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April 20, 2017
Cpl Max Bree
MUD of the Western Front once ham-
pered our diggers and consumed the
bodies of their fallen comrades.
Now the mud soldiers cursed “with
every fibre of their being” has been repur-
posed, as soil from Flanders’ battlefields
was scattered on a newly dedicated com-
memorative garden at the Australian War
Memorial in Canberra on April 4.
Soil taken from the battlefields
and war cemeteries across Belgium’s
Flanders region was mixed with dirt from
Australia’s military heritage sites at the
opening of the Flanders Memorial Garden.
Governor-General Gen Sir Peter
Cosgrove sprinkled soil on the gar-
den from the Tyne Cot Cemetery near
“Flanders, once a place of carnage and
courage, of desperate sacrifice and stoic
endurance; now, a beautiful place, a rest-
ing place,” he said.
“With the changing of the seasons,
there are the poppies which rise not only
from the soil but from the hearts of those
who rest below.
“Now, some of that earth, all of those
hearts, are home with us. This garden, it
grows from them. It grows for us.”
Remains of more than 13,000
Australians lie in Flanders and half of
those who died in the bloody fighting of
1917 have no known grave.
For decades afterwards, the name of
“Passchendaele”, the name of a village
so many died to capture, became “one to
shudder at”, according to official war his-
torian Charles Bean.
The memorial garden was made possi-
ble thanks to help of the Flanders govern-
ment, represented at the ceremony by their
Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, Koen
Mr Verlaeckt sprinkled soil collected
near Menin Gate on the garden.
“Through this gate your troops
marched off to the battlefields,” he said.
“Its walls carry the names of more
than 6000 Australian soldiers who fell in
Flanders fields, and who have never been
“The sacred soil from Flanders fields
symbolises the territory your countrymen
defended, where they fell and where they
rest in peace.”
Two stone lions from Menin Gate usu-
ally guard the entrance to the Australian
War Memorial but, at the time of the
ceremony, were back at Menin Gate on
In Flanders fields
Honouring our WWI diggers
Cpl Max Bree
EXPLODING German shells
wiped out three sons from the
same Sydney family within 24
hours of each other on Flanders
fields in 1917.
The Seabrook brothers –
George, Theo and Keith – joined
the AIF’s 17 Bn in 1916 and
arrived on the Western Front
CA Lt-Gen Angus Campbell
told of the brothers’ fate in the
Battle of Menin Road, as 17 Bn
assaulted German positions in
front of Westhoek village.
“Advancing more than a kilo-
metre, the attack was successful but
the day would prove devastating for
the Seabrook family,” he said.
“After a final handshake with his
batman, Lt Keith Seabrook led his
men into the frontline positions.
“While walking in single file
along the duckboards, they were hit
by a phosphorus bomb that killed
or wounded a section of the platoon
he was leading. Although he made
it to a casualty clearing station, the
popular young officer died of his
wounds the following day.
“In the breast pocket of his tunic
was found a photograph of his
mother containing a single bullet
wound. He was 21 years old.”
As their youngest brother was
stretchered from the battlefield, Ptes
George and Theo Seabrook attacked
with the battalion.
“Shortly afterwards, both were
hit by the same artillery shell and
killed instantly,” CA said.
Their bodies were never found
and their names are on the Menin
Gate. On learning of Keith’s fate,
Mrs Seabrook wrote to the military
authorities seeking information
about Theo and George.
“The blow of losing our three
sons in one battle is terrible.
We’re heartbroken,” she said.
Mrs Seabrook later wrote to
her local Member of Parliament,
telling of her family’s anguish.
“Having given our three sons
as a sacrifice to the country,
their loss I will never recover,
now my husband is a complete
wreck,” she said.
“I have to put my property up
for sale as it seems there is no other
way. Mr Seabrook has been raving
about our three boys and has delu-
sions of all kinds. Please pardon me
for telling you all these things, but I
have no one to confide in.”
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‘Their loss I will never recover’
The blow of losing
our three sons in one
battle is terrible.
Mother of three brothers killed in
action on Flanders fields
CA Lt-Gen Angus Campbell
sprinkles soil collected
from Polygon Wood at the
dedication of the Flanders
Members of Australia’s
Federation Guard hold
five hand-crafted boxes
containing Flanders soil for
the dedication of the Flanders
Memorial Garden at the
Australian War Memorial.
Photos: Jay Cronan
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