One of the many names on the two rolls of honour in the hall that commemorate our war dead is that of Private Woodley Easom.
A fellow soldier who knew him described Easom as a "big, tall, Australian with a loud voice".
He fought in World War I and was a member of the Australian Army’s 60th infantry Battalion. He also served in the 54th Battalion in Egypt.
Woodley* Cole Easom was born in Paterson and listed his occupation as a grazier when he enlisted aged 22 in August, 1915 (see left). He embarked at Sydney on the troop ship HMAT Star of England in March 1916.
Red Cross records show that he was killed in action in France on 19 July, 1916. He died as a result of wounds received in a charge against German forces at Fleurbaix, near Fromelles. He was carried to the front-line trench but died there.
His grave was never found but his name is recorded on Panel 20 of the V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles, a village 16 kilometres west of Lille. The cemetery is two kilometres north-west of Fromelles, on the road to Sailly.
His family placed a memorial notice (see left) in The Sydney Morning Herald in July 1926.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states:
“On the morning of 19 July 1916, after a preliminary bombardment, the 5th Australian and 61st (South Midland) Divisions undertook what is officially known as the Attack at Fromelles.
“The 61st Division attack failed in the end, with the loss of over 1,500 officers and men out of 3,400 who took part in it. The Australian left and centre reached the German trenches and held their second line during the day and night, but the right was held off by a fierce machine-gun barrage and only reached the front line in isolated groups.
"The action was broken off on the morning of 20 July, after the 5th Australian Division had lost over 5,500 officers and men. It was the first serious engagement of the Australian forces in France, and the only one to achieve no success.”
V.C. Corner Cemetery contains the graves of 410 Australian soldiers who died in the Attack at Fromelles and whose bodies were found on the battlefield. None of those bodies could be identified. It was therefore decided not to mark the individual graves, but to record on a memorial the names of all the Australian soldiers killed in the engagement.
* The spelling of his first name on both honour rolls is given as "Woodly"