Remembering brave soldier, Norris

Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius Norris a few months before he died in a German machine gun attack at Fromelles.
Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius Norris a few months before he died in a German machine gun attack at Fromelles.

THIS month Australian soldiers are ceremonially re-burying the remains of many of the 5th Division diggers who died in the July 19 to 20, 1916 battle of Fromelles on the French-Belgian border – and one of them is being remembered in Maryborough today.

Lieutenant Colonel Ignatius Bertram Norris, the only Australian commander in the battle in which the young Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler fought against us that day, led the 53rd battalion in a do or die effort to stop the German reinforcements getting to the Somme.

“I bought Col Norris’ medals in a Sydney auction,” Maryborough Colonial and Military Museum curator John Meyers said yesterday.

“And also his last handwritten note to headquarters about their position. He wrote it 55 minutes before machine gun fire got him as he led his battalion in an assault on the second enemy line.

“He was hit several times, reportedly saying, ‘Here, I’m done, will somebody take my papers?’

“The position where he was killed was taken back by the enemy next morning and his body was never recovered but in 1919 the Germans confirmed in writing from Berlin that Col Norris’ dog tag had been handed to an intelligence officer of the 6th Army Headquarters in October 1916.

“He was a brave man who had led his 53rd battalion since the unit began in Egypt.”

Col Norris was born in 1880 on July 31 and became a barrister in Sydney. He was good at tennis and hockey and enlisted in Egypt in June 1915.

He was survived by his new wife Bessie and their son.

Australian soldiers are currently burying up to 30 soldiers a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the month of February and with full military honours in the first Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery started in 50 years.

“It is very special to have Col Norris’ medals and his last note in our museum,” Mr Meyers said.

“The Australian Division casualties were 5533.”

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