The remains of around 400 British and Australian soldiers killed in the First World War Battle of Fromelles in France are to be exhumed from mass graves and individually buried.
The excavation of six mass graves at Fromelles is due to start in May 2009 and is expected to take up to six months, after which all the bodies will be permanently laid to rest in individual graves at a new Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
The mass war graves, which are believed to contain the remains of up to 400 individuals who died in the battle, were discovered in 2008.
British and Australian families who believe they have connections to, or information on, the soldiers who may be buried at Fromelles are being encouraged to come forward to assist with the process.
DNA samples will be taken from a small cross-section of the remains to determine the viability of a larger testing programme, and the potential for a formal identification.
The Battle of Fromelles began 19 days after the opening of the Somme campaign. It was the first major battle involving Australian and British troops on the Western Front. The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, of which 1,917 were killed, and the 61st British Division suffered 1,547 casualties, either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
The main British regiments involved in the battle, and therefore the most likely to have men buried at Fromelles, were the Gloucestershire Regiment (now The Rifles), the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox & Bucks) (now The Rifles), the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (now The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), the Worcestershire Regiment (now The Mercian Regiment), and the Machine Gun Corps (disbanded and no modern equivalent).
Anyone believing they may be related to British soldiers buried at Fromelles should contact the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Historic Casualty & Deceased Estates Casework, Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, Building 182, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester GL3 1HW, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 01452 712612 Extension 6303.
25 February 2009
WWI soldiers to be reburied
ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News: