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Fromelles16: July 19th events


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From West Australia Newspapers website:


Archaeologists set to recover WWI Diggers in France

18th March 2009, 6:00 WST

Digging up the remains of hundreds of Australian and British World War I soldiers buried in a mass grave in northern France will begin in May.

The soldiers lie in a series of pits on the edge of a wood near the rural town of Fromelles, the scene of a ferocious battle in July 1916 when 5,533 Australian diggers were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner in one night.

About 400 Australian and British soldiers are believed to have been buried at the site by German troops in the days following the disastrous battle.

Their whereabouts remained a mystery until last May when an exploratory excavation unearthed a vast quantity of human remains and pieces from Australian and British army uniforms.

A team of archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology in Britain is preparing to return to the site on May 5 to begin the massive task of recovering the remains and reburying them in a new military cemetery being built in a nearby field by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The excavation work at Pheasant Wood, which will be overseen by Australian and British army officials, is expected to run until late September and cost an estimated $10 million.

Any human remains uncovered at the site will be stored under armed guard at a temporary morgue before being reinterred at the new cemetery.

Work on the $2 million cemetery is scheduled to begin in late May and be completed by the end of the year.

After being examined by forensic experts, the soldiers’ remains will be placed in individual coffins for burial with full military honours, with the bulk expected to occur in February.

A major commemorative ceremony is also being planned to mark the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 2010 when the cemetery is due to officially open.

The Australian army’s project manager for the Fromelles excavation, Lieutenant Colonel James Brownlie, said the recovery and reburial of the soldiers’ remains was a massive task.

“This project has the central aim of honouring the service and sacrifice of those soldiers,” said. “I hope it piques the national interest and I hope Fromelles becomes a calling card for Australians.”

The Australian and British governments have agreed an initial round of DNA tests will be carried out on a selection of the soldiers’ remains in the hope they can be identified.

If scientists are able to extract viable DNA samples, more tests will be carried out on other remains so as many soldiers as possible can be buried with headstones bearing their names.

Hundreds of Australians who believe they have ancestors who disappeared at Fromelles have already contacted Defence believing they could have a relative buried in the mass grave.

Many are expected to be asked to provide DNA samples and documentary evidence of their links to the Fromelles soldiers..

Australians and Britons who believe they could have relatives buried at Fromelles can register their details at www.defence.gov.au/fromelles or on 1800 019 090.



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  • 3 weeks later...

02 Apr 2009



The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, today released the names of those First Australian Imperial Force soldiers who Army believes may be buried at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles, France.

The group burial at Pheasant Wood was confirmed during a limited excavation in May 2008. It is believed up to 400 Australian and British soldiers still lie at this site where they were buried by German forces following the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916.

“Following intensive research and consultation, we have identified a list of 191 Australian First World War soldiers who we believe may be among those buried at Fromelles,” Mr Snowdon said.

He cautioned that the list was not definitive and that research into the group burial at Fromelles would continue; both in Australia and abroad.

“Given the information available, it is impossible to be absolutely certain who is buried at Pheasant Wood. However we, and many other historians and interest groups, believe this list provides a solid foundation for further investigation.

“Together with the British Government, we have contracted research at the Red Cross in Geneva and the German War Archives in Bavaria in the hope we may uncover more conclusive information regarding the burials at Fromelles.”

Members of the public are encouraged to check the published working list and contact Army to register their details if their relative’s name appears.

“We have already established contact with relatives of approximately 40 per cent of those who appear on the list, and we want to reach more,” Mr Snowdon said.

“It is my hope that we can lay many of these soldiers to rest under a named headstone so their kin may know their final resting place and have the opportunity to pay respects.”

The working list of names is a result of intensive research conducted by Professor Peter Dennis, an independent historian contracted by Army, and follows consultation with several well-recognised War historians late last year. Those involved in the research include individuals from Friends of the Fifteenth Brigade; Friends and Family of the First Australian Imperial Force; Australian War Memorial; Army History Unit; Fromelles.net; Office of Australian War Graves, and; Monash University.

For more information about the project, including the working list of names, or to register your details, go online at www.defence.gov.au/fromelles or call 1800 019 090.

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You can see the list of names and the details of the research to contact living family of these AIF soldiers at our website.


Tim and I have been very successful in locating family. It has taken us many hundreds of hours of research to get us this far.

Bright Blessings


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You deserve a huge congratulations for doing such a great job. Fantastic effort imo.

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Thanks Suzie ... from us both :)

(Sherlock is away)

Bright Blessings


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I know this is truly a labour of love from you both - very emotive and sensitive months ahead.

Thank you to all of you for the work you do on behalf of those who cannot speak.



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Thank you Shirley & Chris and Len and Karen too :)

Sherlock is gallivanting around the countryside at the moment ... not sure if that is still or again!!!

Bright Blessings


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  • 2 weeks later...

It has been our pleasure to have Martial and his partner Catherine as our guests over the Easter period before the work begins at Fromelles. I took the oportunity to show them the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, with the view from Olivers Mount we were able to view some of the targets that were hit in December 1914 by the German Cruisers. I also took them to the WW2 POW Camp at Malton, there is a hut dedicated to WW1, all in all well worth a visit. We will be visiting Fromelles once again in the summer months, would like to make it for July but work may not permit this year, oh well.

Regards to all on this site,

Colin stalgis

Remembering: Cpl G. F. Stalgis,

KIA - July 1916,


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Thanks Colin :)

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Thought perhaps members might like to see this story :)

Bright Blessings


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You can see the list of names and the details of the research to contact living family of these AIF soldiers at our website.


Tim and I have been very successful in locating family. It has taken us many hundreds of hours of research to get us this far.

Bright Blessings



There was a feature article in a recent edition of the NT Sunday News. It is most appreciative of your efforts and those of a certain Police Officer on Long Service Leave. From memory it was written by a UK Journo. As NT News is syndicated, it probably appeared in other locals throughout Oz.

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:blush: And very kind it was of her as well.

Yep Dinki, the article was written by Belinda Tasker of the Australian Associated Press in London. It appeared in a few papers around the place and she spoke very kindly of Sandra and my work.


Tim L.

The text of the article is as follows:

By Belinda Tasker

LONDON, March 24 AAP - When the remains of about 400 Australian and British soldiers were unearthed in northern France last year, it appeared one of World War I's great mysteries was finally solved.

Their discovery in an unmarked mass grave on the outskirts of the rural town of Fromelles, west of Lille, was greeted with much fanfare back in Australia, sparking hopes that many families might finally discover what happened to loved ones who never returned from the Great War.

However, cracking the puzzle of who these men were is proving to be as tricky as solving the 92-year conundrum of their resting place.

A team of historians and amateur researchers in Australia and Britain have been on the case, gathering as much evidence as they can to come up with a list of soldiers they believe lie at Fromelles.

Out of the 1,294 Australian soldiers officially listed as missing after the horrific Battle of Fromelles in July 1916, they have about 190 names of men who could be buried in the mass grave.

They hope that when 30 forensic archaeologists, anthropologists and scientists return to the site in May to begin recovering the bodies they will get the hard proof they need to confirm the identities of several soldiers.

A small selection of remains will undergo an initial round of tests to determine if any viable DNA can be extracted to match against samples provided by the soldiers' descendants in Australia and Britain.

If that proves successful, more remains will be tested with the aim of being able to give as many soldiers as possible headstones bearing their names in the new cemetery being built just a few hundred metres away from the mass grave, which lies on the edge of Pheasant Wood.

The process of identifying the men has been complicated by many factors.

The soldiers died during the disastrous Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916 - a night when 5,533 diggers were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner by German troops.

More than 1,917 Australians were killed along with 519 British soldiers.

After the battle, the Germans cleared the bodies from no-man's land and buried them in a series of eight pits next to Pheasant Wood.

The mass grave was eventually uncovered by archaeologists in May and June 2008, thanks to years of research by a Melbourne schoolteacher and amateur sleuth Lambis Englezos who pinpointed the exact burial spot.

Because the grave was never marked by the Germans, the 400 or so bodies there went unnoticed by recovery teams sent to scour France for soldiers' remains between 1919 and 1921.

On top of that, despite the Germans having kept extensive records of Allied soldiers they killed and captured, no list of those buried at Fromelles has been found.

The head of the Australian Army History Unit, Roger Lee, said a search of German army records had revealed only scant details about the Fromelles grave - an order that it be dug and a reference to it being big enough for 400 bodies.

"We know from our records who got killed," he told AAP.

"We know where they were killed and which men were recovered and buried.

"What we don't have from the Germans is the bit we are looking for, the holy grail, which is a list saying we buried Private Bloggs in grave one at Pheasant Wood.

"So it's still circumstantial at this stage which is why we need scientific evidence and data matches and DNA tests."

Further complicating the task of unmasking the soldiers' identities is the fact that a handful of men who served with the 5th Australian Division at Fromelles were born in England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Canada and New Zealand.

"So we will probably never identify them because we can't get in touch with their families (to provide DNA samples)," Lee said.

"We also weren't as precise in our documentation back then. A lot of people weren't very literate and if the enlisting clerk couldn't spell your name, it could be wrong."

Then there are those who enlisted under false names.

Many young Australian men - and teenagers - were so keen to go to war in its early stages that they lied about their ages and names if they were too young to legally enlist.

Private John (James) Gordon, who died at Fromelles aged 15 years, 10 months and one day, was one of them.

His body was never found, meaning there is a chance he could lie among those buried at Fromelles.

Pte Gordon, who served in the 29th Battalion, is believed to have first tried to enlist using his brother William's name but was discovered to be too young and sent home.

A few months later he tried again, this time with success after telling army officials he was 18 and his name was that of another brother, James, who died when he was just two.

Amateur researcher Tim Lycett, who has taken long service leave from his job as a Melbourne police officer to trace descendants of the Fromelles soldiers, believes Pte Gordon could be the youngest digger ever killed in action.

"Unfortunately, there are no records detailing the moment of his death during the battle at Fromelles nor what injuries he sustained," Lycett says.

"The only facts we can be fairly certain about are that he was killed overnight 19-20 July, 1916, and was buried by the Germans at Pheasant Wood in the days following."

Lycett has been working with Sandra Playle, who runs her own genealogy service in Perth, for nearly a year on the Fromelles project.

So far, they have found 86 descendants for the 190 or so Australian soldiers believed to be at Fromelles. Another 18 relatives were found after they contacted the Australian army, which has a database for families to register with.

Lycett and Playle began their search using a list of names put together with the help of historians and Lambis Englezos.

"My wife would call it an obsession," Lycett laughs.

"Some have proved more difficult than others.

"There are one or two at least we are certain who used an alias name, possibly because they were under age and they have used names which are totally nothing to do with their original names.

"So we're never going to find the descendants of those people."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, British historian Peter Barton has searched the cavernous archives of the Red Cross' headquarters in Geneva to piece together more of the puzzle.

Commissioned by the Australian army, Barton travelled to Geneva last November and was stunned by what he found.

Amid the 27km of archive shelf space were lists upon lists of millions of soldiers who served in WWI - including details provided by the Germans about which Allied soldiers they killed, captured and buried.

The section relating to Australian soldiers makes up about one quarter to half of one per cent of the total archive, according to Barton.

There is a wealth of information about the personal effects collected from dead soldiers, hospitals where the injured were treated and prison camps they served after being captured.

Barton has described the archive as like stumbling across Tutankhamen's tomb and China's terracotta warriors all at once, saying they provide valuable clues about what happened to millions of soldiers from 30 countries involved in WWI.

However, despite a tireless search, Barton was unable to find a list of the Fromelles soldiers.

"It was the perfect kind of attack to product lots of data," he said.

"So what you have is a list of people captured and wounded and the complete narrative for every one of those men.

"It shows if they went to hospital or to a prisoner of war camp. It also shows which ones died within two hours, two days, two weeks in captivity and what they died of and where they were buried.

"But my conclusion, after doing so much research, is that it's probably no longer worth looking for a specific list related to Pheasant Wood.

"There's a mountain of information but it's still not possible to say these names relate to these pits.

"When it comes to Pheasant Wood the key is simply going to be DNA."

While work continues on refining the list of soldiers' names, archaeologists have been preparing to begin removing their remains from the site on May 5.

Dr Louise Loe, the head of heritage burial at Oxford Archaeology in England, will head a team of 32 experts assigned to work on the excavation project until the end of September.

Many of her team have had extensive experience working on mass graves, including ones in Bosnia and Iraq as well as another from Roman times in Gloucester, England.

Their first task will be to remove about 1.5 metres of muddy soil covering the series of eight pits, six of which are believed to contain human remains.

Then they will begin the delicate task of removing the soil from bones and trying to match them to individuals.

Details of the remains will be recorded before being stored at a temporary morgue ahead of their planned reburial at the new Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in February.

A major commemoration event is being planned to mark the 94th anniversary of the battle on July 19, 2010, when the cemetery is expected to be officially opened.

"We have worked on projects like this before but Fromelles is going to be very special," Dr Loe said.

"We have all read about the battle and we know about the war in general and I think this is going to be a very human reminder of the cost of conflict.

"I'm sure it will be a very emotional experience for us. But we will remain very professional and determined throughout to get the work done with the ultimate goal of giving these men a burial in a cemetery befitting their sacrifice."

The initial round of DNA tests on a selection of the remains are expected to begin in June.

The Australian army's project manager who will be supervising the dig, Lieutenant Colonel James Brownlie, said if the DNA proves viable, more bones will be tested.

"But even if the DNA is viable we don't know if there will be matches (with descendants)," he said.

"That's the interesting part of trying to match up these people. It's the great unknown part."

One man who hopes the DNA tests will yield positive results is Melbourne security manager Tim Whitford, whose great uncle Pte Henry Victor Willis was among the Australian soldiers who went missing at Fromelles.

Before last year's limited excavation of the mass grave at Fromelles was carried out to determine if human remains were there, a non-invasive search using sonar scanners and metal detectors was conducted.

During that search, a pendant belonging to Pte Willis was found, raising hopes in the Whitford family that they had finally found their long lost relative.

"I've been looking for this guy since I was eight years old," Whitford said.

"It's been a long haul.

"As a descendent, I'm just so excited that it's progressing this way and I'm looking forward to seeing it move even further and bring this sorry saga to an end."

For Lambis Englezos, the man who played a key role in finding the missing soldiers at Fromelles, the prospect of being able to bury each one with the honours they deserve is a dream he is on the brink of realising.

"It's been remarkable, the information that has been built up around this," Englezos says.

"But the bottom line is there will be dignity for the soldiers and, hopefully, identification.

"So, I'm hopeful every effort will be made to give these men back their identities."

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Just copying this across as they are both related to one another :)


Bright Blessings


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Just thought I'd drop in and let everyone know that we've added a new page to our research website www.fromelles.net.

It gives details of all the UK born Australians who were killed on 19-20 July 1916 and are likely to be buried at Pheasant Wood. I've listed their names, birth places and next of kin details.

If anyone recognises a family or perhaps sees someone originally from an area local to themselves, please feel free to see what info you might find regarding current living descendants of that family. We'd be most appreciative of the help - as you can imagine it's a long way from Australia to the UK which hampers our search a bit.


Tim L.

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There is an article in the West Australian Newspaper regarding the unveiling of the new cemetery for the burial of the Fromelles lads :)


Bright Blessings


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Just came across this page on the UK Mod website dated yesterday (21st April '09) which I've already posted on another thread, but it should really belong here:


I don't think I've seen mention of the link which the article gives to a dedicated section (apologies if it has been) on the CWGC website:


There is also another earlier release on the MOD site (dated 19th Feb '09):



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I thought that I would re-post Andy's contribution here:

Sorry if this has already popped up!

The Ministry of Defence has released the names of dozens of World War I soldiers they believe may be buried in a mass grave found in France last year.

click here


The list of Scottish born soldiers is interesting:


Private John Adam - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Grangemouth

Sergeant Andrew Allan - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Bannockburn

Private John Bowie - Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry - from Aberdeen

Private Mitchell Collins - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kennoway

Private John Cumming - Cameron Highlanders - from Inverness

Private Alexander Dryburgh - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Werness

Private George Galloway - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Buckhaven

Private Alex Gray - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - Wormit, Fife

Private Alexander Loudon - Cameron Highlanders - from Lanarkshire

Lance Corporal David Marshall - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth

Private Joseph McGuire - Cameron Highlanders - from Glasgow

Lance Corporal John Melville - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth

Private James Melvin - Cameron Highlanders - from Abington

Private James Mitchell - Cameron Highlanders - from Coldstream

Private Maxwell Mitchell - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Falkirk

Private Ernest Paton - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar

Lance Corporal William Richardson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Perth

Private William Robertson - Cameron Highlanders - from Edinburgh

Corporal David Simpson - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Kirkcaldy

Private John Smith - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar

Private David Thom - Royal Warwickshire Regiment - from Forfar


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I’m currently up to my ears in the organisation of the 9th May commemorations at Fromelles, but have looked at the CWGC list and am a little puzzled. I don’t have time at the moment to go into it in depth (that will have to wait until after my nervous breakdown – currently scheduled for 10th May), but are they saying that these units were involved at Fromelles or that these men were attached to units which took part in the action? If it’s the latter, I’ve had a look at both the CWGC and SDGW for some of these names and that isn’t apparent. I’m thinking mainly of the men listed as being with the 6th and 7th Battalions, Cameron Highlanders.


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Did you cross reference Mel?

Bright Blessings


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There’s just something about the list which doesn’t feel quite right. As far as I can make out, the units with which these men are said to have died were actively involved down on the Somme in July 1916. Added to which, their date of death has been given as 20th July. Whilst many of our Australian casualties are listed as having been killed on this date, with the exception of a handful of men from the MGC, our British casualties have all been assigned a date of death of 19th July. Puzzling.


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Victoria ... we have a mix of the dates ... some are 19th and some are 20th.

Bright Blessings


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Yes, but not for our British boys. For the British, the majority of the action was over by about 9.00 / 10.00 in the evening of the 19th. It's possible that these men could have died of their wounds on the 20th, but I've seen nothing which would indicate this.


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