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Fromelles soldiers identification: scientific matching to be attempted.



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THE HON. WARREN SNOWDON MP Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

www.defence.gov.au

Tuesday, 11 November 2008 167/2008

FROMELLES SOLDIERS IDENTIFICATION: SCIENTIFIC MATCHING TO BE ATTEMPTED

Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, today announced that Britain and Australia had jointly agreed to attempt DNA extraction from the remains of those First World War soldiers buried at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles.

It is estimated the remains of up to 400 Australian and British soldiers are interred in a group burial site at Fromelles, where they were originally laid to rest by German Forces in 1916.

The decision to exhume and individually re-inter each soldier was made following a limited excavation at the site earlier this year which proved the remains were still in situ.

“We have agreed to DNA test an initial cross-section of our soldiers’ remains when they are carefully exhumed from the group burial site at Fromelles next year,” Minister Snowdon said.

“If this process returns positive results, we may then consider testing the balance of remains in order to attempt matching with current living relatives.

“It is the desire of the Australian Government to use every reasonable method to identify each individual soldier.”

Minister Snowdon’s British counterpart, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones MP, echoed these sentiments.

“Although we have to acknowledge that identification of those found at Fromelles will be unlikely in a lot of cases, we owe it to them all to ensure that every reasonable effort is made to provide a named grave to as many of them as possible,” Minister

Jones said.

The Australian Army is attempting to locate current living relatives for each of the First Australian Imperial Force soldiers believed to be buried at Pheasant Wood.

Members of the public who believe they may have a relative interred at the site are encouraged to register their details at www.defence.gov.au/fromelles or by calling the public inquiries line on 1800 019 090. This database of current living relatives may be used in the future to identify individual remains, if the scientific methods prove to be feasible.

Media contacts: Kate Sieper (Warren Snowdon): 02 6277 7620 or 0488 484 689 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664