What A Retirement Project!

Photo: Laura Goodsell

Do you have a retirement project? What if you retire from the military after 28 years?   If you are like Barry Gracey, you have a project to keep yourself busy….very busy, in fact. The former Warrant Officer (Class 2), is involved with ‘Pozières  Remembered’. Barry became involved after the 94th Anniversary in 2010. He is currently President of the Pozières Remembrance Association, Australia.

‘Pozières  is the greatest loss of life in battle for Australia ever’.
In the six week duration of the Battle we had 7000 men killed and 16,000 wounded.
Of the 7000 killed, 4112 were never found or identified after the Battle and still lie in the lands of the Village somewhere. This is sacred land to me, and should be to all Australians’ says Barry.

Over the past 11 years, Barry has travelled to Pozières , which is located 150 kilometres to the north of Paris.  It’s not a large village.  ‘In 1916 it was a farming village of 240 people. Today it is a farming village of 238 people’, comments Barry.

Australian and French flags on two poles in a green gold with concrete posts leading to the flagpoles. This is Barry Gracey's Retirement Project
Photo: anzacportal.dva.gov.au

Australians receive a warm welcome, and are ‘treated like family’, due to the sacrifice of Australian men so long ago.  Barry describes the village as one that is not on the tourist trail, it’s fairly simple, there’s a family based concept of life, the village and its activities are ‘important to everyone’.

‘*One in 8 of every Man that died in WW1 died at Pozières
*One in 12 of every Man that has ever died in Battle for Australia died at Pozières
*The Battle is not commemorated in Australia, and is not taught in our schools.
*Even a lot of the relatives of these Men do not know that they died here. Their records showed that they died in the Fields of France, and the  Government refuses to call it the Battle for Pozières , and buries it away as part of the Battle of the Somme.
*Notably they do not do the same for Gallipoli, which under their logic should be commemorated as the Dardanelles campaign
*We always use the phrase “Lest We Forget”, and I feel that we have failed these Men if we do not remember their sacrifice’.

Poppies in a field with green trees and bushes behind them
Photo: Henry Be

But, back to the  Pozières Remembered Project.  Well, it is Barry’s project with support from others, including his wife, Von (ex- military and an accountant in a previous career) and a group of friends, including those with a military background. Von has the role of Secretary/Treasurer and there are also representatives in Queensland and South Australia.

The current Project is a Memorial Park at Pozières. Barry comments that the Australian correspondent, Charles Bean described the land they Association wants to buy as ‘the one place on Earth most densely sown in Australian sacrifice’.  In 2012 the land, which contains the bodies of many Australian men, was for sale and redevelopment. Not having support from Government, the Association decided they would buy the land.

‘Our idea is to buy the land and cover the grounds with roses and gardens to give visitors to the area a place to come and reflect on the sacrifice that all these men made for their country while ensuring that their resting places will never be disturbed again. It will not be a place of grandiose monuments because these men don’t need that. They need our protection’, says Barry.

Not even a triple by-pass heart operation stops Barry raising funds:
‘I had been going to the Anniversaries at Pozieres since 2005, and fell in love with the place.  It has a welcoming feel to the Village and the people here.
In 2014 I missed the Anniversary because I needed a triple bypass, but while recovering I found out that the Anniversary had been cancelled as the Village could not raise the money to conduct it.

I spoke to the Mayor and found out that they had no financial support from the Australian Government for the ceremony and the Village paid for it themselves.

I bought a WW1 uniform and walked 150 km up the coast of NSW carrying a bucket, and ended at the village of Pozieres in QLD
I raised $13,000 that year and I have been at it ever since. No Anniversary will ever be cancelled while I can still help.

PS: My cardiologist at the time told me that what I had done was not what she meant by getting some more exercise’

Yes….there’s just no stopping Barry!

Poppies in a field in the dawn light
Photo: Javier Canada

If you are interested in being involved with Pozières Remembered  Barry suggests there are several ways:

Go to the website: Pozières Remembered  and consider buying a brick for $50 or making a donation.
Contact: Yvonne: Pozières 1916@bigpond.com

The Association is grateful for the support to Suzuki Australia  for some financial backing and also the Melbourne Storm Football Club for remembering the Men of Pozières  each year on ANZAC Day.

For those who appreciate the fact that Suzuki Australia have helped us get to the stage where we now own the land – tell them you appreciate their support for our Fallen Soldiers
Email the  General Manager Michael Pachota  c/-  daniel_mercuri@suzuki.com.au

For those who appreciate what the Melbourne Storm Football Club do by being the only people in Australia to honour these men – tell them.
Email the CEO Mr Dave Donaghy:   info@melbournestorm.com.au 

If you are in Victoria, consider going to the Melbourne Storm ANZAC Day Match each year.   (We do and we travel from Coffs Harbour for it)

Most important of all
1.Research your own family – if you had a relative who died in France between the 23rd Jul 1916 and the 3rd September 1916 then it is most likely that they died at Pozières. If you are not sure send us the details and we will help you out    Email:  Pozières 1916@bigpond.com

2. Read up on Pozières and learn about these men that sacrificed so much. Tell your friends and family about them.

3. Stop for a moment at 11:00 am on the 23rd July each year.  For those that are religious, say a prayer for our boys,  for those who are so inclined, raise a glass and remind the Men of Pozières that we have not, and never will, forget the

If you are heading for Europe on holiday in July 2019 make an attempt to get to Pozières  for Sunday 21st July when we will be having the official opening of the Park

What a Project Barry!

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