11 November 2022
Three Australian soldiers of the First World War have been formally identified more than 105 years since they were killed on the Western Front.
Minister for Veterans Affairs’ and Defence Personnel, The Hon Matt Keogh MP said identifying the soldiers, whose remains were found in 2006 and 2010, was the result of historical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis by the Australian Army.
“After giving their lives more than a century ago, it is remarkable that we can now name these three individuals who served our nation, and hopefully bring some peace to their descendants this Remembrance Day,” Minister Keogh said.
“When we say ‘Lest We Forget’ at the end of the Ode we mean it; we will remember them. These were people who had names and loved ones who never learnt their fate.”
Minister Keogh said two of the soldiers had died near the village of Fromelles in northern France in 1916.
“Private Walter Allen Grace was born in Derbyshire, England and worked as a labourer when he enlisted in Brisbane, Queensland in July 1915.
“He was discovered near Private Edwin Charles Gray. Edwin was born in Riverton, South Australia who worked as a chauffeur and mechanic when he enlisted in Keswick, South Australia in July 1915.
“Their identification is the result of diligent and painstaking work by professionals and volunteers. Walter and Edwin now rest in Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, their identities restored.”
The third identified soldier was recovered in Belgium in 2006, one of five unknown Australian soldiers recovered from a wartime cemetery. Known as the ‘Westhoek Five’, by 2007 three of the soldiers had been identified.
“The Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team are now able to name the fourth soldier of the Westhoek Five, buried at Buttes New British Cemetery,” Minister Keogh said.
“Private Thomas Allen Gibbens from the 29thBattalion was born in Carlton, Victoria and worked as a plumber when he enlisted at Broadmeadows in February 1916.
“The important work to identify the last of the Westhoek Five will continue.
“I want to personally thank everyone who has been part of finding and identifying these soldiers, particularly the families who provided vital DNA. I acknowledge the volunteers of the Fromelles Association of Australia who work tirelessly to find the families of Fromelles soldiers.
“While those who knew them could never visit their graves, their sacrifice is not forgotten, and can now be reflected upon where they lie, side by side with their mates.”
The three soldiers’ headstones will be rededicated in 2023.
As we look to 2023, Australians planning to travel to France or Türkiye to attend next year’s ANZAC Day services can now book their attendance passes online.
Minister Keogh said that although passes are free, anyone planning to attend the Dawn Service in either France or Türkiye must make sure they’ve secured their spot.
“Both Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux are places of enormous significance to Australians. More than 8,700 of our countrymen lost their lives on the Gallipoli peninsula, and more than 46,000 died fighting on the Western Front in the First World War,” Minister Keogh said.
“Each year on 25 April, ANZAC Day, Australians make the pilgrimage to these places to honour and remember those who served, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
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