At 6pm on 19 July 1916, the 5th Australian Division clambered out of their trenches and advanced on the German position.
Many, undoubtedly, would have been afraid. Yet on they pressed. For true courage is found not in the absence of fear, but in facing it.
A seven hour preparatory bombardment had deprived the allied forces of the element of surprise without diminishing the strength of the German forces. The machine gun fire was fierce, the carnage unimaginable.
By 8am the following morning, the Battle of Fromelles was over. More than 5500 Australians lay wounded or dead. A dreadful toll that dwarfed the German and British casualties.
And Fromelles was only the beginning.
A few days later, a few miles away, more than 5000 Australians from the 1st Division would be injured or killed at Pozieres.
In the words of Lance-Corporal Archie Barwick:
"It was something awful, for we were out in the open and unprotected and men fell fast as rain ..."
When 2nd Division came to relieve the 1st they sustained more than 6800 casualties before first week of August was over.
In a few short weeks on the other side of the world, tens of thousands of lives were fractured forever.
Fathers, sons and brothers lost to their families. Still at rest beneath white crosses in foreign fields. Thousands more who came home changed beyond understanding by what they had seen and endured.
A century on, there is no-one among us who can speak first-hand of Fromelles or Pozieres. Even those left to grow old, have left us.
Yet today we declare again that their deaths were not in vain, that their sacrifice still carries a meaning for all of us who call Australia home.
We dedicate ourselves anew to our nation’s oldest, most sacred national promise. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
Lest we Forget.
TUESDAY, 19 JULY 2016