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Fromelles16: July 19th events


velo350
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I heard Peter's dulcet tones on Radio 4 this morning. Fascinating that this archive has not been looked at in detail before - interesting that it was not used during the original battlefield clearance work.

It will be most interesting what light it sheds on the Dead of Fromelles and their nationality. Will it also point the way to other mass graves? - will meticulous German record keeping reveal them 90 years on. How will the MOD react?

Fascinating.

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Most certainly a lot of questions and implications coming out of that little lot!

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Sandra

Thankyou for putting the details of this up, a chance discovery, or were you forewarned :o:ph34r: ? :D ) ;

Also Heard it on the radio here first thing this morning; it will be interesting to see just how much press coverage it gets here in the UK over the next few days

NigelS

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I had heard a bit of a whisper about this discovery but thought it better to wait until the facts were confirmed.

Certainly this has implications on the Fromelles investigation but personally I can see the effects stretching far beyond that.

It would appear that the Germans kept meticulous records regarding the dead they buried and the location of each burial. It begs the question, how many undiscovered graves can now be located? Not only that, but the implication on many of the graves recovered post-war and marked as 'Known Unto God' is potentially huge. Is it going to be possible to cross reference the German locations to those of the GRU's and therefore provide identities to many of these?

Of course, we will have to wait until the full extent of the discovery is known before we can ascertain what might be achievable but it's certainly an exciting find!!

Cheers,

Tim L.

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It would appear that the Germans kept meticulous records regarding the dead they buried and the location of each burial. It begs the question, how many undiscovered graves can now be located? Not only that, but the implication on many of the graves recovered post-war and marked as 'Known Unto God' is potentially huge. Is it going to be possible to cross reference the German locations to those of the GRU's and therefore provide identities to many of these?

Maybe the CWGC could tie in any discoveries in with there planned refurbishment work - see http://www.cwgc.org/news.asp?newsid=107&view=yes

NigelS

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In point of actual fact I was very surprised that the full extent of the find was made public.

Bright Blessings

Sandra

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Yes, made public to the extent that Peter has appeared on national breakfast television and a niece of a missing soldier has appeared also saying how delighted the family are with the new information.

Of course, the burning question is how may of the Great War unidentified might now be given back their identity. In respect of Fromelles, which I presume Peter will have majored on researching in Switzerland, just how Anglo-Australian are the pits. Perhaps Peter is trying to contextualise the importance of the Red Cross discovery - he compares it to Tutankahmen's tomb - to soften how the information from the archive may force a reinterpretation of what we may have at Fromelles. No doubt all we be revealed in due course.

Can't imagine that HMG will be too keen at the prospect of modifying the CWGC database with the all the Red Cross info and then taking the necessary actions in respect of the headstones. Exciting times though.

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It will be interesting to see how many people volunteer to transcribe the information!!!

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Yes, made public to the extent that Peter has appeared on national breakfast television and a niece of a missing soldier has appeared also saying how delighted the family are with the new information. Perhaps Peter now sees himself as the Howard Carter of Great War studies - although getting the visitors badge for the Red Cross basement and taking the lift down is a little less arduous than years of excavation in the Valley of the Kings!

Ian, I am sure Peter wouldn't claim anything of the sort. Out of fairness to him, a discovery of this magnitude does not happen every day. That he - and many of us - should be excited by this and use language of this nature is quite understandable. It really is one of the most important Great War archive finds to happen in many, many years.

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Perhaps people might find this article interesting. Just in case you missed it :)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7940540.stm

Bright Blessings

Sandra

Sandra,

Thank you very much for this post. Perhaps naively, given that the Red Cross has always been the most important conduit for information about casualties between the combatant nations/parties to a conflict, I had assumed the archives were researched. Obviously not, but thank you to our (Australian Department of Veterans Affairs and/or the (Australian) Army History Unit for commissioning Peter Barton to explore the records, in this case particulalrly for the Fromelles soldiers.

Regards,

Hendo

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ianw,

Not being English, but knowing the financial stress the UK is under I could understand HMG, in particluar the MOD, being slow to take up the challenge this find entails, but I would not suggest that they would be as parsimonious in the long term rememberance of your fallen as your post implies. Your nations collective rememberance of the fallen of the Great War and all wars of the Twentieth Century is, in my opinion, far more deeply ingrained at the personal, collective and national level than here in Australia, despite ANZAC Day.

As to whether the CWGC would update individual headstones, I would again suggest that they would during the normal maintenance program, headstones are replaced as the stone deteriorates.

Nevertheless isn't it a pity that the same amount of concern hasn't been shown to the British fallen of "older" conflicts, for example, service and war in India? No doubt you saw the pictures in the last few years, of graves being mechanically dug through in Pakistan so new homes/roads could be built.

Finally some companies are quicker than others, this just in my email:

"British Red Cross and Order of St. John Enquiry Lists of Wounded and Missing

The news is full of the fabulous archive that has been "discovered" in Geneva. Of course many of us have known about its existence, but it was not available for researchers to examine. It's is great news that the digitisation will be complete in the next five years.

We at N&MP ........".

Regards,

Hendo

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Yes, made public to the extent that Peter has appeared on national breakfast television and a niece of a missing soldier has appeared also saying how delighted the family are with the new information. Perhaps Peter now sees himself as the Howard Carter of Great War studies - although getting the visitors badge for the Red Cross basement and taking the lift down is a little less arduous than years of excavation in the Valley of the Kings!

IanW,

I must say I find your post quite negative and almost insulting towards Peter Barton. I had known about this for some days before and after speaking with Peter a few days ago his words to me were:

No way is the credit due to me for the discovery of this archive. It is all due to the IRC for keeping it.

Knowing Peter very well, there is no way that he sees himself as a Howard Carter of WW1 studies. He was only drawing a comparrison of what this discovery will mean to modern WW1 historians and studiers of the war. I have a copy of Herbert Roots journal that was quoted by his Niece, Eva Gilbert in Robert Halls report. It was with her permisssion that I put her in touch with Robert Hall for the article.

I personally think that the discovery of this archive will go a long way to providing further information to many historians and family researchers. A fact that should be welcome to many. This certainly isnt the place to knock the credibility of the man who has helped to bring it to the public eye

Iain

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"This certainly isnt the place to knock the credibility of the man who has helped to bring it ot the public eye"

Hear, hear.

Mabel

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Don't you think that many people might be misled by this news? Don't get me wrong - it is indeed a remarkable find.

The news as conveyed by the BBC made it sound as if the fate of the missing dead can now be clarified. No doubt this will be the case, perhaps for many thousands....but, surely, only a small portion will be identified through the Red Cross archives.

Roughly half of Commonwealth dead from the Great War recieved no identified burial ( an understatement, I daresay).

So many of these were pulverised into the ground, or were blown to bits, or simply rotted away, that they could never have been found, let alone identified. There is an implication, though, that the Germans went to great lengths to identify and record the burial of enemy soldiers - Fromelles comes to mind - and in this regard they did much more than the Allies did with German dead.

Still, it makes me glad to think that there is so much interest in commemoration, especially as we approach the centennial.

Phil.

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Phil,

Most certainly there will be a huge number of soldiers who will never be identified and the media needs to keep this in perspective. However, this archive does offer the opportunity to possibly identify a very large number who's graves were never discovered or were buried in graves as 'Known Unto God'.

Cheers,

Tim L.

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May I apologise for my facetious posting refering to Peter. I have now removed the offending section. It was meant to be tongue in cheek following on from Peter's own reference to Tutankahmen but has struck totally the wrong chord. I absolutely respect the work done in Geneva and look forward to seeing the information deployed in the field at Fromelles and other places and being available on the internet.

On the subject of Fromelles, there does still seem to be an excessive sensitivity about information relating to the site. As an onlooker rather than one of those deeply involved in Fromelles, I find this rather strange. I am not sure if it relates to a feeling of "ownership" of Fromelles. With excavations there starting in the near future, I would have thought that all interested groups should be seeking to pool available information to maximise chances of the success of these works. I trust this will eventually happen. But I suppose that an event as big as Fromelles will become, inevitably will be beset by politics, patronage etc.

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I’m a little perplexed by this story of the discovery of the Red Cross archive and some of the reaction to it. The BBC report explains that the details to be found in the archive were logged by hand by volunteers “before sending it on to the soldiers’ home countries.”

This implies the information contained in the archive is not actually “new” and was in the possession of the combatants’ governments at the time. This after all would have been the original purpose of passing such details to the Red Cross.

In respect of burial locations, should we therefore be assuming that this information was not in fact used during the battlefield searches post-war?

The recently confirmed burials at Fromelles might suggest otherwise, unless Fromelles is an exception. The bigger question in my mind is not why the Geneva archive has been “undiscovered” for so long, but if the information it contains (and which, apparently, was communicated) about the identity and location of burials was not used in a systematic way during the post-war battlefield searches, then why on earth not?

Bryan

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A bit earlier in this thread I posted copies of documents contained in the AIF service files. These are the ones received from the German authorities. Assuming that they are the same as the ones in Geneva then it would appear that the burial locations were not included ... yous the service number, unit, rank and name.

Bright Blessings

Sandra

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May I apologise for my facetious posting refering to Peter. I have now removed the offending section. It was meant to be tongue in cheek following on from Peter's own reference to Tutankahmen but has struck totally the wrong chord. I absolutely respect the work done in Geneva and look forward to seeing the information deployed in the field at Fromelles and other places and being available on the internet.

On the subject of Fromelles, there does still seem to be an excessive sensitivity about information relating to the site. As an onlooker rather than one of those deeply involved in Fromelles, I find this rather strange. I am not sure if it relates to a feeling of "ownership" of Fromelles. With excavations there starting in the near future, I would have thought that all interested groups should be seeking to pool available information to maximise chances of the success of these works. I trust this will eventually happen. But I suppose that an event as big as Fromelles will become, inevitably will be beset by politics, patronage etc.

We’ve all been there. Forum posts, like e-mails, can offer too much scope for misinterpretation and don’t always allow for the true meaning of what we are attempting to express.

To reiterate what has already been said in this thread by others, Peter’s dedication to the missing of Fromelles has been second to none and his integrity is beyond any doubt.

I rather think that a sensitive approach to the research being done on this project is the correct course. Any relevant information and material will undoubtedly be “pooled”, if it hasn't already. When the time is right, the information will be released into the public domain, but there is a correct process to which the relevant authorities must adhere. Too much damage can be done by releasing information too soon. The situation calls for a little patience.

V.

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A bit earlier in this thread I posted copies of documents contained in the AIF service files. These are the ones received from the German authorities. Assuming that they are the same as the ones in Geneva then it would appear that the burial locations were not included ... yous the service number, unit, rank and name.

Within the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing files there can be found eye-witness accounts of the fate of an individual man. The information to which Sandra refers would have been obtained from a number of sources. His service record may show information extracted from German correspondence listing his personal effects (possibly obtained from a Nachlassliste (Soldier’s Effects)) or his details obtained from his Identity Disc which may have been originally documented within either a Totenliste (Death List) or a Nachlassliste.

The material to which Peter refers gives not only the date of death, but a very precise location of burial. Its full import is incredibly exciting (if that’s the right word to use).

V.

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I rather think that a sensitive approach to the research being done on this project is the correct course.

Arguably so - but it has been decided to ratchet up the publicity massively by way of bringing in BBC TV and Radio with the rest of the media following in train. I must say that I throughly approve but it does seem to run directly counter to the idea of a softly-softly approach. I must confess to being a bit confused. I just hope that the Fromelles cause is being advanced.

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Arguably so - but it has been decided to ratchet up the publicity massively by way of bringing in BBC TV and Radio with the rest of the media following in train. I must say that I throughly approve but it does seem to run directly counter to the idea of a softly-softly approach. I must confess to being a bit confused. I just hope that the Fromelles cause is being advanced.

Do appreciate that the publicity was to draw attention to the Red Cross HQ archive in Geneva not the research into the missing of Fromelles - there is a big difference.

Marc

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And another G'day to Tim,

Good to see you are "on air" again and I have noted your Forum ID.

Please let me know if you are going to be at Fromelles during this year so we can catch up once more. We will be back in Arras at the end of March and hope to get to Fromelles on a regular basis.

Best regards, Peter

G'day All,

Myself, Lambis, General O'Brien, Roger Lee, and Prof. Richard Wright were lucky enough to be asked to give Fromelles presentations at the FFFAIF/RSL conference in Bathurst NSW this past weekend. Lambis and I did our usual double-act but this we waffled on for about an hour. It was attended by about 200 (ish) people including many of Fromelles project group. A very good weekend it was too. Great fellowship and many ideas exchanged.

Peter N, I'm fully intending to be in Fromelles again this year so would love to catch up again. I just need to firm a few things up before I can confirm but will let you know as soon as I can.

Cheerio for now everyone,

Tim Whitford

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Do appreciate that the publicity was to draw attention to the Red Cross HQ archive in Geneva not the research into the missing of Fromelles - there is a big difference.

Fromelles is the very highest profile data sub-set of the the general body of info from the Red Cross archive and the researcher concerned has actively been engaged on Fromelles research so I would take certain issue with your suggestion that there is a "big difference".

That said, there is certainly the potential for the discovery to have an impact other than just at Fromelles.

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...the researcher concerned is currently actively engaged on Fromelles research...

Just to clarify your remark Ian - Peter is no longer working on the Fromelles research. His work is complete after submitting three separate reports.

I agree with Marc's post that the publicity was to draw attention to the tremendous wartime work done by the Red Cross and the value of its archive.

Best wishes

Jeremy

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