WWI discoveries: Discovery of soldiers’ remains in Bullecourt follows identification of possible mass grave in Gallipoli
The discovery of two soldiers’ remains, likely to be Australian, in Bullecourt, France last week marks the third major WWI finding involving Australian soldiers in as many months. In April it was revealed the names of 731 Anzacs had been found etched into a cave wall in France, and a possible mass grave of 143 missing Australian soldiers was found on the Gallipoli peninsula.
“During WWI, over 100 individual battles took place across thousands of kilometres of land and sea, involving about 65 million Allied and German soldiers – including 420,000 Australian soldiers,” said historian and Australian battlefield expert Mat McLachlan.
“While most of these battles took place over one hundred years ago, over 8.5 million people lost their lives and the carnage was on such a massive scale that it is not really surprising the recovery of remains is still taking place today,” added Mat.
WWI discoveries involving Australian soldiers announced in 2015 include:
· May 2015: The remains of two soldiers discovered on the ‘Australian line’ in Bullecourt (France), where two bloody battles were fought in April and May 1917, resulting in hundreds of casualties – many still unaccounted for. During examination of the remains, a button featuring a map of Australia was found, supporting the theory the soldiers were Australian. The discovery was made by a French fossicker on 23 May, and announced by the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs on 29 May.
· April 2015: The names of 731 soldiers from Australia’s 9th Battalion infantry were found etched on the wall of a cave in the Underground City of Naours, beneath the WWI battlefields of France. It is likely the cave was used as a place of rest and respite for the Diggers.
· April 2015: The possible discovery of the mass grave of 143 missing Australian soldiers – killed in the Battle of Krithia on the Gallipoli peninsula in May 1915 – by retired Melbourne schoolteacher, Lambios Englezos, who found the lost Diggers of Fromelles in 2008.
Each year, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours (www.battlefields.com.au) helps thousands of Australians retrace the footsteps of the Anzacs as part of guided tours to the historic battlefield sites across France, Belgium and Gallipoli– as well as further afield to Singapore, Vietnam, the Solomon Islands and more.
For more information, or to coordinate an interview with Australian historian Mat McLachlan, please contact me on 02 9440 0414, or [email protected]