20 July 2016

The Battle of Fromelles

This is the gravestone of Amy Selina Weiss née Blanch, and Walter Herbert Weiss, her husband, in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. The gravestone also commemorates three of their sons - Frederick Albert Weiss and Erle Victor Weiss, who both were killed in action in World War 1, plus Harry Blanch Weiss, a POW in World War 2, who died while working on the Thai Burma Railway.

I am focusing here on Frederick Albert Weiss because he died in the Battle of Fromelles, which took place 100 years ago. Fromelles is a small village in France which, in 1916, was behind German lines. On the evening of July 19 1916 Australian and British forces attacked the German forces at Fromelles. By 8am the next morning the Allied forces withdrew, after the loss or wounding of some 5500 Australian and 1500 British soldiers. 

Private Frederick Albert Weiss, service number 3578A, was born at Anna Bay, NSW, in 1892, the second child and eldest son of Amy and Walter Weiss. Like his father, Fred was a school teacher - at the time of his enlistment he was an associate teacher at West Wyalong Public School, where his father was the headmaster.

He joined up at age 22 and he embarked for The Front in September 1915. After spending some time in northern Africa, Fred arrived in Marseilles on 28 June 1916. He was killed less than a month later on July 19th. An eyewitness from his battalion, Percy Dickson, stated that Fred was shot in the stomach, and then was probably blown up by the enemy's heavy shelling. They were unable to retrieve his body at the time due to the shelling. He was officially listed as missing in action on July 28, and this was updated to killed in action on September 2, 1917. His body was never recovered. DNA testing is being carried out on remains found in mass graves at Fromelles, and DNA from two Weiss family members has been submitted.

I am pleased that yesterday a close relative of mine was able to visit VC Corner at Fromelles, where Fred is officially commemorated, on the 100th anniversary of his death to pay her respects.


  1. Prue, were there any other children in that family, or were the three boys the whole of that generation?

  2. Thankfully there were nine children in all, but I'm sure you would agree that to lose three to war would still be heartbreaking.

  3. Thanks. Yes, still heartbreaking.

  4. I was interested to read about Erle Victor's brother. Fromelles was a bloodbath...one of our family died there too. I'm pleased your relative was able to be there to remember him.