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The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485
The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP
Assistant Minister for Defence
Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Assistant Minister for the Republic
Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275
24 April 2023
Five Australian soldiers who fought and died in the attack at Fromelles in France more than 106 years ago have been formally identified.
Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, announced the names of the soldiers, who were originally recovered from unmarked mass graves in 2009, alongside 245 other Commonwealth soldiers killed in the First World War battle.
Assistant Minister Thistlethwaite said he was privileged to visit the final resting place of the soldiers.
“The Battle of Fromelles was one of the worst days in Australia’s military history and was the first major battle fought by the Australian Imperial Force in France,” Minister Thistlethwaite said.
“The 5thAustralian Division suffered more than 5,500 casualties, with many of those killed still unaccounted for. More than 100 years after their deaths, it is an honour to be here today to pay tribute to these brave soldiers.
“After today’s announcement, a total of 173 Australian soldiers out of the 250 men have been recovered, identified and reburied from the mass grave, and efforts to identify the remaining soldiers continue.”
Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Matt Keogh MP, said identifying the soldiers reflected Defence’s commitment to service personnel from all conflicts in Australia’s history.
“As we commemorate Anzac Day, it’s only fitting we recognise and remember the soldiers who left Australian shores more than 100 years ago, never to return home to their loved ones,” Minister Keogh said.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation in 1916, something we will never forget.
“The identification of these five soldiers is thanks to the work of a team of volunteers and Defence personnel throughout the research, finding and identification process.
“We now know these five men enlisted from across the nation to serve, joining up from Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.
“For more than a century the families of these five soldiers have waited for news; today that wait is over.”
A range of evidence collated by anthropologists, archaeologists and DNA specialists was analysed by the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties Team. This included DNA samples from family members of the soldiers.
All five soldiers died near the village of Fromelles in northern France in 1916. They are:
- Sergeant Oscar Eric Baumann from the 32nd Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Born in Hahndorf, SA, he worked as a joiner when he enlisted in Adelaide, SA, in July 1915. Sergeant Baumann was 20 years old when he was killed in action.
- Corporal William John Stephen from the 55thBattalion AIF. Born in Balmain, NSW, he worked as a grocer when he enlisted in Liverpool, NSW, in July 1915. Corporal Stephen was 28 years old when he was killed in action.
- Private Richard James McGuarr from the 32nd Battalion AIF. Born in Lismore, NSW, he worked as a dairy farmer when he enlisted in Holsworthy, NSW, in October 1915. Private McGuarr was 27 years old when he was killed in action.
- Private Alexander Russell Robert Page from the 32nd Battalion AIF. Born in London, England, he worked as a milk carter when he enlisted in Perth, WA, in July 1915. Private Page was 28 years old when he was killed in action.
- Private Maurice James Claxton from the 32nd Battalion AIF. Born in St. Arnaud, Victoria, he worked as a teamster when he enlisted in Blackboy Hill, WA, in July 1915. Private Claxton was 24 years old when he was killed in action.
They are now buried in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.
These five soldiers’ headstones will be rededicated at a ceremony in Fromelles on the 107thanniversary of the battle on 19 July 2023, along with the headstones of two other Fromelles soldiers, Private Walter Allen Grace from the 31st Battalion AIF and Private Edwin Charles Gray from the 32nd Battalion AIF, who were identified on Remembrance Day 2022.
Members of the public are encouraged to register with the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team if they have any relatives who were killed at Fromelles and have no known grave. To register, visit: www.army.gov.au/our-work/unrecovered-war-casualties/contact-us
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