Digger’s remains found at Fromelles: DNA technology uncovers Canowindra soldier

IDENTIFIED: Private Albert Williamson of Canowindra is one of 20 soldiers who died at Fromelles, with DNA technology used to identify his remains.

IDENTIFIED: Private Albert Williamson of Canowindra is one of 20 soldiers who died at Fromelles, with DNA technology used to identify his remains.

THE remains of Canowindra-born World War I digger Private Albert Williamson, who died in the bloody battle of Fromelles in 1916, have been identified using DNA technology.

Private Williamson, a member of the 54th battalion, was one of 20 diggers announced this week as having been identified, after their remains were found in a mass grave at Pheasant Wood in France in 2009.

The battle of Fromelles is considered to be Australia’s worst military defeat of World War I.

The young soldier was one of 5500  killed or wounded in the battle.

Private Williamson’s remains were among those of 250 Australian and British soldiers recovered from the mass burial site.

Since then authorities have been painstakingly carrying out the identification process using DNA.

So far 144 of the Australian soldiers have been identified.

Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said new headstones would be dedicated to the 20 soldiers in a special ceremony to be held in July this year.

“In the lead up to the Anzac centenary it is only fitting that we recognise and remember these soldiers who left for war almost 100 years ago, never to return home to their loved ones,” he said.

Orange councillor Reg Kidd said when he attended a ceremony at the site of the graves in France three years ago it was a moving experience.

“Now when I hear one of those young men came from around here, it really brings home the impact of the war,” he said.

More than 3000 people have registered DNA details of family members killed at Fromelles, through the joint  Australian and British project, which will conclude after the July dedication.

Central west historian Graeme Hosken visited Orange in April 2011 in an effort to track down connections to Private Albert Singleton, 24, from Forest Reefs, who he believed was among the unidentified soldiers in the grave.

At the time he appealed to cousins or other family members to offer DNA in the quest to identify Private Singleton, who was an only child and unmarried.

Private Singleton has been memorialised on his father’s headstone at Orange cemetery as his body has still not been identified.

Records show 1816 people from Orange and surrounding areas enlisted to fight in World War I.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop