British, Australian WWI remains to be re-interred

31st July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Remains of British and Australian troops found in a mass grave in France will be reburied individually, say governments.

31 July 2008

LONDON - British and Australian troops from World War I, whose remains were found in a mass grave in France, are to be reburied individually, both governments said in a joint statement Thursday.

The remains of up to 400 soldiers who died at the Battle of Fromelles in 1916 will be placed in a new cemetery on the site of, or as close as possible to, the mass grave, Britain's veterans minister Derek Twigg said.

Exhumation and re-interment will be carried out by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The project is expected to start later this year, he added.

"It is right and proper that those brave men who lost their lives at Fromelles are buried with the honour and dignity befitting their ultimate sacrifice," Twigg said in a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence.

"The new cemetery will be a lasting tribute to their bravery and a place of pilgrimage for families who lost a relative in the battle. It will ensure the memory of their actions lives on for future generations."

An amateur historian in Australia discovered the mass grave in a location known to Allied troops as Pheasants Wood on the edge of Fromelles, west of the city of Lille, northeastern France.

Limited excavation work carried out in May and June confirmed the presence of the soldiers.

The Battle of Fromelles, on 19-20 July 1916, was a bloody failure.

Intended to divert German troops from the Battle of the Somme, some 5,500 Australian and 1,500 British soldiers were killed.

It was the worst loss of life for the Australian Imperial Force in a 24-hour period, more even than Gallipoli in 1915, and poisoned relations between the Australians and their British commanders.

[AFP / Expatica]

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