Latest update: 19/07/2010
- Australia - France - UK - World War I
Australian and British soldiers reburied 94 years after Battle of Fromelles
The last of 250 British and Australian soldiers whose remains were found in a mass grave at the site of the Battles of Fromelles will be reburied on Monday, 94 years after the deadly World War I clash.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
AP - The remains of the last of 250 Australian and British soldiers whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave were being reburied Monday on the 94th anniversary of the World War I battle of Fromelles.
The mass graves, where the bodies were found, are now covered with grass. One is covered with a slab of poured concrete. They stand in a meadow between a field of potatoes and woods.
Prince Charles and top Australian officials will attend the ceremony, which marks the end of more than two years of painstaking exhumation and identification work by archaeologists.
The families of some of the soldiers also were expected to attend Monday’s event. It will see a coffin containing the remains of the last soldier carried from the site of the mass graves in a World War I-era, horse-pulled wagon to a recently built cemetery nearby, the organizers said. Prince Charles will then dedicate the new Fromelles Military Cemetery.
An Australian amateur historian discovered the graves - which contain the largest group of Australian remains from World War I ever found - in a muddy field on the edge of a small wood in 2008, prompting an investigation by the Australian government.
The remains appear to date from a single, famously ferocious night of fighting 90 years ago. Late on July 19, 1916, Australian forces launched the battle of Fromelles, the first Australian combat operation on the Western Front.
More than 5,500 Australians were killed, wounded or went missing at Fromelles in under 24 hours, along with more than 1,500 British, cut down by German machine guns and artillery. German troops buried them afterward, Australian investigators say. The site, near a pockmarked battlefield, was covered over time.
More than 23,000 Australian soldiers’ bodies were never recovered for burial from World War I, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Only a single body is expected to be reburied Monday. The other 249 bodies were buried in the new Fromelles Military Cemetery in early 2010. Only 96 of the remains found have been identified by name, all Australians.
An additional 109 of the bodies were confirmed to have belonged to the Australian army, but not named. Three were confirmed to be British. The other 42 are classified as unknown, the organizers said in a statement.