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Army Progress In Bid To Identify WW1 Remains

Army Progress In Bid To Identify WW1 Remains

The Australian Army has made considerable progress in its efforts to identify six World War 1 Australian soldiers whose remains were discovered in Belgium during pipeline excavation works in August 2006 the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Bruce Billson said today.

Military research has revealed that the site where the remains were unearthed, on the Western Front near the hamlet Westhoeck, was a temporary burial ground for Australian soldiers killed in a series of 1917 battles known as the Third Battle of Ypres. These battles are popularly known as the Battle of Paschendaele.

“In the immediate post-war period, teams of soldiers exhumed bodies from the temporary cemeteries and they were re-interred in the permanent war cemeteries which today dot the sites of the great Western Front battles. While the recovery operations were thorough and comprehensive, not all remains were recovered,” Mr Billson said. ᾠ

It is believed the remains found near Westhoeck may have been missed by the clearance teams, as they had been buried near a road which was subsequently re-routed over the gravesites before the clearance teams arrived. Initially it was believed that there were five sets of remains, but some additional bones were uncovered that belonged to a sixth individual.

Military research has identified seven Australian soldiers who were buried in this area, but who were not later exhumed for reinterment. They are Second Lieutenant L. J. Corrigan, 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion; 3233 Private J. A. Gibbens, 29th Australian Infantry Battalion; 3504 Private J. Hunter, 49th Australian Infantry Battalion; 4171 Sgt C. N. McArthur, 48th Australian Infantry Battalion; 1868 Sergeant G. Calder, 2488 Private G. R. Storey and 4931 Private W. Williams of the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion.

“It is far too early to say whether the remains discovered belong to any of the soldiers identified through the military research and it must be stressed, that despite the progress to date, the prospects of formally identifying individuals remain quite low,” Mr Billson said.

“The Army is now awaiting the results of a scientific investigation carried out by the Belgian authorities on the remains to see if further insights can be gained into physical characteristics, including evidence of wounds and other injuries, as well as dental characteristics . They will also advise on the likelihood of extractingᾠDNA material for possible comparisons with any surviving ancestors, he said.

If all goes to plan we would like to be in a position to lay the remains permanently to rest with full military honours in a military cemetery in Belgium to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Battle Paschendaele in October this year.”

Descendants of those soldiers named who would like further information about the investigation are encouraged to contact the head of the Army History Unit, Roger Lee on 02 6266 2204.

ENDS

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