Crossing world to honour fallen
KINGSCLIFF man Michael Lee flew to France this week determined that the thousands of young Australians who died in the Battle of Pozieres during the First World War will finally be properly honoured.
The 100th anniversary of the battle will be commemorated at the French village later this month and Mr Lee will be on hand to help open a memorial park dedicated to the Australians from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions who died during what is recognised as one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Mr Lee, vice president of the Pozieres Remembrance Association (PRA), said almost as many Australians died in the six weeks of Pozieres as did in the eight months of Gallipoli.
Among those killed was Mr Lee's uncle, Leonard Irvine Hines, who died on the opening day of the conflict near the small village in the Somme valley.
"There were 16,000 Australians wounded and nearly 7000 killed in those few weeks," Mr Lee said.
"My uncle was killed there on July 23, 1916. He is one of the 4112 soldiers who died but were never found and are still in the fields."
A number of war memorials, including the official 1st Division Memorial, have been established near the village but Mr Lee said there is not one dedicated solely to the Australians who died in the Battle of Pozieres and that is what sparked the PRA into action.
Mr Lee said it was important to mark the sacrifices of all Australians, not just those who died in the more prominent battles.
Mr Lee said a string of donations had allowed the PRA to purchase a plot of land on the outskirts of the village and, with the support of the Pozieres community it is to be transformed into a memorial park.
Stage one of the project will be opened later this month as part of a three-day calendar of events, including an official Australian Government commemorative event, that will mark the anniversary of the battle.
As part of the commemoration Mr Lee, who has been joined on the trip by his wife Lyn, will construct a display in the park incorporating 7000 wooden crosses and 8000 knitted poppies.
"It took 12 months to knit the poppies and about eight months to make the crosses but they are over there already waiting for me to put them together in the park," Mr Lee said.
He said the crosses will honour the men killed, including the more than 4000 whose bodies have never been found.
The park is also set to feature a memorial wall with sponsors able to purchase a brick for $50.
"People can buy the brick and have a name inscribed on it and it will then be included in the wall," Mr Lee said.
The centenary commemorations will extend from July 22-24. The program will commence with a wreath laying ceremony at the 1st Division Memorial on the Friday before a light show that night.
The Pozieres Memorial Park will be opened on the Saturday with Mr Lee's installation a key feature.
To purchase a brick for inclusion in the memorial wall, visit pozieresremembered.com.au or email email@example.com.