The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, today dedicated the headstones of 20 Australian soldiers on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Australian Government.
Senator Ronaldson said it was an honour to attend the ceremony and acknowledge and remember the lives of the men who made such extraordinary sacrifices almost a century ago.
“The identities of the 20 soldiers who were honoured at today’s ceremony were announced in May 2014 and are among 144 Australians who have been identified to date as part of the joint Fromelles Project,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“The Fromelles Project has provided closure and recognition for the families of these Australian soldiers who never came home.”
The Battle of Fromelles is widely recognised as one of the worst days in Australia’s military history and was the first major battle fought by the Australian Imperial Force in France.
The 5th Australian Division suffered over 5,500 casualties, both wounded and killed, with many of those killed remaining unaccounted for almost a century after the battle.
In 2009, 250 Australian and British World War I servicemen were recovered from burial pits near the French village of Fromelles by the joint Australian Army and United Kingdom Ministry of Defence project team.
The recovered remains were reburied in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in 2010.
The Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert MP, acknowledged the work of the Australian and British defence organisations involved in the identification of the identities of the men now buried in the Pheasant Wood cemetery.
“Today’s ceremony marked the conclusion of the joint Australian and British Fromelles Project,” Mr Robert said.
“Importantly, however, the Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team will continue to identify as many of the remaining 67 unidentified Australians as possible.
“Anyone who believes they are related to an unrecovered soldier from the Battle of Fromelles is encouraged to contact the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team to register their details.”
A complete list of the 20 recently identified soldiers, including their service numbers and place of birth, is available at the following link: http://army.gov.au/Our-work/News-and-media/20-WW1-soldiers-identified
Images of the Fromelles Project, including 11 of the recently identified soldiers, are available at the following link: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20141451
Further information about the Fromelles Project and Unrecovered War Casualties – Army is available at the following link: http://www.army.gov.au/Our-work/Unrecovered-War-Casualties-Army/Fromelles
Robert Hardie (Minister Ronaldson’s office) 0457 793 403 (note – travelling with Senator Ronaldson in Europe)
Richard Briedis (Minister Robert’s office) 0477 391 174
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999