Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Fromelles Scots soldiers to be reburied

Private John Smith
Relatives of John Smith said it is right that the soldiers have a proper burial

The remains of 250 World War I soldiers, including several Scots, who were killed in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles have now been recovered.

They will be reburied with full military honours at a new cemetery close to the site in northern France.

Relatives of Private John Smith from Forfar said it was important to give the soldiers a proper burial.

Work to recover the British and Australian soldiers buried there by German forces, began in 2008.

The battle, on 19 July 1916, was the first major one on the Western Front involving British and Australian troops.

Following a four month archaeological operation in northern France, the remains, including that of Private Smith, will be buried with full honours.

Heavy losses

In total, the 61st British Division suffered losses of 1,547 personnel, who were either killed, wounded, taken prisoner or missing.

The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 similar losses.

The excavation was carried out by Oxford Archaeology.

DNA samples were taken from each soldier and specialists in the UK have attempted to extract DNA strands to help with the identification process.

It is important, any family member would want to have a grave with a name and so it is important to all us, especially my grand-dad and my gran having known they were looking for him"
Louise Smith
Great-great niece

Every soldier recovered, will be reburied with an unnamed headstone in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

If the soldiers can be identified their relatives will be able to add a personalised inscription on the headstone at a later date.

The remains of Private John Smith, who transferred from the Highland Cyclists Battalion to the 2/7 Royal Warwickshire Regiment, were recovered from the mass grave.

He was from Forfar and was killed in action at Fromelles aged 21.

Louise Smith is the great-great niece of Pte Smith.

She said the family were awaiting the results of DNA tests, but were hopeful the body recovered and identified as John Smith, was her great-great Uncle.

She said: "We knew very little about him, it was a case of just knowing he was in the Highland Cyclists Battalion and he just got on his bike aged 19 or 20 and rode off and never came back."

She added that the whole family were grateful to the Fromelles project as it meant they could finally say a proper goodbye.

She said: "It is important, any family member would want to have a grave with a name and so it is important to all us, especially my grand-dad and my gran, having known they were looking for him".



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SEE ALSO
Visiting the grave in Fromelles
21 Aug 09 |  History
Relative's hope over war grave
08 May 09 |  Scotland Video and Audio

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