It seems hard to believe, but another year has gone by in our efforts for the Men of Pozieres. We have now been on this journey for 4 years, and it feels to be never ending.
We leave 2017 with mixed feelings as to what we managed to achieve.
When we first started on this effort, we thought that it would be easy to sell 7000 bricks at $50 a brick to fund the basic Park. We had scaled back from original plans and many items had to be put aside – no Interpretative Centre, no Memorial Wall of the names of the Men killed at Pozieres – but at least we would have purchased the land that so many of our Men still lie in, and laid a series of gardens over their resting place.
They would never be disturbed again.
With the attitude of Australians to our Fallen, the fact that there is 1500 RSL Sub Branches Australia wide with over 240,000 Members and over 55,000 Members of our Armed Forces I thought that 7000 bricks could be sold in a year. I was so wrong.
The Government had declared the period 2015 – 2018 to be the Centenary of the ANZAC years, but this got scrapped in 2016 when it should have been the Centenary of Pozieres. The Government amended it to be the 50th Anniversary of Long Tan, and Pozieres did not rate a mention. In 2018, the Government has returned to the Centenary Years, and commemorated this year will be Villers-Bretonneux.
As Pozieres has never been commemorated in Australia (with one exception) and is not taught in our schools, it is no wonder that 90% of the people we speak to have never heard of it, and this is a disgrace.
Pozieres is the greatest loss of life ever in Battle for Australia. 1 in 8 of every Man that died in WW1 and 1 in 12 of all Men that have died in War for Australia died at Pozieres. 1/3rd of all our Fallen missing in France still lie in the fields of Pozieres.
Again, we spent a lot of time on the road telling Australians about Pozieres and seeking support for what we are doing. We managed to achieve some great moments including the sponsorship of Jet Couriers Australia and Firths the Compensation Lawyers in Sydney. The Melbourne Storm have continued with their support and consider us to be part of the Storm Family.
But it has not been all good times. Since we started this Project, we have been abused by people who should know better, been the targets of anonymous hate mail, and the last straw for me was the day I was spat on.
For a long period I felt like a failure, I had failed the Men of Pozieres and failed those of you who have supported us. I was ashamed that I could not do more to see that these Men finally got the recognition that both they and their families deserved. For a long time I was depressed and angry.
Thankfully I had great friends who set me straight. It took guys like Tommy Hess, Tony Fryer, the Members of Merrylands RSL and many others to sit me down and remind me to focus of what I had achieved rather than what I had failed to do. They reinforced the fact that I had not failed the Men – these Men had been failed by others that should have been honouring them.
I can only say to Tommy and the others a big thank you for making me wake up to myself.
In addition I have to thank Von for not only putting up with me during the bad times, but encouraging me to go on when I know that at times she would have preferred to happily kill me.
Well – what have we achieved ???
We have paid for all the land so the final resting place of these Men will be protected for all time.
Bernard has provided a drawing of what the Park will look like when it is opened on 23rd July this year (see below). You will see that the Old German Trench 2 (OG2) runs right through the Park, and as this was the site of major fighting it will be prominently featured in he Park planning.
There will be over 40 rose gardens in the Park, and the bricks will finally get the names placed on them so future visitors will be able to find their brick.
There will be benches so people can sit and rest as they visit, and information about our Men awarded the VC at Pozieres, Aboriginal soldiers and Australian Chinese soldiers that fought at Pozieres.
In the future we hope to have an Interpretative Centre to tell the story of the Battle, and the Memorial Wall so that family Members can visit to remember the Men that fought and died there.
Above I said that Pozieres had only been commemorated once in Australia (at a major level). The Government and people of Victoria can hold there heads high.
The only State (that I know of) that commemorated Pozieres in the Centenary (2016) was Victoria. In addition, RSL Victoria is the only RSL Organisation that fully supported our efforts, and the support from the RSL would have been abysmal if it was not for the number of Victorian Sub Branches that supported us.
AS to my own State (NSW), I can only say that I am ashamed of the response from NSW. We were supported by the NSW Government, but after that there was no good news.
The Centenary of Pozieres was not commemorated in NSW even though the State lost 1747 Men at Pozieres (685 with graves and 1062 Missing).
Two Presidents of the RSL NSW would not allow NSW Sub Branches to support us, and the latest President would not even pick up the phone to respond to any of the dozen calls I made to the Head Office.
Of the 359 RSL Sub Branches I wrote to in NSW asking for support from Members only as the Sub Branch was not allowed to support us, there was only 20 that had Members that bought bricks. They are the only Sub Branches that deserve to use the phrase “Lest We Forget”. The rest should amend their motto to “Lest We Forget the Selected Ones”
In total we managed to gain support from 107 of the 1500 RSL Sub Branches Australia wide, with almost 50% of that support coming from Victoria.
Finally, I want to thank all those that have cared about the Men of Pozieres, have worked to help protect the land in which they still rest and have offered their support both in financial and other manners.
We still have bricks to be sold and will continue on our efforts to educate Australians about Pozieres.
I ask all our readers to confirm what I have said and tell your friends about these Men. They deserve so much more than what Australia has given them to date.
For those Victorians that read this page, the Melbourne Storm have given us the 17th March Game as a fund raising day (shake a tin day) and if you want to catch up with me I will be at the Suzuki Stand out the front of the ground.
For those who are interested, following is a list of who I have approached for help in the last two years and the results – it may give you cause to think (for the actual names – go to the Memorial Park page and look at tabs on the left hand side.
I will keep you updated as I get better drawings and plans for 23rd Jul Ceremony, so please stay with us and pass the word to your friends.
Barry Gracey Chevalier Légion d’honneur
SUPPORT AUSTRALIA WIDE – AS AT 31/12/17
Melbourne Storm Football Club
Jet Couriers Australia
Firths the Compensation Solicitors
Politicians Federal 226 Seats 28
South Australia 68 seats 7
Western Australia 89 Seats 17
Tasmania 40 Seats 17
Northern Territory 25 Seats 3
New South Wales 135 Seats 8
Queensland 87 seats 16
Victoria 28 Seats 17
Total 572 85
South Australian Government on behalf of the Soldiers from South Australia
NSW Government on behalf of the Soldiers from New South Wales
RSL Sub Branches
South Australia 137 (includes NT) 5
Western Australia 130 3
Tasmania 54 Sub Branches 3
Northern Territory See South Australia 1
New South Wales 359 Sub Branches 20 – See Note 1
Queensland 242 Sub Branches 26
Victoria 230 Sub Branches 49
Total 1500 87 Plus 20 NSW
Note 1. RSL NSW Barred Sub Branches from supporting us. This support is from Individuals at 20 Sub Branches
Note 2. I asked all State Executives to send the support request to all Sub Branches. The RSL lists that there are 1500 Sub Branches Australia wide. Level of support therefore is 87 from 1500 which is a support level of 0.58%
VIP’s- Rich-Influential 90 2 Responses
2 Responses signed on their behalf by a staff member – saying NO (They probably didn’t see the request)
Australian Famous Sportsmen/Women 50 Nil
Australian Famous Entertainers 50 1 (Scotty Cam)
Major Australian Companies 240 1 (Suzuki Aust)
Companies that contract to Defence 157 Nil
Suzuki Dealers 90 3
Licensed Golf Clubs NSW VIC QLD 201 Nil
Licensed Bowls Clubs NSW VIC QLD 164 Nil
Licensed Sailing Clubs NSW QLD 60 NIL
Licensed League Clubs NSW QLD 71 Nil
Licensed RSL Clubs NSW QLD VIC 101 4 (NSW 1, VIC 1, QLD 2)
League and Community Clubs 60 Nil
Military 55,000 approx Army 84 Navy 30 RAAF 23 Total 137
CFMEU QLD NO REPLY On Behalf Miners/builders who served at Pozieres
CFMEU NSW NO REPLY On Behalf Miners/builders who served at Pozieres
CFMEU VIC NO REPLY On Behalf Miners/builders who served at Pozieres
Queensland Law Society NO REPLY (See Below)
Law Society NSW NO REPLY (32 Members VIC/NSW at Pozieres)
Law Institute of Victoria NO REPLY (32 Members VIC/NSW at Pozieres)
Solicitors Firms 602 (Companies Page) 8 (1 Sponsor)