As outlined in the 10 July posting Fromelles Claims Response, there have been a number of recent media articles reflecting on aspects of the exhumation, identification and reinterment of the Australian soldiers at Fromelles. This posting provides an update on this debate.
Photo: Excavation of burial pits, Pheasant Wood [CWGC]
In early July Fairfax Press journalist Paolo Totaro claimed that the project at Fromelles “to exhume, identify and rebury 400 Australian and British World War I soldiers found in a mass grave in a French battlefield is in crisis after a Defence Department decision to use a cut-price contractor” in her article Reburial project in crisis. The article drew a number of other responses, most notably an assurance from the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Kevin Rudd, committing his Government to making “doubly certain” that the exhumation, identification and reinterment of the Australian soldiers at Fromelles is being handled properly, and a joint supporting statement by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and a project update from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that are detailed in the RECENT NEWS item PM Reaffirms Fromelles.
Subsequently, Australia.to NEWS posted an article by Grant Triffett Convenor / Administrator of the Fromelles Discussion Group, as Don’t Forget Me Cobber (and now removed). This article reiterated the claims made in the Fairfax Press and also referred to comments by the head of Adelaide University’s Centre for Ancient DNA, Dr. Cooper, who expressed fears that inappropriate forensic DNA techniques may be tried at the excavation site to get quick results.
This resulted in a response from Chris Bryett, President of Recovering Overseas Australia’s Missing Inc (ROAM), Fromelles crisis. Support for Oxford Archaeology as recovery continues that was posted on the website Australia.to News on 10 July and reported in the posting of 10 July as Fromelles Claims Response .
In addition, The Hon. Greg Combet AM MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science issued a statement Update on Progress of Fromelles on 16 July.
This was reported in the Fairfax Press as Fromelles excavation ‘back on track’, July 16 2009.
This was also reported in Australia.to NEWS as The archaeological excavation operation at Pheasant Wood in Fromelles
Australia.to NEWS also carried an apology for the inaccurate content of the letters to the editor as Fromelles war grave recovery proceeding as planned by Oxford Archaeology – Apology.
The report states: Oxford Archaeology continues to work at the location of a World War One battle site where several hundred British and Australian Servicemen are buried.
Australia.to recently published two “Letters to the Editor” which unfairly and inaccurately described the performance of Oxford Archaeology in its fulfillment of the contract to recover the war dead.
Australia.to and the editors apologise to Senator Combet, Oxford Archaeology, its staff, workers, local contractors and relatives of the servicemen as information from Oxford Archaeology has come to hand which clearly shows that the work is proceeding satisfactorily and that the content of the letters to the editor was inaccurate and that a retraction is warranted.
It goes on to present Oxford Archaeology’s rebuttal of Grant Triffett’s article. Read the detail by clicking here.
The UK Ministry of Defence also issued an update on 17 July that is posted on the Oxford Archaeology website as Artefacts found at Fromelles provide clues to nationality of WW1 soldiers.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916 dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and applauds the joint decision to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier.