On the 23 March 2012 the third annual United Kingdom and Australian Joint Identification Board will convene in London in an effort to formally identify some of the remaining 140 unknown soldiers who are buried in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) states that: The outcomes of the Board will be made public in the days following the Board and the headstones of those identified soldiers will be changed in accordance with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s long standing procedures.
Private Downie Dodd, No4770, is one of the missing of the Battle of Fromelles. His family hopes that he will be identified when the Board convenes. Downie’s great niece tells the story behind their expectations.
‘My great uncle Downie Dodd came to Australia with his parents and three of his 4 brothers, James, Robert (my grandfather) and William – his other brother Harry emigrated to Canada just before WW1.
Downie enlisted along with his brother James in 1915. He was sent to France and the “big show” he wrote about in his final letter home was to be Fromelles his first action. We had always known that Downie was killed at Fromelles as we have a copy of a German Death Voucher obtained by the Red Cross where his name appears.
When the mass grave was discovered I followed the developments and had great hopes that Downie would be among those discovered and my hopes were raised when Downie’s name appeared on the list of those found. You would think that with so many brothers it would be an easy task to find suitable DNA for testing but this was not the case as unfortunately too many girls had been born into the family, I thought that this was the end of the line.
I travelled to the Fromelles Internment Ceremony in 2010 with my cousin and his daughter. We were pleased and comforted to know that Downie now had a final resting place.
Last year I came across the Rootschat web site where a man who is an amateur historian had posted a message mentioning Downie. After I contacted him he took up our case and along with a researcher in Scotland searched records in the UK. I am so grateful to both of them for the amazing work that they did for a stranger on the other side of the world.
With all their work and with the help of inscriptions on the back of photos here in Sydney eventually a distant cousin from Downie’s mother’s side of the family was located. He agreed to provide DNA for testing and so now all we can do is wait for the results from the Joint Identification Board meeting and hope that Downie can now at last be named as one of the found’.
A message from the CWGC:
Anyone who believes that they are related to one of the Australian soldiers are asked to register their details with Unrecovered War Casualties – Army via the online registration tool at www.army.gov.au/uwca or by calling toll-free in Australia on 1800 019 090 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) .
If you have always dreamt of visiting the hallowed ground in the footsteps of the Diggers of the Great War, we can get you there! There are still places available on the 2012 FFFAIF Commemorative Tour. Book now and join the unforgettable experience. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today for further details.