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Excavation Of Suspected ANZAC WWI Burial Site

The Hon. Warren Snowdon MP
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

Suspected Group Burial Site Excavation Begins In Fromelles

The first sod was turned today on a small northern property in the countryside near Pheasant Wood, France, where a suspected World War I group burial site may have gone undiscovered for over 90 years.

Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Mr Warren Snowdon MP, announced that the limited excavation project will ascertain whether the remains of fallen Australian and British soldiers from the battle of Fromelles are buried beneath the soil.

"Reports prove beyond reasonable doubt that approximately 400 Australian and British soldiers were buried here during the battle on the Western Front in 1916, and now we are trying to ascertain whether the remains are still buried here or if they were disinterred at some stage during the subsequent years," Mr Snowdon said.

"I am confident that the planned process is robust, and the personnel assigned to this task will work tirelessly to determine once and for all whether Australian WWI remains lay buried at the Fromelles site."

The Army has engaged experienced battlefield excavation contractor, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD), to carry out the works and Senior Army Representative, Major General Mike O'Brien, is overseeing the project in France. A team of specialists are also on hand to identify artefacts and assess the condition of remains, should any be discovered during the excavation.

"The most important task for this team is to concentrate on a thorough and scientific process to evaluate whether remains are located in this field alongside Pheasant Wood."

"Conditions have been difficult over the past months, with the high water table causing delay to the scheduled timetable, so I am pleased that the excavation was able to begin today."

The works are being undertaken with the approval of French and British authorities and under the auspices of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is expected that the work will take approximately two weeks to complete, depending on local conditions.

"We have received excellent support from the French and British Governments as well as the residents of Fromelles, in particular the tenant and owner of the excavating site."

"I am looking forward to regular updates from the team in France and will keep the Australian public informed of any progress at the site as we proceed," Mr Snowdon said.

ENDS

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