On July 19, 1916, Australian soldiers participated in their first significant operation at the Western Front, near the French village of Fromelles. It was a disaster, with 5533 Australians becoming casualties in one night. Our casualty toll at Fromelles is equivalent to our total casualties in the Boer War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War put together.
It was not just the worst night in Australian military history. Tomorrow [19 July] is the 90th anniversary of the most tragic 24 hours in Australia's entire history.
The Fromelles fiasco lacked the slightest redeeming tactical justification. It was conceived as a feint. The idea was to deter the Germans from transferring units from Fromelles to the Somme. But the plan was gravely flawed.