Thursday 4 October 2007 by Craig Tibbitts. 3 comments
To Flanders Fields, 1917, Commemoration

The remains of five AIF soldiers will be laid to rest today with full military honours in the Buttes New British Cemetery at Polygon Wood, Belgium.  The remains were discovered by chance in September 2006 during roadwork and pipe-laying excavations near the small village of Westhoek.  This is situated in the middle of the dreaded Ypres-Passchendaele Salient where up to half a million casualties on both sides fell, of which tens of thousands were either never recovered or were unidentifiable.

The Australian Army through its History Unit headed the investigation into the identity of the five men, with the assistance of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the Office of Australian War Graves.  The Australian War Memorial also provided some assistance early in the piece, particularly with archival maps and documents.

Subsequent DNA testing proved successful in identifying two of the five men (see news articles below).

May they all now rest in peace.

*New: A large number of photos and some You Tube clips can now be found on the Dutch/Flemish WW I Forum:
www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=10901

New articles

History sleuth, Army News, 5 April 2007 (an earlier piece on the search for the mens' identities)

Missing WWI soldiers identified, Army News, 4 September 2007.

Remains of diggers identified, Canberra Times, 5 September 2007.

Lost for 90 years, diggers identified by DNA, The Age, 5 September 2007.

Australian diggers honourably laid to rest, ABC News, 5 October 2007.

Comments

Richard Lesh

One cannot emphasize enough the wonderful spirit with which the Belgians and French continue to respect and treat with great solemnity all aspects of the sacrifice made by Australians in WW1 for their respective countries. In August 2007 my wife and I travelled to France and Belgium to visit the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials. It was my first trip to these areas and I was overwhelmed at the emotion it produced in me. We visited the Passchendaele Museum in Zonnebeke and the "Zonnebeke Five" is a current exhibition which traces all aspects of this discovery and the associated detective work, well worth the visit. As well, a recently produced AWM film using mostly Frank Hurley footage was playing . It too is excellent, though in the context of the Zonnebeke museum it did somewhat overemphasize Australia's role. My only criticism on our trip was at Le Hamel, where the Australian Memorial is in a state of disrepair. We were there on 8 August. Next year on the same date is the 90th anniversary of the Schwarze Tag of the German Army and I can only hope that the slow progress of repair being carried out is completed by then. On a brighter note , the Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonnneux was in excellent condition.

Johan R. Ryheul

A large number of photo's and some You Tube clips can be found here, on the Dutch/Flemish WW I Forum :

http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=10901

It was a very moving service. The whole weekend we will be remembering the Anzacs who fought and especially those soldiers who gave their live for our freedom.

We will remember them !

Johan
Admin Dutch/Flemish WW I forum

Editor's comment: Many thanks for that Johan, lots of really great photos. I'll also put the link to this on the main blog post for this topic. Cheers, Craig.

Cynthia Schmidt

I cannot put into words the wonderful feeling, of finding our brave boys who gave their lives for our today’s. The spirit that Belgians and French continue to respect and treat with great solemnity all aspects of the sacrifice made by Australians in WW1 for their Countries future generations. My Grandfather was in the Boer War 8th Lite Horse and Second World War 7th Lite Horse, We thank God that he returned. Cynthia