Home' Army News : May 4th 2017 Contents May 4, 2017
Cpl Max Bree
THE muddy hellhole of the Western
Front seems a distant memory as I
travel through beautiful farmland
and quaint villages in northern
Concrete bunkers poke through
fields of green crops and war cemeter-
ies appear as unexpected reminders
of war on my way to the final resting
place of Sgt James Bree, my great-
Explosive shells that rearranged
the landscape more than 100 years ago
likely killed Sgt Bree as his platoon
took their first steps towards German
lines to protect the flank of a trench
raid in July 1916. Lawnmowers are
now the loudest thing at Armentieres
war cemetery where I find his grave.
The son of an Irishman, James
grew up in Omaru, on New Zealand’s
South Island. He appeared in court
aged 15, after dishing out his own ver-
sion of justice to a boy who was bully-
ing his brothers.
A near-slapstick drunken run-in
with a local constable led the adult
James back to court, accused of drunk-
enness, obscene language and resisting
police. He was fined 10 shillings for
drunkenness, but contradictions in
witness testimonies caused an exasper-
ated judge to dismiss the remaining
James joined the New Zealand
Expeditionary Force’s Otago Regt
after the outbreak of war and fought at
Gallipoli before being evacuated with
a shrapnel wound and dysentery. He
recovered and re-joined the Otagos
on the Western Front where he was
promoted to sergeant, just ahead of the
ill-fated trench raid.
Before they had even moved for-
ward, James and his platoon were cut
apart by machine-gun fire and shells.
My great-grandmother described
James’ family as “Irish as Paddy’s pig”
but war records and newspaper articles
are the only source of information I
hold about him. James was never men-
tioned by my family. I learned of him
when he appeared in an archive search
a few years ago.
He now lies at Armentieres, along-
side Commonwealth and German
troops – a green parade ground where
white headstones replace upright
After more than 100 years, James
Bree received his first family visitor.
One visitor in 100 years
Cpl Max Bree, of Defence
News, visits the grave of
his great-great uncle at
Photo: PO Paul Berry
Cpl Max Bree
AS GERMAN forces withdrew to
the Hindenburg Line in March 1917,
Australian soldiers followed and
liberated the town of Bapaume in
Piles of rubble and smouldering
buildings greeted the Australians, along
with a number of mines set as booby
traps that needed to be disarmed.
The diggers were jubilant and
the 5 Inf Bde band marched through
the town square playing the Victoria
About 30 soldiers were billeted in
the town hall, one of the only buildings
Several days later, a delayed-action
mine under the building erupted, kill-
ing almost everyone inside.
Songs of an Australian Army band
were heard in Bapaume for the first
time in 100 years, when a band con-
tingent played for locals and marched
through the streets with Australia’s
Federation Guard on April 20 to com-
memorate the village’s liberation.
Maj Andrew Coburn, staff officer
of military heritage in France and
Belgium, helped facilitate a service
in the Bapaume Australian Cemetery
where 74 Australians are buried.
“Our duty is to remember the sol-
diers that never came home and it’s the
French towns, villages and people who
help fulfil that duty,” he said.
“When we visit them, we
have to understand it’s the
French people who look after
Large crowds of locals
turned out to watch the band’s
performance and subsequent
“100 years ago our soldiers
came from the other side of the
world to fight for liberty and for
France; to them that is extraor-
dinary,” Maj Coburn said.
“The mayor was not only
excited we had not forgotten
our soldiers, but also that we
hadn’t forgotten the town of
German forces went on to
recapture Bapaume during their
spring offensive in 1918, but
New Zealand soldiers recap-
tured the town in September
that year, two months before the
end of the war.
Honouring their memory with music
They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.
Cpl Max Bree
A PHOTO of an Australian Army band
marching through the smouldering
buildings and rubble of Bapaume in
northern France made headlines 100
Newspapers lauded it as a “historic
picture” and “one of the greatest bat-
tle pictures ever known”. It featured
members of the 5 Inf Bde band play-
ing jubilantly in contrast to the ravaged
town around them.
More than 100 years later, I was
asked to recreate the photo with mem-
bers of the Australian Army Band in
the lead-up to Anzac Day.
We knew the intersection where
the photo was taken, but extensive
rebuilding after the war meant we
couldn’t ascertain the precise location
PO Paul Berry, the contingent vide-
ographer, suggested we use the town
hall as a backdrop and I was sure the
original band members would appreci-
ate the lingerie shop that appears on
the left in the recreated photo.
I positioned members of Australia’s
Federation Guard either side of the
street, and set them in poses from the
original photo. A digger with crossed
arms, another in a “thinking man” pose
to replicate smoking a pipe, but those
who I told to put hands in their pockets
seemed the most excited.
I set the music director in position,
who uncharacteristically marched with
a trumpet like bandmasters did 100
The musicians were dressed off
behind before they were given instruc-
tions and moved back to a starting
I climbed up a big flowerbox on the
intersection roundabout to get some
height and, with a throng of locals
watching, the band members marched
as I started shooting.
We tested and adjusted their posi-
tions then, after a couple of march
throughs, the shot was in the bag.
Several photos were close to the
mark, so PO Berry and I nitpicked
finer details like making sure the sol-
diers had their left feet forward, like
The band is more spread out in the
recreation since the road is now two
lanes and, though we were missing
turban, I’m pretty happy.
Soldiers from the Australian Army Band and personnel
from Australia’s Federation Guard recreate the
photograph “Bandsman of Bapaume”, taken on March 18,
1917, in the town of Bapaume, France (below).
Photo: Cpl Max Bree
Photo courtesy AWM
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