The Families and Friends of the First AIF applauds the announcement by Ministers Warren Snowdon (Australia) and Derek Twigg (United Kingdom) that the Australian Diggers and their British mates, buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood near Fromelles, will be given the honour, respect and dignity of individual reburials in a new Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery to be built on land donated by the French Government and Fromelles Village Council. The present burial ground at Pheasant Wood, so generously donated by Madame Demassiet, proved unsuitable for the new cemetery but will be the site of a perpetual memorial.
Photo: Fromelles Church Spire from the site new CWGC’s cemetery at Fromelles. [Dept. Defence]
FFFAIF believes that the decision taken, and the site selection (diagonally opposite the village church) overlooking the former battlefield and VC Corner Cemetery, are appropriate and we offer our thanks to the governments of Australia, United Kingdom and France, and the people of Fromelles – especially Minister Snowden, Minister Twigg, Secretary Bockel, Mayor Huchette and Madame Demassiet.
We also believe that the Australian Government through the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs should commit to routinely extracting and recording DNA samples from each set of remains recovered and ensure all possible efforts are made to return their identities to these brave young men. Each lost his life for his country; he shouldn’t lose his identity as well, if there is a possibility of restoring it.
The Australian soldiers are known by name and a database of their relatives who are willing to provide DNA samples for comparison has been established.
Emeritus professor and forensic archaeologist, Professor Richard Wright, says a relatively inexpensive test is available to determine those who lived in Australia and those who did not, using Strontium isotope composition analysis of tooth enamel or bone from each set of remains.
FFFAIF urges the Australian and UK Governments to decide in favour of ordering Strontium and DNA testing of the soldiers’ remains so each is given the chance of proper identification, and the opportunity to be at eternal rest under a headstone bearing his own name.
Lest We Forget.