Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has written to the Prime Minister requesting July 23 be recognised across the country as Pozieres Day, to commemorate the WWI battle.
The campaign to take the French village of Pozieres began 101 years ago as part of the larger battle of the Somme, which had started at the beginning of July, 1916. Over seven weeks, there were 23,000 Australian casualties, including nearly 7,000 young soldiers killed. By comparison, 8,000 Australians died at Gallipoli, from 26,000 casualties, over eight months. It prompted Australian war historian CW Bean to famously write that Pozieres “was more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on Earth”.
Mr McGowan said the enormous loss of Australian lives at Pozieres should better be remembered. “Gallipoli is very prominent, Long Tan day is prominent, Remembrance Day is prominent, but the most difficult, bloody, destructive battle Australians ever fought in, of course, is fading from memory,” he said. John Burridge’s great uncle, Arthur Gordon Pearce, was wounded at Pozieres, soon after one of his brothers was killed at the battle of Fromelles. He never recovered, and Mr Burridge said he eventually took his own life. “He was a post traumatic stress bloke,” Mr Burridge, who served in Vietnam, said. “It was all too much for him, losing his brother, his other brother badly gassed in Hamel.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Peter Tinley, a former SAS Major, said a national day to commemorate Pozieres would not only serve to remember those who lost their lives in battle, but also to support veterans today amid ongoing high suicide rates. “The fundamental importance of commemoration is that so the entire civil community of Australia, and particularly Western Australia, can undertake that which is needed to support the living as well as commemorate the dead,” Mr Tinley said.
The Premier said next year would be fitting to begin marking Pozieres day, 100 years after the end of WWI.