Completion of the exploratory excavation at the Battle of Messines site

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The Hon Darren Chester MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Minister for Defence Personnel

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Whil Prendergast: 0427 672 815
Defence Media: (02) 6127 1999,

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9 April 2018

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester today recognised the recent efforts of the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team in Belgium at the site of the 1917 Battle of Messines.

Mr Chester said as remains were not found during the exploratory excavation, the site can now be ruled out and investigations into the final resting place of these servicemen can continue.

“The Army Unrecovered War Casualties team has been planning towards this activity for over two years and can be proud of completing the process of responding to well evidenced research suggesting the men may have been located there,” Mr Chester said.

“The sacrifice of the men of the 45th Battalion Australian Imperial Force at the Battle of Messines is a significant part of Australian military history.

“I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful assistance provided by Belgian authorities in facilitating this excavation. The Defence relationship between Australia and Belgium is a long, proud and strong one.”

Mr Chester said he was proud of the work conducted by the Army Unrecovered War Casualties team. 

“This highly skilled group of forensic staff and historical experts have been extremely focussed and dedicated in compiling the evidence behind the battle and the men who fought in it.

“Although all available evidence suggested the men were still where they were reportedly buried, they may have been subsequently moved without documentation,” Mr Chester said.

Data and records, including soldier’s service history were analysed to assist in the process. All available records indicated the men were at one stage buried near Messines, however this site has now been explored and excluded from the search for our soldiers on this occasion. 

Unrecovered War Casualties-Army (UWC-A) is the Army unit responsible for finding, recovering and identifying Australian servicemen and women who remain unaccounted for (missing or presumed deceased) from all past conflicts.

UWC-A currently has investigations into potential final resting places of Australian Servicemen in Papua New Guinea, France, Belgium, South Korea, East Timor and Indonesia.

The ongoing work to honour the sacrifice of so many, is critical to the Australian Defence Force and Army’s commitment to all who serve and have served.

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