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Remains of unknown Australian soldier put to rest in France.



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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Friday 21 July 2006 VA067

Remains of unknown Australian soldier put to rest in France

The remains of an unknown Australian soldier were today (Friday) interred during an intimate and poignant ceremony in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France said Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Bruce Billson.

The soldier’s remains were found during a survey of an industrial estate in the town of Villers-Bretonneux earlier this year. It is not uncommon for remains to be unearthed on the battlefields of the Western Front.

Mr Billson said the Australian Department of Defence carries out extensive research in a bid to positively identify remains.

"This includes examining any uniform, weapons and personal items found at the site, researching the lists of the missing from battles in the area and, if necessary, undertaking forensic research using medical or dental records," Mr Billson said.

"Unfortunately, these remains could not be identified, other than being Australian. The remains were found in the eastern environs of Villers-Bretonneux where a number of Australian battalions were involved in heavy fighting in March to May 1918."

Mr Billson said the number of units and the number of casualties involved in these operations made it, for all practical purposes, impossible to identify the remains further than that they are of an Australian soldier.

"This Australian soldier was buried at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery as 'An Unknown Australian Soldier of the 1914 - 1918 War' in a small, but dignified ceremony attended by the Defence Attaché of the Australian Embassy," he said.

Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery contains the graves of 47 other unknown Australian soldiers and is adjacent to the Australian National Memorial to the Australian soldiers who fought and died on the Western Front. It is expected that the name of the soldier interred today is listed there amongst the 10,772 Australian casualties who died in France and have no known grave.

In February 2006, the Minister announced that the remains of another soldier had been found by a French archaeological team working near St Quentin. Researchers have subsequently determined that these remains were those of a British soldier.

Media inquiries: Cameron Hill 0408 239 521