WWI dig finds remains of 222 British, Australian soldiers

20th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Since May, some 30 archaeologists and forensics experts have been unearthing remains from mass burial pits at the site of the 1916 Battle of Fromelles, near the city of Lille, and searching for clues to identify the soldiers.

Fromelles -- Experts have so far exhumed the remains of 222 British and Australian soldiers from a World War I mass grave discovered in northern France, the project manager said on Wednesday.

Since May, some 30 archaeologists and forensics experts have been unearthing remains from mass burial pits at the site of the 1916 Battle of Fromelles, near the city of Lille, and searching for clues to identify the soldiers.

David Richardson, project manager for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said his team expected to recover a total of around 250 bodies by the time excavation work is completed in mid-September.

Most of the dead are Australian troops, who will be reinterred in individual graves in a cemetery being built near the site.

More than 5,500 Australians were killed, wounded or went missing in the disastrous Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916, cut down by German machine guns as they advanced in open fields.

The date stands out as Australia's bloodiest day.

British losses were more than 1,500 in the failed bid to seize a German position and prevent them from sending reinforcements to the Battle of the Somme, a few dozen kilometres away.

AFP/Expatica

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