Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi Victoria.

Thank you yet again, for your in depth explanation. It is much appreciated! I have sent you a pm, regarding the Ypres branch, Royal British Legion contact details. We realy do make an effort to attend these ceremonies. Since September last year, we have attended the burials of at least 21 soldiers from many nations, including last weeks burials of 8 German soldiers. We will be honoured to receive an invitation to next years ceremony and pay our deepest respects, to both the British and Australian soldiers buried there.

Best wishes.

Chris.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

T31 Jul 2008

MINSCIENCEANDPERSONNEL101/08

FROMELLES DIGGERS TO BE GIVEN INDIVIDUAL BURIALS

Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, today announced that the Australian and British Governments will seek to have the remains of their World War I soldiers – buried in mass graves near Fromelles in 1916 – exhumed and given individual burials with military honours.

Mr Snowdon today made the joint announcement with Mr Derek Twigg, British Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans. It follows the limited excavation of the Pheasant Wood site in May this year, when the Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) confirmed that human remains were present and assessed their condition, number and nationality.

“The Australian and British Governments have agreed that individual military burial is the most fitting way to commemorate our brave soldiers, and will ensure the heroism they showed in the terrible battle of Fromelles will be remembered and revered,” said Mr Snowdon.

“Should these remains have been discovered by post-war battlefield clearance teams in 1919, the war dead would have been re-interred with individual headstones; our men are no less deserving of that honour and dignity today.”

Planning work will begin immediately, and subject to the approval of French authorities and with the support of the people of Fromelles, a timeframe for the recovery of remains will be announced later this year. Future work, including the significant task of preparing a war cemetery, will be undertaken under the auspices of Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“Whilst acquisition of the land near Pheasant Wood for a permanent war cemetery is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission responsibility, we acknowledge the generous offer of land by the owner of the mass burial site, Madame Demassiet, and will consider the needs of all parties including the tenant farmer in this process.”

Work is underway to confirm the names of those believed buried at the Pheasant Wood site, and the Australian and British Governments have agreed to equally share the costs of research, exhumation and reburial.

Details on the Fromelles research and limited excavation are available online at www.defence.gov.au/fromelles. Members of the public who believe their relative may be buried at Fromelles are encouraged to register their details at the website or via the Fromelles Public Inquiries line: 1800 019 090.

________________________________________________________________________________

_

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like a very sensible solution. I did not read a mention of any move to identify the individual remains by means of DNA etc, will this then result in every new headstone being marked as "Known Unto God"?. This may of course be a misunderstanding on my part.

Norman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No it doesn't Norman ... but will be interesting to see what the media produce from the press conferences both here and in the UK.

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Sandra,

this information should calm the games ... I hope...

thank you very much

très amicalement

Michel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that Sandra. I'll be interested to see what other finer details are released about this in the coming days.

Cheers

Andrew

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reply Sandra. This is indeed a very emotive subject and I am sure that all of us wish for a dignified and respectful outcome to this. My own feeling is that if the remains are going to be exhumed and then individually interred in a grave as an unknown then in my opinion the better solution would be to leave them together and accept the kind offer of the landowner by enclosing the site in an appropriate manner. I am aware that whatever opinions we may have as individuals once the decision has been taken there will be little that we can do to affect it. Looking forward to clarification of whether it is intended to attempt to identify individuals.

Best Wishes

Norman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What time is your news over there Norman?

Is there anything on your Minister's website?

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing on the media yet Sandra, I am sure that members will post a link to anything that is broadcast in the UK.

Best Wishes

Norman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yee ha. Great news. It was all ready on our main evening news here tonight.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great news, congratulations to those who worked so hard on this, well done.

“Should these remains have been discovered by post-war battlefield clearance teams in 1919, the war dead would have been re-interred with individual headstones; our men are no less deserving of that honour and dignity today.”

I think these lines in the statement, says it all.

Thanks for the news Sandra.

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is great Nigel!!!

Thanks :)

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I couldn’t open Nigel’s link to the MOD page, but managed to search and find the news release. As follows:

Thursday 31 July 2008 09:04

Ministry Of Defence (National)

War grave plans announced for Fromelles WW1 Dead

The British and Australian Governments have today announced plans to re-bury the World War One dead found at a mass grave in Fromelles, France, last month.

The soldiers from the two countries, believed to number up to 400, will be re-buried in individual graves in a new cemetery that will be built on the site of, or as close as possible to, the mass grave by Pheasants Wood on the edge of Fromelles. The exhumation and re-interment will be carried out under the auspices of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Planning work will be put in hand immediately and we expect to be able to announce a timescale for the work to recover the remains later this year.

Derek Twigg, Veterans Minister, said:

"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. 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."

The mass war grave was discovered by an amateur historian in Australia and confirmed by a team of archaeologists from Glasgow University on behalf of the Australian Government with support from the British Ministry of Defence and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The limited excavation carried out earlier this year in May and June confirmed the presence of large numbers of human remains of both British and Australian soldiers. The site was covered over at the end of the two-week exploratory dig pending a decision on the way ahead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi All,

Just returned home from the announcement by the Australian Minister for Defence, Warren Snowdon. It was made in front of the recently unveiled Cobbers Statue at The Shrine in Melbourne.

As you have all seen, he announced the exhumation and individual re-interment of the remains at Pheasant Wood. What wasn't in the press release is the comment he made regarding ID - "there may be the possibility of some identification". He didn't elaborate any further than this but I suspect a variety of options are definitely on the cards.

I think the announcement was a case of the politicians announcing a minimum rather than a maximum response so that further down the track they might look better for achieving more rather than less. I also believe Snowdon didn't want to offer false hopes and be open to criticism at a later stage if they couldn't achieve all that is hoped.

Cheers,

Tim L.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This morning’s announcements are wonderful news and the decision goes a long way to meeting the desires of all those involved. Fromelles is for me, and for many members of this Forum, an incredibly important place and the re-discovery of Pheasant Wood is one of the biggest things to happen to the village since the battle of 1916.

Comparing the two news releases, I notice that there is a distinction between the two. The Australian announcement states “Should these remains have been discovered by post-war battlefield clearance teams in 1919, the war dead would have been re-interred with individual headstones; our men are no less deserving of that honour and dignity today”, whist the British announcement merely states “The soldiers from the two countries, believed to number up to 400, will be re-buried in individual graves in a new cemetery that will be built on the site of, or as close as possible to, the mass grave by Pheasants [sic] Wood on the edge of Fromelles”. As Tim has pointed out, these announcements have been very carefully worded and there is no mention in the British release of “individual headstones”.

I suspect that, as before, we come back to the main problem of not knowing the identity of the British men. At the drinks reception in Fromelles on Saturday 19th (following the services), I had a chat with representatives from both the British Government and the CWGC. The view then was that the British Government would like to see a joint Australian/British memorial on the site.

Whichever way it is done, I’m sure that it will be done in the fairest way possible.

V.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not a time for excitement just yet in my opinion. There is as yet no commitment from the authorities to attempt identification of the individual remains by the only method available which would ensure as far as possible definite results i.e. DNA comparison. I would have thought that if this method was intended to be used then the official statement would have included such a reference, especially considering the discussions that have taken place in the recent past. The worse case scenario to me would be the disturbance of the remains after all this time at Pheasant Wood followed by reburial in over 400 new individual graves bearing the sad words “Known Unto God”. It is my understanding that the chances of identifying the British remains is remote to say the least and all of these would be recorded as unknowns.

Norman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting point Victoria. I was left in doubt by the Australian announcement that each man would have his own headstone.

Regarding the British casualties, we might not know their names at this very point in time but it's almost certain that somewhere in the dim and dusty archives of the Red Cross in Geneva, there are the German death lists for both Australians and British. I'm positive that if the Germans prepared lists for the Australian authorities then they no doubt did the same for the British. It's just a matter of finding them and that presents a few challenges not the least is that they are apparantly written in old Bavarian script which would need to be deciphered and translated to determine what they contain.

Speaking with gov't representatives today, the plan is to attempt to locate those lists (with a little luck!). I suppose an enterprising amateur British historian might like to make an attempt of his/her own to locate these - any takers??? :)

Cheers,

Tim L.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Norman,

I got the distinct impression that DNA testing is definitely on the cards and that they are simply waiting for a full examination of the remains to determine the chances of DNA extraction before commiting to that process (along with other more conventional forms of ID).

Cheers,

Tim L.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it's almost certain that somewhere in the dim and dusty archives of the Red Cross in Geneva, there are the German death lists for both Australians and British

Tim, I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, there has never been enough time for me to sit with Lambis and discuss the matter in detail. Would it be possible for you (or someone else who has been involved in the process) to give us a detailed account of what would be required to compile a burial list for the British men? Are we talking actual physical trips out to Geneva to trawl through piles of Red Cross files?

It would be wonderful to put names to the men in the graves and this is something in which I would love to be involved. However, I have two young children and, already, my research time is generally confined to the early hours of the morning (hence my rather haggard appearance :( ). I would never be able to dedicate enough time to enable me to spearhead such a project (Lambis has dropped hints in the past), but if it is a case of collating service record information (such as has survived) etc., then maybe a group of us could work together. My main concern is that we are running out of time. The British press release stated that the MOD expected to announce later this year a timescale for the recovery of the remains. From comments made by several people “in the know”, I suspect that we may be looking at a start date of Spring 2009.

I’ll have a word with someone at the CWGC and perhaps then we will have a better idea of both their requirements and their approach to the matter.

V.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Victoria ... first up would be Geoff's search engine checking the dates for the 19th and 20th July 1916, then the know units that took part in the battle then seperating the ones that have known graves at CWGC by this time I would suspect a pattern has formed :)

With all the Brits on the GWF I am a little suprised that no one has taken up the challenge :P

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Victoria,

There was a bit of discussion earlier on as to what British units actually penetrated the German line. I think they are easily identifiable and Bean also mentions them. Then it should be a matter of finding fatal casualties of those units on 19/20 July and who have no grave. This will give a crude list of who could be ]there.

I still think there are a few interesting questions unanswered. The biggest for me is that if there are 315 men in the pits - 175 are presumably Aussies and 140 are Brits. A ratio of 175:140 seems odd given the unequal number of Australian casualties to Brits. It is also an odd ratio given the amount of ground seized relatively by the Aussies to the Brits. Were the Brits that gained the line killed in mass numbers? Heavens forbid did Aussies surrender more easily than Brits? Did the Brits with all their rank killed just stay put and were slaughtered? How many Brits became POW's?

Is it possible (unlikely) that some of the remains from previous fights were put in the pits? Were the number of the dead found in no-mans land after the war 100% accurate in regards to nationality? They say that of all the dead found in no-mans land after the war, that next to none could be personally identified - sounds like rot to me. Who gathered the dead up - was it the Chinese labour corps? Is it possible that there are more Australians in the pits than what we think and the number in no-mans land were wrong? It seems odd that if 175 Aussie were killed in the German lines that ALL were able to be identified. If men could not be personally identified would the Germans bother recording the nationality?

This does need someone on the British side to investigate their numbers very thoroughly.

Len

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have just been speaking with a colleague and he mention works by Caulfield and that informative details were listed there. Silly me forgot to get the title.

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thumbing through the magazines in WHS this morning there is an article in Aug edn of Britain at War magazine about the site. It adds nothing to the detail on this thread but does include a couple of black and white photos printed 'with kind permission of Dr. Franz Kessler' . One shows a large group of bodies and although a German photo the same image is apparently on a postcard in the archives of the Australian War Memorial

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...