Australian dead of the First World War are everywhere in France – 33,205 named and un-named are buried in hundreds of cemeteries, listed on memorials to the missing, or just lost in the verdant fields.

Bullecourt 1917 : The night is dark, and I am far from home.

Driving from the stunning Museum of the Great War at Meaux (not far from Paris, opened in 2011) to Fromelles via Bullecourt in July 2014, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission sign beckoned. Vraucourt Copse Cemetery. A few hundred metres up a one-way track, there is a small cemetery with 98 burials – 33 Australian and 65 British soldiers. They are among the 10,000 Australian and 9,000 British casualties of the two battles at Bullecourt in April and May 1917.

Private Albert Parkinson of the 12th Field Ambulance a 25 year old furniture salesman from North Fitzroy is there. He was killed on 11 April 1917 in the first battle of Bullecourt. He was one of seven soldiers killed by a German shell while working with the 13th Battalion doctor, Captain Norman Shierlaw who is buried next to him. Shierlaw had been awarded a Military Cross for looking after the wounded for two days and nights under heavy fire earlier in 1917.

Albert Parkinson’s father John requested this despairing inscription for his son’s headstone – ‘the night is dark, and I am far from home.’


Vraucourt Copse Parkinson

The night is dark and I am far from home



Read the rest of this entry »