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 Post subject: Five World War One soldiers who fell at Passchendale in 1917
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 10:22 pm 

Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:13 pm
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Location: South Australia
Five World War One soldiers who fell at Passchendale in 1917 laid to rest
Thursday - 4 October 2007 - MINASSIST52/07

The remains of five Australian World War One soldiers who fell during the Battle of Passchendale in 1917, will be laid to rest permanently in a ceremony in Zonnebeke, Belgium later today.

Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Mr Bruce Billson, said the re-interment will acknowledge these soldiers and honour their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“Members of the Australian Army’s 51st Battalion, The Far North Queensland Regiment, as well as members of the Royal Military College Band have travelled to Belgium to support the reinterment of these five fallen soldiers,” said Mr Billson.

“The Belgium authorities, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Office of Australian War Graves have all worked very hard to allow the re-interment to proceed. I would also like to thank the Belgium Armed Forces for their tireless assistance and support”.

“I am extremely pleased with the effort of all involved to ensure this important ceremony is able to take place today,” Mr Billson said.

The reinterment will take place at 3pm Belgium time where the Governor-General of Australia and Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force will lay commemorative wreaths. There will also be a ceremony at 11am Belgium time that will commemorate the 90th anniversary of the third battle of Ypres.

The remains of the five diggers were discovered late last year and DNA enabled two soldiers, Sergeant George Calder and Private John Hunter, to be positively identified in September 2007. Relatives of both soldiers have been escorted to Belgium and will be in attendance at the re-interment.

Aussie soldiers unknown no more
Friday - 5 October 2007 -

NINETY years ago, Australian Diggers Sergeant George Calder and Private John Hunter were among thousands of soldiers whose bodies went missing on the bloody World War I battlefields of Belgium.

But thanks to some routine roadworks in a quiet Flemish town last year and high-tech DNA tests, four of the soldiers' closest surviving relatives finally laid them to rest overnight.

The relatives joined Governor-General Michael Jeffery at the Buttes Military Cemetery for a special re-interment ceremony with full military honours for the two soldiers and three others found buried in an unmarked grave.

The diggers perished in September 1917 during the Allies' notorious fight for Polygon Wood against the Germans during the Battle of Passchendaele campaign, or Third Battle of Ypres.

Their remains were identified from a group of five Australian soldiers found buried in August last year in the rural town of Westhoek, near Ieper (Ypres) in west Flanders.

A team of road workers laying gas pipes stumbled across the bodies, wrapped in blankets or groundsheets and tied up with signal wire.

While their Australian army uniforms and rising sun badges indicated what country they were from, DNA tests were carried out on the remains and unlocked the mystery of two of their identities.

Calder, a renowned non-commissioned officer of the 51st Battalion, was positively identified after his 77-year-old great niece Faye Harris provided a saliva swab for testing from her home in Melbourne earlier this year.

She was too frail to attend the re-interment ceremony, so her two daughters, Sue Moore and Anne Morrison, flew over from Melbourne to represent the family.

“She is really pleased that we could come and represent her,” Moore said.

“She has found it all very emotional.”

Jeffery said the soldiers deserved to be honoured for their “sense of duty to country, their indomitable fighting spirit and for the horrific conditions of shell, gas, machine gun, barbed wire and mud they so bravely endured”.

“They were innovative and inured to hardship,” he said.

“When the Mother Country, France and Belgium were threatened by tyranny, they flocked to the colours as volunteers because it was the right thing to do.”

In less than six weeks, 8000 Australian soldiers lost their lives and another 30,000 were wounded in the Passchendaele battles - losses equal to the entire Gallipoli campaign.

Before he was killed, aged 24, Calder lived in Victorian town of Goldsborough and Boulder, in outback Western Australia.

Fellow digger, John Hunter, 29, belonged to the 49th Infantry Battalion, and was a cattle farmer from the southern Queensland town of Nanango.

Hunter's niece Mollie Millis, who lives in Brisbane, and nephew Jim Hunter, who also hails from Nanango, travelled to Belgium this week to farewell him.

Jim Hunter's father, also named Jim, enlisted two days before his brother John and they managed to remain together until the latter was killed in action.

While John Hunter and George Calder have finally been identified, mystery surrounds the identity of the other three bodies.

Sisters Rosemary Sheehan and Adrienne Verco also travelled to Belgium for the re-interment ceremony, amid hopes that their missing great uncle, Pte Colin Neil Macarthur, was one of the unidentified trio.

A DNA sample provided by their mother was initially thought to be a match, but the sisters learned this week that it was inconclusive.

While disappointed, they chose to represent the relatives of the three unknown soldiers.

“The unknown are not going to their graves unloved,” Mrs Sheehan said.

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