Sunday, 15 June 2008
In July,1916, Australian soldiers fought a pointless bloodbath of a battle alongside British soldiers, near the small French village of Fromelles. In a 24-hour period, Australia lost over 5000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra calls it "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history." Many of those missing, presumed dead, have no known grave.
Last year, a geophysical survey revealed the location of what was believed to be one of the mass graves supposedly dug by German soldiers for the burial of unknown Australian and British soldiers killed at Fromelles.
In May and June of this year, an extensive archaeological dig positively identified the remains as those of some of these soldiers. This week a official ceremony was conducted at the site after the pit had been resealed. The owner of the land has generously donated the site to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The governments of France, Australia and Britain have to decide now whether to exhume and attempt to identify each of the bodies in this pit, and then provide individual graves for each soldier at the site, or to leave the bodies as they are and provide a memorial.