Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP, today confirmed the identity of a World War I Australian soldier previously recorded incorrectly as an illegal absentee.
Mr Chester said the previously unidentified Australian soldier was formally identified by an Australian Army Identification Board on 29 August 2017 as Private Edward Attfield, regimental number 1701.
“It can now be confirmed Private Attfield lies in Old Cairo War Cemetery in Egypt. He had previously been declared a deserter by mistake,” Mr Chester said.
Born in 1890 in Prahran, Victoria, Private Attfield was determined to serve his country. He attempted to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on seven occasions, and finally enlisted on 22 December 1914.
On May 1915, Private Attfield deployed to Gallipoli with the 5th Battalion, AIF. On 26 May 1915, he was wounded in action and evacuated to a hospital in Alexandria. He returned to Gallipoli in October 1915, where he served until December 1915.
On 30 January 1916, the body of an unknown Australian soldier was discovered near the Gizeh (Giza) Base in Egypt. A medical examination failed to identify the soldier and he was buried as an unknown soldier in the Old Cairo War Cemetery.
Army records show that Private Attfield was the only soldier missing from the region at the time his body was recovered. Mr Martin Elliget, a researcher from Victoria, made a submission to Army to reconsider the case, which directly led to the identification of the soldier.
“The Army’s Identification Board has reviewed all the evidence presented by Unrecovered War Casualties—Army and concluded there is sufficient evidence to confirm the soldier's identity as Private Edward Attfield,” Mr Chester said.
On Anzac Day 2018, a new headstone provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will be unveiled by Defence staff from OP Mazurka and the Australian Ambassador to Egypt, Mr Neil Hawkins. The most direct descendant of Private Attfield will be presented with his newly struck medals as part of the Balnarring Victoria ANZAC Day activities. The family chose to include the inscription ‘I once was lost, but now am found’ onto the newly installed headstone.
“This represents the culmination of a great deal of effort from researchers, family and agencies from around the world,” Mr Chester said.
“It is a wonderful occasion to rectify the record on a true hero of Gallipoli on Anzac Day 2018.”
Additional information on Private Attfield is available through the National Archives of Australia: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3040529
Further information on Unrecovered War Casualties is available on the Army's website: https://www.army.gov.au/our-work/unrecovered-war-casualties/