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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
21 July 2018
The partial remains of Private Thomas Hurdis had been re-interred with his substantive remains at the Mont Huon Military Cemetery in Le Treport, France, Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said.
In late 2017, the partial remains of an Australian soldier were reported by a member of the public to be held in the collection of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. These were found to be those of Private Hurdis who died from his wounds while under the care of United States medical teams following the Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium.
His partial remains were cared for in accordance with protocols and approvals of the time, until 2017. Following a request, the remains were collected by the Head of Australian Defence Staff in Washington and then moved to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s recovery unit in France.
With the kind support of the museum, the partial remains have now been interred with his substantive grave. This re-unification occurred on 20 July 2018 in a ceremony conducted by Australian Defence Force personnel, with family of Private Hurdis in attendance.
Mr Chester said the ceremony, more than 100 years after Private Hurdis’s death, brings closure for his descendants and allows all Australians to reflect on the courageous service he provided to our country.
“As we approach the centenary of the Armistice, it is as important as ever to remember the sacrifice soldiers like Private Hurdis made on behalf of Australia during World War One,” Mr Chester said.
“Australia will not stop caring for the memory and commemoration of its servicemen and women, wherever they may be.”
Born in Sydney, Private Hurdis, aged 26, was employed as a labourer prior to his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force on 12 September 1916. He embarked on the ship ‘Afric’ in Sydney on 3 November 1916 and was posted to the 59th Battalion on 6 April 1917.
On 26 September 1917, Private Hurdis was wounded in action during the Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium. Private Hurdis died of his wounds on 3 October 1917. His partial remains were retained for pathological study purposes, while he was substantively buried in a formal cemetery. Although this was a rare event, it was a product of a desire to learn from the medical developments and experiences of the World War One.
For more information about Private Hurdis, please refer to the following link: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=6928388
The Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit (UWC-A) is collecting information about the first Australian Infantry Force soldiers who died and whose graves are listed as unknown. Members of the public who have a relative who fits this profile are encouraged to register with UWC-A using an online registration form at: https://army.govcms.gov.au/forms/uwc-a-online-registration-form
Information about UWC-A is available on the Army's website at: https://www.army.gov.au/our-work/unrecovered-war-casualties/