Belgium oak planting ceremony

Source: The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan and the Belgium Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Jean-Luc Bodson, planted an oak tree in the grounds of the Belgium Embassy in Canberra today in memory of the Australian soldiers who fought in Belgium in the First World War.

The tree was planted alongside a plaque that bears the names of Private James Mollison and Private Beaumont Philpott, the first two Australian soldiers to die in Belgium in 1917, who died on 17 June 1916 near Messines.

“The oak tree, and the names of Private Mollison and Private Philpott, will be a permanent reminder of the service and sacrifice of every Australian who fought in Belgium during World War I,” Mr Tehan said. “Both nations will never forget the brave, young Australians fighting in a foreign country so far from home — their actions helped forged a bond between Australia and Belgium that endures today.”

The Belgium Ambassador to Australia, Mr Jean-Luc Bodson, said Privates Philpott and Mollison, like many others, paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for peace in Belgium a hundred years ago.

“If we can’t ever repay their sacrifice, we will however honour it by remembering them, along with all the sons of Australia fallen in Belgium. This oak tree planted today is dedicated to them so that their memory will grow strong over the years and never be forgotten. They are now forever sons of Belgium too and we shall never forget it. Lest we forget,” Mr Bodson said.

On 26 September 2017, with the assistance of Belgian authorities, Australia will honour the service and sacrifice of those who fought in the Third Battle of Ypres at a Dawn Service to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood.

The service will be held at Buttes New British Cemetery, which is the site of the Australian 5th Division Memorial, and the last resting place of more than 500 Australians, half of whom have never been identified.