WW1 commonwealth mass war grave found

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by brettarider, Jun 9, 2007.

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  1. Hopefully an excavation can identiy the remains and allow a proper burial,
    eam's mass war grave discovery
    Fromelles site
    The team has spent more than two weeks examining the site
    Researchers headed by an archaeologist from Glasgow University believe they have unearthed evidence of a mass war grave dating back to World War I.

    The site in Fromelles in northern France is thought to contain the bodies of 400 British and Australian soldiers.

    Historians have long believed the grave existed after it was referred to in German war records from 1916.

    The Battle of Fromelles was staged in an attempt to divert German troops away from the Battle of the Somme.

    Dr Tony Pollard, director of Glasgow University's Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, described the find as being of "massive historical importance".

    We believe this is the biggest mass grave of the modern era that is not connected with genocide
    Historian Peter Barton

    He spent two weeks surveying the area, using geophysics, radar, topographic surveys and metal detectors.

    About 5,500 Australian troops were killed or injured in the battle along with 1,500 British soldiers - figures which were overshadowed at the time by the enormous loss of life at The Somme.

    The battle is also noted as one in which future Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler fought against the Allies.

    Dr Pollard hopes the discovery will focus new interest on the Battle of Fromelles.

    He said: "The geophysics have proved the pits are there, and a metal detector survey has given very compelling evidence that Australian troops were buried there as there are metal artefacts such as medallions with Australian military insignia on them.

    "That suggests beyond all reasonable doubt that the soldiers are there.

    "There are only two explanations for this, either they were prisoners of war, which seems unlikely, or they were dead bodies.

    "We believe the objects have fallen off the soldiers' uniforms as they were being manhandled in to the pits."

    'Modern era'

    The search for the grave was commissioned by the Australian Government.

    The country's war memorial in Canberra describes it as "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history".

    Historian Peter Barton, who worked at the site alongside Dr Pollard, described the project as unique.

    He said: "No mass grave like this has ever been found. The biggest found previously held only 20 or 30 people.

    "We believe this is the biggest mass grave of the modern era that is not connected with genocide. It is quite extraordinary."

    Soldiers in trench - (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
    The death toll was overshadowed by carnage at The Somme

    Allied dead from the battle were brought to the site on a trench railway and buried in the pits.

    Dr Pollard said: "Hitler was in the 6th Bavarian reserve regiment that took part in the battle. He was 27 at the time and was acting as a runner in the battle.

    "I'm not at all suggesting he was involved with the burial of these men, but he certainly took part in the battle."

    The Australian Government is believed to be keen to conduct a full exhumation of the bodies, while a full report on the team's findings will be presented to the House of Lords War Graves and Battlefields Heritage group.

    The archaeological team intends to carry out a small scale excavation of the site in the coming months.

  2. I hope they can now rest in peace...
  3. And hopefully it won't be targeted by souvenir hunters, I take it they'll keep the actual location on the QT.
    I know they may not be devonshires but the sentiment is the same
    'The Devonshires held
    this trench,
    the Devonshires
    hold it still'
  4. Hope fully they can now rest in peace and get the funeral these brave warriors deserve.

    Still not sure that this was the greatest single loss of life the Australians witnessed as I am sure there were a few of teh Gallipoli Offensive caused more casualties........ But I digress.
  5. Pozieres and Fromelles during the Somme campaign caused more Austrailian casualties than Gallipoli.
  6. doubtless a typo, it should read 16th.

    Unless it's guarded 24\7 it will get targeted by diggers, they'll need to search for and remove anything within detector range ASAP.
    I hope the resources are in place to deal with the site effectivley and can identify at least some of the men.
  7. There should be a full exhumation of the bodies for indentification and then IMHO they should be re-intered in the same location where they have, after all rested for 90 odd years. However this time in an appropriately set up and maintained military cemetry.

    RIP lads.
  8. If it's underground and in Picardy and Flanders then Peter Barton is the kiddy - no question!

    As for the Gallipolli thing, very few people - diggers included - realise that more Australians died on the Somme than at Gallipolli. Visit Pozieres and environs, you can hardly move without coming across a reminder...
  9. Didn't UK casualties also dwarf ANZAC casualties?

    Not to understate the loss, given the smaller size of the forces and the loyal service of a distant 'mother country', but I am slightly uncomfortable with the way it seems to be used as a slur against us when the sacrifice was ours too and our cost in blood greater.
  10. And France's. Twice as many British soldiers and three times as many French soldiers died at Gallipoli than Australians. All obviously deserving the utmost respect, as do the Turks, who were as decent a foe as you could hope for. But you're right CB, the whole thing has unfortunately been hijacked by Australian with a grudge against the old country.

    With regard to the mass grave recently discovered...if people are already digging in the woods and fields by torchlight to find 'memorabilia', how much of a step is it for them to target those places where hundreds, even thousands of complete uniforms are lying side by side, all conveniently signposted?
  11. Public support and respect for serving ADF Members owes much to the "Australian Hijacking of Gallipoli".

    The wide media coverage here of our recently found WW1 men is due to the fact that this sort of news, will sell papers. Also in the last week a private mission to recover 1RAR M.I.A's from Vietnam from 1965 was successful. Military funerals are being held for them this week in Canberra. I think that this is a terrific result.

    For an insight into contemporary Australian attitudes to Gallipoli and a bit of a review of recent Australian MilHist. on the subject check here
    You'll look long and hard before finding any evidence of a grudge or slur.
  12. Unfortunately the co-ords are already published.

    I'm not sure what the French law is as regards disturbing of war graves, but I dimly remember it being fairly harsh?
  13. If those bodies were US soldiers they would be quickly exhumed, attempts would be made to identify, and any grave robber would face the wrath of Team America.