Herbert Edward Roberts

Some of you may remember the story of Pat, the charming lady I met a year and a half ago in the Overland between Adelaide and Bordertown. For the new readers, suffice to say that she told me about her dad who died during WWI in France

Herbert Edward Roberts March-April 17

and was buried at the Villers-Bretonneux cemeteryI thus volunteered to pay a tribute if I visited the region.

It was indeed quite moving to hear about this young Australian who died saving a country so far from his. Pat never met him and if my recollection is correct, she was subsequently adopted by her mum’s second husband and has another surname. Yet a century after the end of the conflict (he was 27 when he died and she was in her infancy) she still remembered vividly his name and story.

It sounded easy enough, while travelling at the antipodes to simply go to this place unknown to me and bring a wreath of flowers. Well, easier thought than done( …and please read the epilogue as it indeed was quite a story)

First of all, although trying hard, it took me 18 months to pay my tribute…c’est la vie. Then the name is not uncommon

And thirdly there isn’t only one cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux

I wrongly assumed that I would find his grave at the Adelaide Cemetery but it proved impossible because it hosts the graves of men fallen in 1918 and Pat had told me her dad died in March-April 1918.

Let’s make it worse, my friend Robyn from Bordertown probably knows Patbut I don’t have her last name and gave Robyn a fairly brief description so we couldn’t ask for more details…

I had met a gentleman in Geneva, Pierre Deletraz who happened to be quite involved with the First World memorials and offered to help me too, but I found the answer

at the Franco-Australian Museum where the young lady in charge typed the scarce details I had and was able to print out a page which had the story I needed.

I am sorry to report there’s no grave to bring flowers to as Pat’s father died at the Battle of Arras ( a totally different location) and there’s no grave to grieve, unfortunately, just his name on the fabulous war memorial of Villers-Bretonneux

so I added a little cross on Pat’s behalf together with a message on both visitors’ books

and in the fabulous John Monash center, added his name to the video of tributes

I have to thank many people who helped me honour my promise, starting with Pat of course, and my Marc who has supported me in this endeavour from the day after I landed from my trip, the very day we met for the first time!

Thanks to my Ph.D research and even more to a fabulous Peter Jackson exhibition at the Te Papa Museum (Wellington, NZ) I was already quite sensitive to the issue and this story only confirmed my awareness and interest.

It’s hard to believe such horrors took place in such peaceful landscapes of the gorgeous Amiens region and we should all commit to remember and share these testimonies.

en mémoire des exécutions à la citadelle d’Amiens (novembre 1940- août 1944)

En mémoire du conseil municipal d’Amiens retenu en otage par les Allemands du 31 août au 3 septembre 1914.

Épilogue:

It turns up (rather logically from a chronological point of view) that Pat was actually the grand-daughter of H.E. Roberts… see the FB exchange below !

All is well that ends well… cheers Pat Faehrmann!!!!

References:

Ossuaire de Duomont

Cimetières de Villers-Bretonneux

Mémorial John Monash

Musée Franco-Australien

Site Mémoire des Hommes

The landing by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915 was Australia’s first major action of the Great War. In this campaign, and in those that followed in France, Belgium, Sinai and Palestine, the nation endured the full fury and destruction of modern warfare and suffered more than 60,000 dead. (Australian War Memorial)

Martin Parry, article dans le Point (20IV2015) sur l’Anzac et Gallipoli:

Le mot “Anzac” est un symbole national. La campagne de Gallipoli a pris des allures de légende dans l’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande d’aujourd’hui et les valeurs défendues voici 100 ans sont quasiment devenues mythiques.

PS. Je me permets d’ajouter ici le commentaire de mon ami Jean Freymond qui a parfaitement compris mon propos et l’a exprimé avec sa remarquable finesse d’esprit, l’un des plus éclairés que je connaisse:

Bien plus qu’une très très belle histoire !

Un témoignage de l’acharnement qui doit être le nôtre quand nous entendons que le souvenir de tous les disparus demeure. Devoir de mémoire et devoir d’histoire. Semences aussi qu’il nous faut répandre de sorte que les horreurs dont les êtres humains sont à la fois capables, coupables et victimes ne soient pas occultées.

De tous les coins du monde des êtres humains ont pris le chemin de l’Europe, de tous les continents, de toutes les races et religions, ayant le plus souvent à peine vingt ans, entre 1914 et 1918, par centaines de milliers, ils vinrent se faire tuer sur quelques centaines de kilomètres carrés, à peine davantage, au cours de.combats absurdes au cours desquelles les morts se comptèrent par mètres conquis ou perdus, pour être ensuite repris et reperdus.

L’Europe se retrouva exsangue. Et pourtant jour pour jour, exactement cinq ans après le funeste attentat de Sarajevo, se signe le Traité de Versailles qui porte en germe la seconde partie d’un des suicides les plus meurtriers de l’histoire, celui d’un Continent.

Il en sorti un soupçon de sagesse, les prémisses d’une belle promesse, l’Europe, aux dirigeants de laquelle il faudrait rappeler aujourd’hui ces jeunes australiens, et tous les autres de partout, héros malgré eux et à qui l’Europe doit tant, sans souvent s’en montrer digne.

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