The Joint Identification Board, co-chaired by Major General Mike O’Brien from the Australian Army, and Air Commodore Chris Bray from the Royal Air Force convened on 1 March 2010 at Australia House, London to try to identify as many of the 250 soldiers whose remains have been recovered from the burial pits at Pheasant Wood and have been re-buried in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. The Board will end on March 12 but is likely to meet again in late April or early May to consider any further evidence.
Photo: Major General Mike O’Brien, Co-chair of the Fromelles Joint Identification Board [Chris Munro]
The Australian Army has provided some details about the identification process on its web site at Key Activities – Identification.
A joint media release by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, The Hon. Greg Combet MP, and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, The Hon Alan Griffin MP gives the following information:
Identification of Fromelles fallen begins
A joint Australian/British Identification Board is now considering evidence in an attempt to identify the 250 soldiers recovered from the World War One mass grave at Fromelles, France.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, welcomed the commencement of this important process.
“The identification of the remains is an extremely complex process involving the review of anthropological, archaeological, historical and DNA information,” Mr Combet said.
“The Joint Identification Board will seek to determine as many of the soldiers identities as possible. The Army will then notify registered relatives of identified soldiers.”
“More than 1300 Australians soldiers died at Fromelles and have no known grave,” Mr Griffin said.
“Almost all of the 250 sets of remains have yielded viable DNA samples.
“Nearly 600 DNA samples collected from descendants will be considered by the Joint Identification Board.
“A commemorative event to open the cemetery is scheduled for the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 2010. The battle was the bloodiest 24 hours in Australian history with 5,533 Australian soldiers killed, wounded or missing,” Mr Griffin said.
The Board will be co-chaired by Major General Mike O’Brien (Australian Army) and Air Commodore Chris Bray (RAF). The Board will convene on 1 March 2010 at Australia House, London and will conclude on 12 March 2010. Planning is also underway for an additional board in late April or early May to consider samples that were not available for the March board.
People who believe their relative may be buried at Fromelles and have not already registered should do so at www.army.gov.au/fromelles or by calling 1800 019 090.
The inaugural meeting of the Joint Identification Board is reported in the media report ID process begins for Fromelles soldiers.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF applauds the joint Australian–UK decision to conduct a full DNA testing program on the remains of Australian and British soldiers found in mass graves at Pheasant Wood (Fromelles), and for their continuing commitment to identify as many of the fallen as is possible. We also thank the Australian, UK and French governments for affording dignified individual reburials for these soldiers, buried by German soldiers following the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916, in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.