SIX hundred men killed or wounded. Twenty-four officers killed or wounded. Many more missing and feared dead.
And that was just one battalion on the first day of the Battle of Fromelles – one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Australian World War I effort.
Under a moonlit sky on Tuesday night, a handful of people gathered on the Anzac Memorial Walk to remember the Hunter’s contribution to Fromelles as part of centenary commemorations.
Some 500 Hunter men fought in the war effort and were mainly concentrated in the 30th, 53rd, 54th, 55th and 56th battalions.
More than 80 of those men didn’t make it home and nearly half of them have no known grave.
Newcastle historian David Dial impressed chilling statistics from the battlefront on the audience, many of them descendants of Hunter soldiers who served in Fromelles.
He read out raw letters sent home by soldiers, and published in the Newcastle Morning Herald, that described the horrific conditions.
One letter, written by a soldier from West Wallsend, described how he came to have his mouth shattered by shrapnel.
The soldier described bullets and shrapnel that “fell like hail” and the sky was “literally raining iron and shells”.
If he wasn’t killed by a bullet, the soldier wrote, he would “almost certainly have my throat slit”.
Another letter was written by a colonel to a Newcastle jeweller to inform him his 16-year-old son had been found alive in a field hospital after a near-death experience.
“He was one of the lucky ones,” the Army officer wrote.
Mr Dial said the chilling letters were a reminder of the atrocities of war.
“They say this walkway howls at night,” he said.
“Could that be the wail of the mothers and the families whose sons never came home to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley?
“We should never forget that these men from the Hunter grew up together, trained together, went overseas together, fought together and ultimately died together.”
At the end of the ceremony, Mr Dial read out a list of names of the soldiers who did not return from Fromelles.
He read continuously for five minutes.