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Missing World War one diggers identified through DNA.

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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon. Bruce Billson, MP Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence MINASSIST 048/2007 Wednesday, 5 September 2007 MISSING WORLD WAR ONE DIGGERS IDENTIFIED THROUGH DNA The remains of two missing Australian World War One diggers, who fell on a Belgian battlefield in 1917, have been positively identified through DNA and extensive military research, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Bruce Billson said today. Mr Billson said the investigation started last August when five sets of unidentified remains, believed to be Australian missing war dead, were discovered near the small Belgian town of Westhoek. “Based on extensive historical research conducted by our outstanding Army History Unit, a list of possible candidates was drafted and released to the public in March this year, and three families came forward and offered DNA samples,” Mr Billson said. Mr Billson also paid tribute to the Belgian authorities, including the Mayor of Zonnebeke, Mr Dirk Cardoen, who secured the site with great care when our soldiers’ remains were first uncovered during gasline excavation works. The two identified soldiers are Sergeant George Calder of Gladstone Victoria, and Private John Hunter of Nanango Queensland. Both soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917, and were buried in a temporary cemetery near the battlefield. Mr Billson expressed his condolences to the family of a third soldier, Lieutenant Corrigan of the 22nd Battalion, as DNA results have established he is not linked to the remains. “I am very grateful to all the families who provided DNA samples and I appreciate how this involvement may have increased the anticipation of finding their lost relative. I empathise with the sense of loss and disappointment the family of LT Corrigan may now be experiencing,” he said. The Army will continue attempting to identify the remains of the other three soldiers using DNA samples which have been preserved, but it is unlikely that any further identifications will be made before the soldiers are laid to rest later this year. The five sets of remains are due to be reinterred in the Buttes Military Cemetery, Zonnebeke, on 4 October 2007. The Army will fly two representatives of each of the families of the two identified soldiers to Belgium to participate in the ceremony. Descendants of four other soldiers from the short-list including Private J. A. Gibbens, Sgt C. N. McArthur, Private G. R. Storey and Private W. Williams are urged to contact the Army History Unit on 02 6266 2204. Media Information: Cameron Hill (Mr Billson) 03 9781 2333 0408 239 521 Defence Media Liaison (Defence) 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664 For a free subscription to Defence Direct, the Minister for Defence's monthly e-newsletter, please follow this link