Opened in 2014, almost a century after the tragic battle that it was built to commemorate, the Museum of the Battle of Fromelles is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the First World War.

A British and Australian military operation which took place on the Western Front on the 19 to 20 July 1916, near the Belgium border town of Lille, the Fromelles battle could be considered one of the most tragic events in Australia’s history. “It was a manoeuvre to keep the German army busy during the Allied offensive on The Somme, but it was a terrible failure,” explains Gautier Jacmaire, the museum’s assistant director.

The troops were decimated during the battle and many of the bodies remained missing. Then, in 2009, researchers discovered a communal grave near Fromelles in an area known as Pheasant Wood and the fallen soldiers were reburied in a purpose-built cemetery.

Housed in a purpose-built, intentionally sober concrete building, the Museum of the Battle of Fromelles, which also has a well-stocked book shop and a small cafeteria, tells visitors the full story of the battle. “There’s a large map that show how the battle unfolded and there are reconstructions showing life in the trenches,” the museum’s assistant director explains. “Through the use of DNA tests, 166 of the soldiers have been identified so far – for me, the most fascinating area of the gallery is the wall covered in photos of these soldiers,” he adds.

Guided tours can combine both a visit to the museum and the cemetery.

Museum of the Battle of Fromelles

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