Private Frederick Norman Craig MM

Mel Burnett points at Private Craig's name engraved on the memorial wall at Villers-Bretonneux Frederick Craig

Mel Burnett, a teacher at Bayview Secondary College, at the Australian War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, in France, where she located the name of Private Frederick Craig MM (pictured).

Where are you?

Researching an individual soldier can create a strong connection and lasting impression.

Mel Burnett, a teacher at Bayview Secondary College, Rokeby, Tasmania, chose to research Private Frederick Craig MM for the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour 2019.

Like Private Craig, Mel grew up on Bruny Island. Their childhoods would have been: similar hunting in rockpools, swimming in the shallows and slow summer days.

As Mel researched Private Craig she discovered he was the great-great-great-uncle of a good friend who had no idea that he had relatives who served in the war. Frederick’s brothers, George and William Craig also enlisted for World War One.

Military service

Private Frederick Craig survived Gallipoli then headed to France, to face a whole new world of horrors. Sheer cliffs were replaced with duckboards, beaches for miles and miles of mud. First at Mouquet Farm and later in Lagnicourt. At Lagnicourt in April 1917 Private Craig earned a Military Medal.

After the successful counter-attack at Lagnicourt, Private Craig’s final major fight was the Battle of Hazebrouck (sometimes known as The Battle of Lys), in April 1918.  Private Craig was officially reported missing in action on the 24 April 1918. There are varying accounts of what happened to Private Craig on that fateful day.

Despite the confusion surrounding the circumstances of Private Craig’s death, his body has never been found.

An unknown soldier

Mel Burnett kneeling at unknown soldier's grave where she has placed a flag and jar of sand

Private Frederick Norman Craig MM is listed at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France. The Memorial commemorates the 10,732 Australian casualties who died in France and have no known grave.

As Mel toured France and Belgium with the Frank MacDonald Study Tour she wondered where Private Craig’s remains might be.

Members of the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour research a soldier or nurse and present their research at the gravesite (where applicable). Rather than complete the pilgrimage at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Mel chose a grave of an unknown Australian soldier. After all, there was a chance the unknown soldier could be Frederick Craig.

To commemorate Private Frederick Craig, Mel left a glass jar of sand from Resolution Creek, Bruny Island. The beach is just below Private Craig’s original homestead, which still stands today. Mel wrote:

Having spent the last week wandering through the fields and towns of France and Belgium, I wonder where you are. Every part of me wishes I could take you back to your beautiful little corner of Bruny. But instead, I bring a little bit of that corner to you. I collected this sand on a windy autumn day. Overcast, choppy, alone on the beach – one of my favourite ways to enjoy Bruny, and as I walked I wondered how many times had you walked this stretch, watching the tide, the ebb, the flow and just pondering life?

jar of sand near tomb to unknown soldier

Keeping the legacy alive

When Mel researched Private Craig she cited his mother Mary's remarkable letters and the effort and care to communicate and ensure her son was never forgotten.

Now, Mel hopes her pilgrimage for Private Frederick Norman Craig will keep his legacy alive for future generations.

Fred, for a stranger, I have never felt closer to someone. I feel such a strong connection to you. I won’t be able to walk the beaches of Bruny without you in my mind again – and I am so proud of that. Thank you Fred, for your service and dedication. You were lost, to the fallacy of war, but never forgotten.
– Mel Burnett

Read Mel Burnett’s research about Private Frederick Norman Craig MM (PDF, 1.27MB)