9 Australian soldiers who were KIA during Battle of Fromelles in WWI are Identified

Nine Australian Soldiers who were Killed in Action in the Battle of Fromelles in France, 1916, during World War I have been identified. They were originally buried in several unmarked mass graves near Pheasant Wood in France, along with a further 250 Australian soldiers.

They were buried as unknown in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Fromelles but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will erect new headstones with the details of the nine identified soldiers on 19 July 2018, during the annual commemoration ceremony at Fromelles.

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Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, in northern France. (Credits: POA Mez Merrill)
Headstone of unknown soldier in Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, in northern France. (Credits: POA Mez Merrill)

Importantly the identification of these soldiers provides closure for some families with missing members lost during the battles of World War I.”, said Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester, “One hundred years later, Australia has not forgotten the service and sacrifice of these soldiers.”

These soldiers were originally recovered from unmarked mass graves adjacent to Pheasant Wood in France along with a further 250 Australian soldiers who fought and died in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles.

Credits: Australian War Memorial and National Archives of Australia

The Fromelles Identification Board, with the help of anthropologists, archaelogists and DNA specialists, concluded there was sufficient evidence to identify the remains found as:

  • Captain Kenneth Malcolm MORTIMER 29th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF)
  • 2825 Corporal Alfred THOMPSON 55th Battalion AIF
  • 191 Private Henry BELL 29th Battalion AIF
  • 1218 Private William Edwin BOYCE 32nd Battalion AIF
  • 889 Private Henry GARDNER 30th Battalion AIF
  • 1011 Private Alexander McCULLOCH 32nd Battalion AIF
  • 314 Private Stanley Richard O’DONNELL 29th Battalion AIF
  • 3983 Private James Robert SMITH 31st Battalion AIF
  • 795 Private Claude YEO 30th Battalion AIF.

To date the Fromelles Project has resulted in 159 Australian soldiers being identified, while 91 remain unidentified,” Mr Chester said.

The Ministry for Defence Personnel asks members of the public whose relatives fought in the Battle of Fromelles, have a grave listed as unknown and are known to have died on 19 or 20 July 1916 are encouraged to register with the Australian Army Unrecovered War Casualties unit.