Unknown soldier identified 100 years after his death

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The Hon Darren Chester MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Minister for Defence Personnel

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5 July 2018

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester today announced the confirmation of the identity of a World War One (WWI) Australian soldier, previously recorded as unknown.

The soldier can now be identified as Private Robert Oliver Bowness, a member of the 4th Pioneer Battalion.

Mr Chester said he was privileged to attend a re-dedication ceremony at Private Bowness’ grave in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, France.

 “A century on from his death, it is an honour to be here today to pay tribute to Private Bowness,” Mr Chester said.

“Now his previously unmarked headstone can be replaced with one bearing his name and service particulars.

“As we approach the centenary of the Armistice, it is as important as ever to remember the sacrifice soldiers like Private Bowness made on behalf of Australia during WWI.”

Mr Chester congratulated the staff of Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit (UWC-A) on the identification of Private Bowness’s remains.

“To be able to identify a soldier who lost his life in the service of his country is a great achievement for which they should be rightly proud,” Mr Chester said.

“Their tireless work was supported by submissions from the public, culminating in the official identification of Private Bowness.”

Born in Brisbane, Robert Bowness was employed as a grocer until his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 30 March 1916.

On the night of 5 July 1918, Private Bowness was digging trenches on the front lines at Hamel, when a shell exploded close to his location. He and two others were buried by the blast and later died.

Private Bowness was just 22 years of age at the time of his death.

On 7 July 1918, the three missing soldiers were located and recovered. Those soldiers were Private Peter Anderson, Private Edgar Armour and an Unknown Australian Soldier.

For more information about Private Bowness, please refer to the following link: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3104271

Information about Unrecovered War Casualties – Army is available on the Army's website: https://www.army.gov.au/our-work/unrecovered-war-casualties/

The UWC-A are collecting information about first AIF soldiers who died and whose graves are listed as unknown.

Members of the public who have a relative that fits this profile are encouraged to register with UWC-A unit by email to army.uwc@defence.gov.au or telephone 1800 019 090.

Images will be available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20182389

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