made for a fitting Australian service for the 100 year commemoration of the commencement of the Battle of Pozieres. As the war historian Charles Bean wrote “the Pozieres ridge at the Windmill is a site “more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”.
The Pozieres Memorial Park now officially opened surrounds the Windmill site and it will now be forever kept as a peaceful reflective place to honour those that died in the Battle of Pozieres.
The day after the inauguration of the park and the ABC televised Australian Government Pozieres Remembrance service at the Australian First Division Memorial in Pozieres, the Pozieres Memorial Park was filled with bus loads of tourists seeing the work of our many Australian volunteers. Incredible to think that this was achieved with no government funding and only the donations and support of so many Australian individuals, companies and RSL sub-branches from across Australia. We thank everyone who has supported this project and we hope you will continue to support it as the memorial park progresses. We are so proud that this Memorial Park is becoming a reality.
LEST WE FORGET