Fromelles - WWI soldiers to be exhumed from mass graves

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The remains of around 400 British and Australian soldiers killed in the First World War Battle of Fromelles in France are to be exhumed from mass graves and individually buried.

    The excavation of six mass graves at Fromelles is due to start in May 2009 and is expected to take up to six months, after which all the bodies will be permanently laid to rest in individual graves at a new Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

    The UK's Veterans Minister Kevan Jones and his Australian counterpart, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon, announced this week that the excavation of the graves will be undertaken by Oxford Archaeology.

    The mass war graves, which are believed to contain the remains of up to 400 individuals who died in the battle, were discovered in 2008.

    Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said:

    "We are pleased to announce that work will start in May 2009 on the archaeological excavation at Pheasant Wood as Oxford Archaeology has been successful in securing this important work.

    "There has been a particularly close and amicable working relationship between our two countries on this project to excavate potentially 400 sets of human remains from the WWI burial site."

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is overseeing the project on behalf of the UK and Australian Governments.
    Mr Jones added:

    "By the end of the project in 2010 all the bodies will be permanently laid to rest in individual graves at a new Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Fromelles. Wherever it is possible to identify the remains, named graves will be provided."

    Warren Snowdon, the Australian Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, said:

    "The Australian and British Governments will share the cost of the Pheasant Wood excavation, which is expected to take up to six months depending on several factors including the weather, soil conditions and the actual number of remains recovered.

    "The awarding of this contract means that planning can begin in earnest for the excavation to commence in May this year and I look forward to work commencing that will ultimately see our brave soldiers fully honoured and laid to rest."

    British and Australian families who believe they have connections to, or information on, the soldiers who may be buried at Fromelles are being encouraged to come forward to assist with the process.

    DNA samples will be taken from a small cross-section of the remains to determine the viability of a larger testing programme, and the potential for a formal identification.

    The Battle of Fromelles began 19 days after the opening of the Somme campaign. It was the first major battle involving Australian and British troops on the Western Front. The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, of which 1,917 were killed, and the 61st British Division suffered 1,547 casualties, either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

    The destruction of the majority of British WWI Service records during the Blitz in 1940 has made it difficult to establish who may be buried at Fromelles.

    The main British regiments involved in the battle, and therefore the most likely to have men buried at Fromelles, were the Gloucestershire Regiment (now The Rifles), the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox & Bucks) (now The Rifles), the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (now The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers), the Worcestershire Regiment (now The Mercian Regiment), and the Machine Gun Corps (disbanded and no modern equivalent).
  2. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Some hard work being done!

  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    If it hadn't have been for the stick-to-it-iveness of our pal Lambis .... this would not be happening !! and how wonderful that it is ... !! :)

    The man deserves a medal !!
  4. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    I caught a brief snippet on the news last night - something about him being banned from the site?
  5. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

  6. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    What ?? ..... :confused: .... why ??
  7. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    You know what makes me mad ? ..... heres a man who has dedicated the last few years of his life to find these forgotten soldiers ... he's pushed and clawed his way through all kinds of red tape to have these men recognised ... when nobody would listen .. he kept on going and proved all the so called experts wrong !!

    Now what happens ? ... the bureaucrats want to take over .... :confused:
  8. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

  9. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    I only heard a snippet about someone/something being banned, Annie. The intimation was that it was Lambis (saw footage of him) but it could have been a banning of ANZAC Day services there to protect the ground?
  10. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Well as long as it was only that Andy !!!!!!! .... that I understand !

    I can't imagine anything to do with Fromelles without Lambis ....

    as I've said many times ... the man deserves a medal ... for everything he's done these last few years !! :)
  11. spof

    spof New Member

    Michel tells me the excavation startson 5th or 6th May. Pheasant Wood is behind on the left and the burial site is immediately behind the office where the yellow digger is.

    Some photos of the temporary "office" set up.

    Attached Files:

  12. spof

    spof New Member

    Some more of the burial site

    Attached Files:

  13. spof

    spof New Member

    The new cemetery is on the road leading into the village almost across the road from the church.

    Attached Files:

  14. spof

    spof New Member

    An aerial view

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  15. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Thanks for the photos Glen - ( looks like you had a bit of sunshine !! ;) )

    Is the new cemetery ... the field that that lady owned where they were found ??
  16. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I meant to ask you ...... did you enjoy the visit ? ... when are you going back ?? ;)
  17. spof

    spof New Member

    The sunshine lasted until Saturday morning so I was very lucky. Picture sunset in a fiell by the woods listening to a French accent....if Michel had been called Michelle, then I'd still be there. :eek:

    I don't know about the new cemetery and the burial site ownership. As I understantd it, the field where the men were found (or at least part of it) has been donated to the people of Britain and Ausralia but the cemetery is something I don't know about.

    If the man who lives near VC Corner and the Cobbers statue and cycles out to offer to take photos of the visitors and then leaves before you can even say Thank You is anything to go by, then I suspect the cemetery field will also be a donation or a very cheap sale.

  18. spof

    spof New Member

    Words can't explain how much I enjoyed the visit.

    Current plans are to go back for my grandfather's cousin at Polygon Wood on 26th September for a longer visit.
  19. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I'm glad you enjoyed yourself !! :D

    France is a beautiful country and it's so very poignant to be where our ancestors have been ...... I really want to walk in my Granddads footsteps in the not too distant future ...... when I had the chance I never went .... stupid me !! :rolleyes:

    I also want to follow my Munsters .... luckily Michel and my Bandon Boys keep me up to date on them ! :D it would be lovely to be there in May .... but ...... too much going on here I'm afraid ! .... plus I have to go to Liverpool for " our special soldier " !!

    So many things to do ... so little time !!

    What's the anniversary in September then ?

    Annie :)
  20. spof

    spof New Member


    Speaking of Munster men, we spotted this one which I had to record for you. Do you know why his (and a few others) headstones are facing the opposite direction to all the others in the cemetery?

    September 26 is when my GF's cousins went into his first and last battle at Polygon Wood at Passchendaele which left him basically without the use of his left arm and so was sent back to Australia. Still trying to work my way through the FH part of it but he is probably part of my 15 Cousins project.

    I haven't forgotten "our Liverpool man" either.

    Attached Files:

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