Australia

Orphan soldier identified a century later

Another seven Australian soldiers who died in the Battle of Fromelles have been formally identified. (AAP)

The sad story of one of Australia's World War I soldiers finally has a happy postscript, with his remains identified a century later.

Private Edward James Hope's life was shrouded in tragedy long before he died on the battlefield in France in World War I.

He was only 11 when his mother died. His father and baby sister died a few months later, leaving Edward and his four-year-old sister orphans.

The railway worker from Penrith, NSW, was 28 when he died in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles, the worst 24 hours of Australia's military history.

A century later, Queensland woman Sue Hope came across the sad story of Private Hope's childhood as she researched her husband Lindsay's extended family tree.

She discovered Private Hope was thought to be one of 250 Australian soldiers whose remains were recovered from mass graves in 2009 and then buried as 'unknown' in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Fromelles.

"It was a story that really affected me and touched me," Ms Hope told AAP.

"I thought, gosh, here's this young man over there in an unmarked grave."

Private Hope will soon have a headstone bearing his name.

This week it was announced that another seven Australian soldiers found in the mass graves had been formally identified, bringing the total to 166.

The Hopes are elated, particularly considering they had no direct family line to Private Hope.

"It's sort of spine-tingling stuff," said Mr Hope, who supplied DNA for comparison to the soldier, thinking it was a real long shot.

William Penfold also had no hesitation in providing a DNA sample to help identify Private Hope, after being contacted by one of the team of officials and volunteers working on the Fromelles project.

"I feel really chuffed, pleased that I could help.

"I think you're not only doing them a service by recognising their sacrifice, but you're putting them into a history situation where relatives in the future can visit their graves and acknowledge their sacrifice."

The Fromelles Identification Board determined the identity of seven soldiers in 2019, the 10th year it has met to consider forensic and historical evidence as well as new DNA donors.

They are: Private Hope, Adelaide men Private Arthur George Batt and Lance Corporal John Alexander Crawford, Melbourne men Private Leslie Clark Dunn and Lance Corporal Ralph Johnson, Private George Honey of Perth and Private Peter Paul Shannon of Merriwa, NSW.

Ms Hope feels a sense of peace knowing Private Hope has been identified.

"They went to war for us. They've been really important in our history, all of those men.

"If we can identify them and they can have a grave there, then that brings sort of a closure and a peace, and that recognition for them."

Mr Penfold understands the importance of closure. He still remembers the day his mother learned her missing soldier brother had in fact died in World War II.

"I remember the day the telegram arrived. It was sad, but at least it put an end to the wondering - where the hell was he, what happened to him."

The identities of another 84 soldiers found in the mass graves remain undetermined.

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