France honours newly identified Australian war dead

20th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The graves of 14 newly identified Australian World War I soldiers were consecrated Tuesday in the French fields where they lie, 95 years after they died along with thousands of comrades.

"It's a very moving occasion and it's very nice to see his name on a headstone finally," said Kate Beattie, great grand-niece of Herbert Haslam, one of the 14 honoured on Tuesday evening with a minute's silence and bugle call.

Haslam, 26, was one of 5,533 Australians killed, wounded or lost when they and the British attacked the German line at Fromelles in a diversionary assault on July 19, 1916, considered the bloodiest day in Australia's history.

"It's a very important part of our national story," Snowdon said. "These men died for us. That's something we can't ever forget. We must honour them, we'll honour them always."

The 14 were among the remains of 250 Australians found in a mass grave near the site in 2009 and identified by their DNA, who now lie in the Fromelles cemetery inaugurated a year ago. So far 110 have been identified.

"That's an enormous relief, because it means that the families of those men now know where they rest," said Warren Snowdon, Australia's minister for veterans, at Tuesday evening's ceremony.

"And we know that they'll be looked after by the people of France."

© 2011 AFP

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