Posted 14 October 2010 - 12:12 pm
My inbox is overflowing and the telephone has rung itself almost out of existence – and it’s been like that since Sunday morning!
Well, what can I say? Peter’s talk (which he dedicated to the late Robin Corfield) was absolutely amazing, as always. Even those of us who had heard him talk before on this subject (the Records of the Red Cross) were still spellbound and the addition of even more information and images made it something not to be missed. It was the perfect occasion for the launch of our new association and I shall be eternally grateful to Peter for allowing us to hijack his day.
By comparison, my presentation must have seemed scrappy and amateurish, but I think that it, and the lists of Fromelles casualties (1915 and 1916), must have had some effect on those who were listening and watching. By the end of Saturday evening, we had been given more than £1,200 in donations.
It was an incredibly emotional day. I’ve made a number of speeches over the last few years and given several talks in which I’ve outlined the British involvement at Fromelles and the high scale of loss, but I’ve never before had to struggle with my emotions. When I began to detail the fate of some of our young boys, I honestly thought that I would break down.
A huge “thank you” to everyone who helped to arrange the exhibition pieces. There’s nothing quite like working against the clock. I suppose that, under the circumstances, lunch was never going to happen, but I have this very strange memory of wandering through the main hall, carrying a union jack, an Australian flag thrown (rather fetchingly) over one shoulder and clutching a piece of buttered bara brith.
A very special “thank you” to Martin and Judy Willoughby (Dorset & South Wilts WFA) who have adopted our cause as their own and their willingness to do anything to help was very evident on Saturday. They went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the whole day went as smoothly as possible and it certainly did that. This wonderful branch of the WFA is an example of how much support can be gained and this was proved with their donation to the British Memorial Association, Fromelles of £500!
Our own Marc Thompson (my right-hand man) surpassed himself once again and seemed to be in several different places at once, organising everything from seating to PA systems!
We were able to welcome Fromelles relatives from all over the UK – and Belgium! Michelle did a thousand-mile round trip, Liz nearly six hundred! Paul Smith was there from Warwickshire, Keith and Ros Miller from Essex, Fenella Tillier (Famous Fenella, our auctioneer) from Buckinghamshire, Richard Ankerson from Gloucestershire and Mark Vent from Essex. It was so good to see some familiar Fromelles faces from the Forum: Glen Phillips (who has been volunteered as our Australian Representative!), Steve Beeby and Mick Forsyth. It was particularly rewarding to see Peter Barton finally get the opportunity to publicly thank Mick for his fantastic work in translating the German documentation. It was also very good to meet Howard Eastcott and Colin Farlow and put faces to names.
The hall and car park were full to overflowing and I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough of the fizzy stuff to go around when it came to toasting the new association, but, fortunately, there was. I’d managed to lay my hands on some rather special British “champagne”. French champagne didn’t seem quite right for the purpose ……………
All in all, an incredible day brought to a wonderful close at a celebratory dinner in Romsey. Lots of work to be done, details to be finalised and a huge fund-raising campaign to be got under way, but we’ve made a start and if these last few days are anything to go by, the money will be found.