ISBN 978-1-923156-44-9

A Veritable Hell

The 32nd Battalion at Fromelles and the families who searched for answers


‘Have passed through a night of Hell on earth. It was awful. The noise and the sights of dead and dying men… We are a very sad few. All our best pals gone. It is damnable.’

Patrick Ohlstrom, 32nd Battalion

In one terrible night in July 1916, over 5500 Australians were casualties at the Battle of Fromelles. The 32nd Battalion from South Australia and Western Australia lost over 85% of its fighting strength. Using the words of those from the 32nd Battalion who survived, the course of the battle in their sector during that night is reconstructed, and the horrific experiences of brave men thrust into an impossible situation revealed.

The Commanding Officer of the 32nd was dismissed in the wake of Fromelles. Was he a scapegoat for the actions of others?


‘It is only God himself who knows what the word ‘Missing’ means to those that love them.’

Eva Dellow, friend of Jack Crawford, 32nd Battalion

In the weeks and months following the battle, anxious families in Australia were gradually informed that a husband, son or brother was missing. For long years many were given little or no information about the fate of the missing man.

The heart-breaking letters written by the families of South Australian men of the 32nd Battalion to the Military and to the Red Cross reveal their grief, anxiety, and suspense as they waited for news, and made their own desperate enquiries.