Nine Australian soldiers identified 102 years after WWI battle

A century after they died in the Battle of Fromelles, the Australian soldiers have been formally identified and returned home providing closure for their families.

A supplied archival image of Captain Kenneth Malcolm Mortimer.

Captain Kenneth Malcolm Mortimer and nine other Australian WWI soldiers have been identified. (AAP)

Nine soldiers killed during the 1916 Battle of Fromelles have been identified and moved from a mass grave to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

Their bodies were recovered from unmarked graves near Pheasant Wood in France 102 years after the deadly WWI battle.

Their re-burial in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Fromelles provides closure for families whose missing members were lost after the war, Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester said. 

The soldiers were originally recovered from unmarked mass graves adjacent to Pheasant Wood in France.
Source: Australian War Memorial

New headstones will be unveiled during the annual commemoration ceremony in July.

“This is a notable achievement for Australia, our Army and all those involved in the research, finding and identification process,” Mr Chester said.

"One hundred years later, Australia has not forgotten the service and sacrifice of these soldiers."

Finally enough evidence

The nine soldiers have formally been identified by the 2018 Fromelles Identification Board.

A range of evidence collated by anthropologists, archaeologists and DNA specialists, along with artefacts and historical records was presented to the board.

Minister Chester said this outcome would not have been achieved without the partnership between the Australian and United Kingdom Governments, as well as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“The identification of soldiers killed in battle has been made possible by the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties Fromelles Project team,” Mr Chester said.

Dozens of soldiers yet to be identified

There are still 91 Australian soldiers yet to be identified as part of the Fromelles Project which has already formally identified 159 Australians killed in the 1916 battle.

Members of the public whose relatives fought in the Battle of Fromelles, have a grave listed as unknown and are known to have died on 19 or 20 July 1916 are encouraged to register with the Australian Army Unrecovered War Casualties unit.

They can register here. 

The nine that have been identified are listed below: 

Captain Kenneth Malcolm Mortimer - 29th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Captain Kenneth Malcolm Mortimer.
Source: Australian War Memorial

Corporal Alfred Thompson - 55th Battalion AIF

Private Henry Bell - 29th Battalion AIF

Private William Edwin Boyce - 32nd Battalion AIF

William Edwin Boyce.
Source: Australian War Memorial

Private Henry Gardner - 30th Battalion AIF

Private Alexander McCulloch - 32nd Battalion AIF

Private Alexander McCulloch.

Private Stanley Richard O'Donnell - 29th Battalion AIF

Private James Robert Smith - 31st Battalion AIF

Private Claude Yeo - 30th Battalion AIF

Published 9 April 2018 at 10:04am, updated 9 April 2018 at 11:46am