Thursday, March 18, 2010

Press Release - WW1 Soldiers killed at Fromelles are identified

While they could not be named individually, three British soldiers were confirmed to be among the 250 soldiers recovered from the mass graves at Pheasant Wood and 128 were confirmed to have served the Australian Army. The remaining 44 are, for the time being, classified as ‘unknown’.

Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said:

“Identification is a challenging task and this has been no exception. We are disappointed that there was insufficient evidence to name British soldiers but I would like to thank the families for the support that they have all given to this project.

“Although no British soldiers could be named, I am pleased that we can confirm three having served with the British Army. What is most important is that these men have all been laid to rest with the dignity and honour they deserve. The identification process will remain open for another four years, and I hope that families will continue to make contact.”

Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, said;

"Of the 250 soldiers found, I am pleased to announce that 203 have been identified as Australians, and that 75 of these have been positively identified by name.

"The number of soldiers that we have been able to identify exceeds even our most optimistic forecasts. We are unlikely to identify every man; however, we will continue to take all reasonable steps to maximise those named in the future.

"Each of the 250 sets of remains that were found have been analysed using all available historical, anthropological, artefact and DNA evidence. For those who have been identified so far, DNA proved to be a key piece of the identification puzzle.

"I am also pleased to say that we have strong reason to believe that more identification could occur in the future.”

A Joint Identification Board, with members representing the British and Australian Governments, considered the available evidence including DNA from the soldiers’ remains and from the families who came forward. Where there was clear and compelling evidence the Board was able to confirm the identities of individual soldiers.

The Board will reconvene in May to consider additional family samples that have only recently been returned from Australia. This additional testing and second Board will help ensure that as many soldiers as possible are identified before the 19 July 2010 commemorative event that will mark the official opening of the new cemetery.

Notes for Editors

1. The full list of names of Australian servicemen who have been identified is available on the Fromelles Project web site
2. The remains of 250 World War 1 soldiers killed in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles were recovered last year and reburied with military honours at a new military cemetery constructed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
3. The reinterment of 249 of the 250 soldiers from Pheasant Wood was completed in mid February. The burials were each conducted in a dignified military ceremony by serving members of both the British and Australian Armies. The remaining soldier, who will be representative of all those who died in the Battle of Fromelles but who have no known grave, will be reinterred during the Commemorative Event on 19 July 2010.
4. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has published a list of names at of those soldiers who may be among those yet to be identified. Families who believe they have connections to, or information on, one of the soldiers are being encouraged to come forward to assist with the process which remain open until 2014.
5. Anyone believing they may be related to a British soldier should contact the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Historic Casualty & Deceased Estates Casework, Services Personnel and Veterans Agency, Building 182, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester GL3 1HW, email: telephone: +44 (0)1452 712612 x 6303 or 6256.
6. For more information, please contact Roz Britton-Elliot, MOD Press Office, 0207 218 5903.

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