The Australian Digger found in August 2008, still carrying his full kit and holding his rifle, 91 years after he was killed on the Western Front in Belgium has been identified.
The co-director of the project Richard Osgood said:
‘Extensive detective work and close cooperation between the No Man’s Land – The European Group for Great War Archaeology group, professional partners and the Australian Army over the past 20 months has now revealed the soldier’s identity as 1983 Private Alan James Mather.’
‘The scientific input from our academic and scientific partners was astounding. Work by Universities of Leuven, Cranfield and Oxford studying the chemical composition of his bones enabled us to narrow down the place of birth of the skeleton to a few locations in New South Wales. Comparing that data to the casualty lists further reduced the number of possible identities for this man to five possibles.’
‘Forensic analysis of the bones had given us height, age and likely body type from muscle attachments. Even before we knew it was Mather we knew he had lived a fairly physical life, developing heavy muscle attachments on his bones and showing wear on his spine.’
‘With such a low number of candidates the Australian Army commissioned DNA testing of the surviving relatives of all the casualties fitting the profile, which resulted in a positive match with one of the Next of Kin donors. This match provided the final proof in identifying Private Mather.’
[Photo Kim Blomfield]
To read more about the process involved in identifying Private Mather and his service with the AIF click here.
The story behind this discovery of Private Mather’s body can be read in past news item: New Find In Belgium
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French Governments for affording Australian and British soldiers dignified individual reburials in the new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and applauds the Australian and British Governments for their joint decision to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier.