A story in yesterday’s newspaper caught my eye. Many people would remember that last year the remains of 250 WWI soldiers were found in a mass grave near Fromelles in France. These soldiers were killed in battle at Pheasant Wood in 1916. 205 of the 250 soldiers recovered have been identified as Australians, but the process of proving exact identities is painstaking.
On Friday, it was reported that another 19 of these soldiers have been identified by name, following the previous identification of 75. More DNA testing will be carried out between now and 2014 as more relatives of the soldiers come forward.
How amazing that we now have the technology to help identify these men and let their families put them to rest.
Most Australian families would have a number of relatives who have served in the military. I have to admit that military history is a particular interest of mine and I have always keenly investigated my relatives that have served in the Defence Forces, particularly those that served in WWI and WWII. When I think of WWI I think of two relatives in particular – Robert Dorman and Stanley Higgs.
Robert Cedric Dorman was born on the 23rd Oct 1897 in Leichhardt NSW. Robert was my husband’s Great Great Uncle. He enlisted in the Australian Army in Jan 1916 at the age of 18 and left for Europe in June that year. Almost a year later on 5th May 1917, he was killed in action at Bullecourt by a shell that fell in the trench behind the front line. Unfortunately it is not known exactly where Robert was buried but he is commemorated on the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux in France.
Stanley Higgs was born in 1877 in Wales. I first began researching Stanley’s life after my second cousin Jonathan asked me if I could find some more history on his family. Stanley was Jonathan’s Grandfather. Stanley left a wife and two young boys to join the Imperial Army’s Welsh Regiment, where he moved to the Western Front in Jan 1915. Stanley was killed in action at the second battle of Ypres on the 21st April 1915 at the age of 38. He is buried at Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium.