On 19 July 1916, in the northern French village of Fromelles, Australia suffered its worst-ever military defeat when a British officer ordered 15,000 of our best and bravest to go over the top and attack the German lines. Eight hours later, more than 5500 Diggers lay dead or wounded: the equivalent of all Australian casualties from the Boer, Korean and Vietnam wars combined. In addition, some 400 of our boys were taken prisoner, but almost 200 vanished and remain missing to this day.
Running messages and dodging bullets behind German lines was a 27-year-old Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler. The battle left its mark on him: Fromelles was the first place he returned to in 1940 when the German Army marched back into France.
Fromelles ranks as Australia's worst military disaster, yet it barely rates a mention in our history books and is absent from our war memorials. What happened to the Diggers who mysteriously disappeared? Why did our generals collude with the British government to cover up the catastrophe? And why has it been left to a Melbourne schoolteacher, a French mayor and a cast of amateur sleuths to initiate a search for the missing, while for 90 years officials in Britain and Australia have sat on their hands?
In an enthralling mix of detective story and passionate historical retelling, Patrick Lindsay travels from Canberra to London to the killing fields of northern France in his quest to honour our fallen, and unravel one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of World War I.
- Publication Date:
- 15 / 08 / 2009
- 162 x 241mm