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Another Anzac Soldier Identified In Flanders

  • July 4th, 2008
  • Posted by susie

war-graves1.jpgA forensic laboratory in Belgium has confirmed the identity of a third soldier from the First World war, whose body was found last year, with four others, near the town of Ieper.

Susie Lipscomb reports from Flanders Fields:

The discovery was disclosed to EUAustralia by one of the prime movers in the search for the identity of human remains found on the former battlefields, Franky Bostyn, Curator of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum.

He said on Thursday (3.7.08) he had received a telephone call that morning with the news that DNA samples taken from the body matched others provided by relatives in Australia.

Mr Bostyn was one of a team from Europe and Australia which investigated the five bodies of soldiers discovered in September 2006, by workers laying a gas pipe.

They had been buried in an orderly way, trussed together with wire.

Archeological work showed that the site had been a temporary burial ground, and that the group had been left behind when other soldiers’ remains were taken for re-interment somewhere else.

Parts of uniforms used uniquely by Australian soldiers established their nationality; historical records were used to narrow-down the list of missing soldiers from that area; and, in Australia, public appeals for help brought forward relatives offering their DNA.

Two men were identified in 2007: Sergeant George Calder from Boulder in Western Australia, and Private John Hunter from Nanango in Queensland.

All five were exhumed and re-buried at the Polygon Wood military cemetery outside the small town of Zonnerbeke, last October, at a ceremony attended by the Australian Governor General, Michael Jeffery.

Mr Bostyn said the five men died in September or October 1917, during the drawn-out Battle of Passchendaele, in which nearly half a million soldiers, drawn from both sides were killed or wounded.

All of the Australian Divisions came together in the battle, a drive to break out of the fortifications around Ieper, or Ypres as it was called, and get control of seaports along the adjacent coast.

Despite successes by the Australians and others in gaining ground against strong resistance, the attack ultimately came to a standstill.

The Passchendaele Memorial Museum at Zonnerbeke conducts field research in the area, where 40 to 50 soldiers’ graves are found in the field each year – with 50000 still listed as missing, their whereabouts unaccounted for.
Mr Bostyn says the area has become highly popular with Australian visitors in recent years.

“In the past people would come because they had a close relative buried here, or lost in the battle.

“Now they come, if they have had an old uncle or knew of somebody who fought in the Great War, because it is part of their heritage.

“They plan holidays to include a visit here, but it is always for remembrance”.


See EUAustralia 21.9.08, “Finding Private Hunter, And Sergeant Calder, And Friends”.

Picture: The Polygon Wood cemetery where the five soldiers found last year have been re-interred.