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Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
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PBI,

I'm not sure what kind of conspiracy theory you're driving at???

Firstly you questioned the statements of researchers (including myself) that personal items of the missing were returned to families by the Germans. I provided actual documents to show your questions were unfounded. Now, you're hinting that there's some sort of a private clique deciding the outcome of the Pheasant Wood site. To correct one point you've hinted at - the CWGC is not responsible for the location, exhumation or identification of any remains. In the case of Australian soldiers, that is a matter for the Australian Army (and in the British case the MOD I suspect - although I'm happy to be corrected on this). As this site comprises soldiers of both nations, the decision will be arrived at through consultation between the Australian, British and French authorities and of course the CWGC will be involved throughout this process. If this is a clique, who else would you have involved??

I can't make fair comment about how information is shared in England but here in Australia there was ample print and TV media coverage of the 'Cobbers' unveiling in Melbourne both leading up to and in the days after the event. The activities at the Shrine of Remembrance during the week before were also advertised in brochures and their website. The services held at Fromelles also received good attention. I don't think this is evidence of a clique but perhaps you need to be looking at how these services are being advertised where you are. I think your accusations of some cosy conspiracy are well and truly misguided and based simply on a failure of the British MOD to share knowledge of these events.

You also may well be correct about the man with telephone wire wrapped around his ankles but that doesn't explain the resting place of others in the same pit that you have conveniently omitted to mention.

Len,

The actual figure Mike O'Brien stated was 170 odd not 130 odd. In actual fact the correct figure at this point in time stands at 175.

Cheers,

Tim L.

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<snip>

The services held at Fromelles also received good attention. I don't think this is evidence of a clique but perhaps you need to be looking at how these services are being advertised where you are. I think your accusations of some cosy conspiracy are well and truly misguided and based simply on a failure of the British MOD to share knowledge of these events.

<snip>

On the basis that Tim infers that the information relating to this event was disseminated via the Australian defence department, that would appear to be a very valid point.

May I ask who actually organised the service and commemoration at Pheasant Wood, and therefore took responsibility for the (temporary?) plaque and who should be invited to attend?

Kind Regards,

SMJ

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Victoria,

Like you I have been very concerned about the reporting of the circumstances of the deceased in the pit by those who were given access because of their specific involvement, and had probably agreed to the need to keep the information confidential. To then come on the forum and detail what they saw is deplorable, particularly as they are using it often for their own very narrow and shallow, self interest. What makes it even worse is when they have used the circumstances only a few were found in to suggest or imply, that this is common, is mendacious. I believe that in the spirit of the forum those who have specifically identified the way an individual deceased was found is macabre voyerism and dishonourable to those they made committments too, the intent and purpose we GWF "Pals" are here for, and more importantly the deceased British and Australian soldiers.

To those who are implying that there somehow is a conspiracy, may I suggest you apply safe, lay down your weapon and step back from the mound, before you have more AD's. Nothing has been done without the full knowledge of the CWGC/OAWG, the UK MOD, the Australian DOD and French authorities. When the Glasgow University Archeological Research Division submitted its report last year through the Australian Army History Unit, the report was made public and received some comment from the chattering classes (competing bodies who wanted to do the "dig"), I am sure they will publicly release the report of the dig. The fact that a local chapter of the RBL wasn't made aware of the recent ceremony does not indicate conspiracy (I would think RBL HQ was aware), the fact that the British media have not made much of the search does not indicate conspiracy, the fact that an Australian Pal focuses their posts on Australians and forgets to post one of any British dignitaries present, doesn't indicate conspiracy - just parochialism and some myopic behaviour :`) The fact that the lead has been at the behest of the Australian Army, simply indicates that the Australian Army agreed to fund, commission and manage the search on behalf of both the British and Australian Army's for the CWGC as a result of Lambis's excellent research and the prosletysing by him and others.

So, can we all take a deep breath and step back for a while?

cheers,

Chris H

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I just posted a reply to you Chris and it seems that it hasn't wanted to appear (maybe it'll turn up later).

Rather than try and recall everything I wrote I'll just sum it up with:

I disagree with your first paragraph and believe it was necessary to dispel the incorrect assumptions being bandied around here and elsewhere. What is more dishonerable; Tim Whitford describing how these men lie or leaving them like that based of some fanciful fairytail belief. It's not accurate to say Tim implied this form of burial was common - he clearly stated in was only two out of five pits. Your comments about only a few being uncovered that appeared buried in that way is misleading. In truth, only a small section of every pit was uncovered and 'all remains uncovered' in the two pits described by Tim were buried in that manner. Your remarks ignore the fact that most likely all those who remain still covered in these two pits will be buried in a similar fashion.

Totally agree with the rest of your post :)

Cheers,

Tim L.

Time for that deep breath now.

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Considering all of the strong feelings that have become evident in this thread I was keeping my distance from the various controversies. After reading the latest comments I do have a few observations and thoughts I would like to pass along.

I have been involved in Great War archaeology including times when human remains were found. After watching the people in my group who had the expertise and experience in handling such finds I have come to a number of conclusions that relate to this very thread.

On a related matter I doubt there was a conspiracy theory regarding the remains, the ceremony, etc. It is more likely a matter of information and how it is distributed, etc.

To the matter I began this entry, the remains. While it is great to extrapolate a set of findings into a general statement there is no way to determine how many men were buried, their possible nationality or the method or condition they were buried in without excavating the entire group of potential graves to the original ground level and take into account settling, shifting earth, etc. Unless this was done then any statement as to the condition, layout, etc. must be confined to the men actually recovered.

The concept of a neat, well attended burial is probably not what happened. The men killed at Fromelles, German and Allied were all given burials in mass graves, all were treated in similar manners and the location and condition they may have ended up 90+ years later will be different than how they were laid to rest because things shift and move during this length of time.

That some were found is an accurate statement, the numbers that lie nearby can be conjecture only. The men should receive the recognition due their circumstances and all other issues are of little value in my opinion, more a matter of semantics than anything else. We could argue till the cows come home but without actual hands on excavations and eye witness accounts we could discuss the issues forever as many news people do at present on television shows where the volume of talking trumps facts every time.

I am sure I have offended one side or the other with some comments. I just want people to stick to known facts, realize all else is guess work and not to read evil thoughts into the events of 90+ years ago. I have read far too many conspiracy theories on how one side or the other committed atrocities and were covering them up, all which was based upon a leap of faith between facts you could sail the Leviathan through.

The Germans could have left them where they lay as some were. These were probably in areas where it was simply not safe to venture out to recover them. From the information provided in some answers to this thread that appear factual the Germans treated them in a decent manner. Now, if they lie in these graves, isn't enough that they rest in peace as they did before all of the controversy?

Please keep all personal attacks to a minimum, I have endured far too many of these in the past to even consider them.

Ralph

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Any information that is relevant to the subject will influence a decision. The condition & circumstances of the remains in the pits is relevant and any needless censorship of such is not a good thing. It was ridiculous censorship that prolonged WW1 in the first place, it would have been all over by Christmas 1916 if they had media coverage like we do now. Public discussion is a good thing and we will always vary in opinion. This forum is a fantastic place for public discussion.

The allies and Germans did not meet out in no-mans land and have a face slapping competition - they tried to, and did kill each other with any violent means possible. To try and disguise this is fantasy.

The fact remains is that these soldiers were killed in action and were missing in action for 92 years and now they have been found. It took a long time to find them compared to many of their contemporaries. Now we have a golden opportunity to give them each an individual burial and headstone marker just like their mates did. They deserve it. That is my opinion and it differs to others - but wouldn't it be a boring world if we were all clones.

Len

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Ralph,

If I may offer a couple of corrections to your post. After speaking with those involved in the dig, I was surprised to learn that the heavy, thick clay where these men were buried actually prevented the remains from shifting to any significant degree and that how they have been uncovered is almost precisely the way they were buried. This same clay has assisted in the preservation of the remains by almost sealing them from surrounding air. Although the Germans tried to bury 'most' with some form of respect, it is therefore evident that maybe a third of those at Pheasant Wood were not buried with any real dignity. I also wouldn't be making the assumption that the Germans buried these men out of any sort of sense of decency but rather as an absolute necessity. The bodies of these men lay in and around the German trenches and had to be disposed of to prevent disease etc. What the Germans should be commended for is the fact that they bothered to record the details of these men and were honourable enough to have all the possessions returned to the men's families.

No one is laying any blame with the German soldiers involved in the burial. I'm certain had the roles been reversed Allied soldiers would have performed the ugly task in a similar manner and possibly wouldn't have gone to quite as much effort. War is war and it's not a pretty business. The fact that some of these men were buried roughly is to be expected but now having the chance to identify and re-bury them with some dignity, we should grasp the opportunity with both hands. Don't forget, some of these men do not appear to be resting anything even approaching 'in peace'.

I don't really think anyone has resorted to any deliberate personal attacks. Yes, we have different opinions and sometimes our responses can appear to be a personal attack but as yet I can't say that anything has seriously crossed the line.

Len,

Agree with that last post entirely. (Does that make us clones?? :) )

Cheers,

Tim L.

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Having read the last few posts following PBI’s claim of ‘a cosy clique’ with interest it seems that ample answers have been given to correct his rather erroneous presumptions. The main thrust of PBI’s argument with the Fromelles service seems to be that he wasn’t consulted about it. I am struggling to find evidence of anyone being ‘ignored or deliberately frozen out’ or a ‘pre arranged and secret itinerary already in place from way back’, yet alone anyone ‘being fed Bulls**t yet again’.

To summarise, in recent times there has been a remembrance service at Fromelles every year on 19 July and this year was no exception with representatives from the Australian Army, MOD and CWGC being present (as well as relatives from British families). I am surprised that the RBL Ypres Branch were unaware of this annual commemoration but am sure that they will be there from now on every year. As I understand, the commemorations are open to the public. It is certainly not secret. All are welcome.

As for the memorial stone, this was put there by the people involved in the project as a much needed focal point should people want to lay wreaths to the men that lie in the burial pits at Pheasant Wood. I guess it will remain there in that role until a decision is made as to what will happen to the site. Having read the words on the stone from the photos I really didn’t think it necessary to throw the choice of words open to everyone. They seem to be absolutely spot on to me.

Jeremy

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Glad to see some of the Rose Coloured Spectacles are finally coming off,and Common Sense is prevailing regarding the chances of IDing Remains from the Pits and to the Manner in which the Men concerned were placed there.As i have previously stated the "Body Hunt" Documentary Broadcast by the BBC a few Years ago shows the Many Problems in IDing Soldiers Remains from WW1.Also the "Finding The Fallen "Series deals in Depth with the Same Problems.Fromelles will no doubt present exactly the same scenario.Ok Auifmo,down to Brass Tacks,after the Battle was over Tired,Fed Up German Soldiers would have been detailed off into recovering and Burying ANY Bodies within their Defence Perimeter,this was not done as an act of Chivalry,but to get rid of the Corpses ASAP to prevent Infection and any further spread of Disease by Flies or Rats etc.There would have been NO pomp or Ceremony involved,simply 2 men taking hold of the Body and into the pit it went and was more than likely covered with a good covering of Quick Lime to aid the Decomposition.End of Story.The Bodies would have also had most of their valuables Souveneired by the Enemy IE anything considered worthwhile plunder worth taking was removed,and most probably what was seen as valueless was handed in to whosoever wanted to return the remaining "Valueless Items" to the next of Kin etc,all other articles IE.Watches,Rings,Money,Boots,Cigarettes,would have been Looted.No Doubt British and Australian Troops did the Same thing.As for Bodies being Tied with Signal Wire to expediate Handling,there are many Accounts from German Soldiers of Seeing their Own Dead Stacked in neat Piles Awaiting Burial or Cremation,it was this German Way of Dealing with the Dead that went on to Spark off Legends about German Corpse Factories on the Western Front.Regarding IDing the Remains,unless there is some very very strong Evidence to Support a positive ID for each Man in the Pit,i am afraid that they will end up as a " Soldier of the Great War" or a "Known unto God"..If indeed they are ever exhumed.The DNA ID will not be 100% accurate owing to Factors previously Discussed on this Thread.I think the whole Fromelles Saga has generated a whole lot of False Hope and expectation for relatives of the Fallen,only to be further compounded by well meaning People who are in La La Land and People who have no real grasp of the situation and associated problems who have almost totally convinced the relatives that it is only a matter of Time before their Forbear is Exhumed.Identified and given a Military Funeral with full Honours,when in reality,it will more than likely never Happen,Some People being in total denial of this outcome,and the events which led up to it.I also await the Final Outcome of the "Fromelles Affair".As for the "Clique" i Stick by My Guns,proof being that more People in the "Know" seem to be coming out of the Wood Work by the Hour.And how many Families of British Soldiers Killed at Fromelles were present at the Ceremony ?,No RBL or Regimental Standards on Parade that i could see in the Photos,Plus NO media coverage prior to the event or after it in the UK....Hmmmmmmmmm

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Is the whole point being lost here, I have read this thread from the start, when all they had was a field, how they know there is a grave there, and there is nothing to stop anybody going along there on the 19th of July next year if you missed it this year.

As much as I would love these men to have a grave with there name over them, I have to agree with PBI that the IDing by DNA would seem impossible going on the accounts of the finds so far, but that should not stop them at lease being removed from the pits and given a proper burial.

I to will await the final decision.

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Not far from Pheasant Wood is VC Corner, a monument to the Australians who fell at Fromelles. It has a mass grave for Australian soldiers there. Are we saying that the best thing for those men is to be dug up and then re-interred in a different pit? If that is the case then I genuinely feel they ought to be left where they are. Where they were buried by the foe with as much ceremony as could be afforded. An honourable burial which was denied many tens of thousands of their comrades and, dare I say, the enemy who buried them.

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Hi Jeremy.

You say you are surprised, that the Ypres branch was unaware of the ceremony. I will repeat! As this was an official commemoration and remembrance ceremony, we can and will only make an attendance, if we are officialy invited. This is normal protocol procedure. We would of been honoured to attend with wreath and standard! You then state that we will be there every year from now on. Do you mean, this is notice, that you will send us an official invitation for next year etc?

If we are not informed of ceremonies and no invitation is received, then we do not attend, however much we would like to!

This is one ceremony, that we would of been honoured to attend and present a wreath on behalf of the Royal British Legion.

Best wishes.

Chris Lock Poppy Appeal Organiser, Ypres branch RBL.

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[The fact remains is that these soldiers were killed in action and were missing in action for 92 years and now they have been found. It took a long time to find them compared to many of their contemporaries. Now we have a golden opportunity to give them each an individual burial and headstone marker just like their mates did. They deserve it. That is my opinion and it differs to others - but wouldn't it be a boring world if we were all clones.

Len

well my opinion for what its worth why now ? after 92 years seperate these men they died together now they lie together let them rest in peace as they are at peace with their comrades

tafski

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Hi Jeremy.

You say you are surprised, that the Ypres branch was unaware of the ceremony. I will repeat!

Chris Lock Poppy Appeal Organiser, Ypres branch RBL.

Hi Chris,

No need to repeat! When I mentioned that I am surprised that the RBL were not invited (and had not been invited to do so in the past) it was not intended as a criticism of the RBL. I genuinely was surprised that the RBL were not there. As I understand it the annual ceremony is organised by the village of Fromelles. With the increase in interest in the Fromelles battlefield I think it safe to say that more British and Commonwealth visitors will be expected in future years. My guess would be that the RBL would be contacted to attend next year's ceremony. This is only a guess though. I am certainly in no position to offer you any official invitation. Let's hope that it can be organised for next July and on an ongoing basis.

All best,

Jeremy

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May I ask who actually organised the service and commemoration at Pheasant Wood, and therefore took responsibility for the (temporary?) plaque and who should be invited to attend?

Kind Regards,

SMJ

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Hi Simon,

As I understand it the service is an annual event that is organised by the village of Fromelles. I would suggest contacting the Mairie for further info. As I said before, the service is open to all (think along the lines of the Menin Gate or Lochnagar on 1 July so on a 'just turn up' basis) and took in the new site at Pheasant Wood because of the obvious public interest in the burial pits. I am sure that it is not the only village in France that commemorates its battle on an annual basis. The plaque was suggested by the parties involved in the dig. These have all been mentioned on previous posts.

Cheers

Jeremy

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Hi Jeremy,

Ah I got the impression, from the recent replies and photographs, that it was a separate dedicated event tacked on and organised for this year with invited delegates represented. I presume the choir, MOD, CWGC and senior military personnel just rocked up on the off-chance, then, like every year.

Seriously, it's not hard to see why some noses would be put out of joint but it looked like a super day.

Now I know about it I will certainly watch developments for any memorial with great interest.

Regarding the events of the dig per se that received ample coverage in the UK.

Kind Regards,

SMJ

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Not far from Pheasant Wood is VC Corner, a monument to the Australians who fell at Fromelles. It has a mass grave for Australian soldiers there. Are we saying that the best thing for those men is to be dug up and then re-interred in a different pit? If that is the case then I genuinely feel they ought to be left where they are.

No Tom not a different "pit", A proper grave, I take it that VC Corner has been there since after the war, what we have at Fromelles is the chance to go one better, with out taking anything away from VC corner. What ever is the outcome, I am sure that not all will be happy.

Peter

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May I ask who actually organised the service and commemoration at Pheasant Wood, and therefore took responsibility for the (temporary?) plaque and who should be invited to attend?

Well, now, it’s like this. Fromelles has its own little way of doing things. The services would have been organised jointly between the Commune de Fromelles and the Association (FWTM). I had to use all sorts of bribery and corruption to get them to agree to hold a service in May to mark the 93rd anniversary of the Northern Attack of the Battle of Aubers Ridge. I was given a “programme” to proof read and when I queried some of the expressions (such as “programme”) I was told that this was what is prepared for the Australians each July. Every year on the 8th May some flowers are laid at the Kennedy Memorial at Rouges-Bancs. Why the 8th May? Because (I am told by my colleagues within the Association) it is a public holiday and therefore more convenient (I wonder if the men considered it a convenience or an inconvenience when they went over the top on the 9th!). However, a service is held every year on 19th July (come hell or high water) to mark the Battles of Fromelles. Three years ago my family and I travelled out to Fromelles where, I had been assured, there would be a service on the 9th May to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle. It came as something of a shock to discover that this was not to be. Apparently, the British weren’t interested so the French didn’t bother. As we left Fromelles we were passed by a coach load of visitors who, by prior arrangement with the Association, were in Fromelles that day as part of the 90th anniversary commemorations. If this is the British not bothering, I’d like to see what happens when they are!

If you walk along the battlefield from VC Corner to the Australian Memorial Park you will find absolutely nothing to indicate that the British had ever been there. You would need to walk to the end of the road where it bears around to the left to find a small piece of land on which stands a private memorial to Captain Paul Kennedy. This is all that you will find to commemorate a small portion of the hundreds upon hundreds of British men who perished there between 1914 and 1918.

For the service in May this year, I was asked to supply a list of the British guests whom I had invited to attend. I assumed (rightly, I thought) that the Association would invite all other contacts who had lost a relative in May 1915 - but I was wrong again. In Fromelles there is a big divide between the British and the Australians. It is a situation created not by the British or by the Australians, but by the French, although I would be the first to admit that we British are not making enough effort in this particular neck of the woods. It was partly because of this that I agreed to accept the rôle of British Representative to the Association (Lambis Englezos is my Australian counterpart). It has been (and continues to be) an uphill struggle, but I’m getting there slowly.

The Association has done, and to continues to do, some wonderful work in and around Fromelles, but it is very set in its ways and it is very much a case of trying to teach an old dog new tricks. Martial Delebarre (the President of the Association) finally agreed that there were “wrongs to be put right” and the first step to redress the balance took place in February this year when the Association’s name was changed from "Association pour la Souvenir de la Bataille de Fromelles" to "Association Fromelles-Weppes-Terre de Mémoire 14-18". The Association’s crest of the rising sun of the A.I.F. was replaced by a new insignia showing the names of the fives villages of La Communaute de Communes de Weppes, the Rivers Deule and Lys and the dove of peace. It was designed to represent all action which had taken place in the locality.

Chris, I was unaware that the Ypres Branch of the RBL would have attended a service down in Fromelles and, if I had been aware, I would have assumed that it would have been invited to attend. You really should have been there and hindsight is a wonderful thing. In future I will see to it that an invitation to attend is issued to the Ypres Branch - even if I have to issue it myself.

V.

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the fact that an Australian Pal focuses their posts on Australians and forgets to post one of any British dignitaries present, doesn't indicate conspiracy - just parochialism and some myopic behaviour :`)

Well, my parents did think of emmigrating to Australia in the 1960's but I'm afraid that is as near as I got. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm definitely English, a born and bred Hampshire lad. I quite like the idea of being someone who demonstrates parochialism and myopic behaviour in my photograph selection :D In all honesty though, I just picked a few of the photos from the ceremony at Fromelles on the 19th to post because they looked good, no hidden agenda or secret squirrel activity in which photos I selected or why.

Marc

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Regarding IDing the Remains,unless there is some very very strong Evidence to Support a positive ID for each Man in the Pit,i am afraid that they will end up as a " Soldier of the Great War" or a "Known unto God"..If indeed they are ever exhumed.The DNA ID will not be 100% accurate owing to Factors previously Discussed on this Thread.I think the whole Fromelles Saga has generated a whole lot of False Hope and expectation for relatives of the Fallen,only to be further compounded by well meaning People who are in La La Land and People who have no real grasp of the situation and associated problems who have almost totally convinced the relatives that it is only a matter of Time before their Forbear is Exhumed.Identified and given a Military Funeral with full Honours,when in reality,it will more than likely never Happen,Some People being in total denial of this outcome,and the events which led up to it.

PBI,

No one is in la la land over this issue. We are all quite aware that DNA identification is a complex process and that it's highly unlikely that all remains will be identified. However, based on the precedent of the five soldiers located at Zonnebeke (three have now been identified using DNA) it is reasonably fair to suggest that 'some' at Fromelles will also have a similar outcome. It is important to not forget that we have an almost completely defined list of names (Australian) which reduces the amount of guesswork involved considerably.

It's also not true to say that the descendants are being offered false hopes and expectations. Other than perhaps a few journalists looking for a sensational scoop without checking the facts, I have seen no evidence anywhere that anyone is offering a definite outcome. Our research has located descendants for approximately 40% of the Australian soldiers but at no time have we even discussed DNA identification with those found - our position is that decisions of that nature are to be left to those in charge of the investigation. Of those descendants I have spoken with, none are under any false illusions about what may result. Sure, they are hopeful and who wouldn't be, but they are not blindly optimistic and nor have they been cajoled with any false promises.

Perhaps the people who are really failing to grasp the situation are those who have not been involved in the investigation nor spoken with descendants yet expect everyone to accept their analysis of the facts based on a couple of television shows they've seen (admittedly quite good ones).

Cheers,

Tim L.

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I would like to point out to readers of this thread the fact that the Germans returned personal items to the AIF that were taken from the bodies of the men believed to be those buried in Pheasant Wood.

Having trawled through pages and pages of the services records I can certainly state that there are many letters returning to the family, purses containing coins and paper money, jewellery, letters, pay books, ID disks so on and so forth.

I had the opportunity to listen to the lecture given by Major General O'Brien concerning the findings of the excavation. He specifically pointed out that boots were still on the men and it would be one of the ways to identify the Australians from the British. He stated that the bodies were well preserved.

It would be honourable to these men if people would choose to write from an informed space as opposed to speculating and hypothesising from an uninformed one.

May they rest in peace.

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For example:

post-11785-1217389154.jpg

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post-11785-1217397311.jpg

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