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Five Headstones in Fromelles Rededicated

15 July 2013

The newly identified soldiers, Private William BARBER, Private Thomas William FRANCIS, Private William O'DONNELL, Private Thomas Henry BILLS and Private John Gordon McKENZIE, were among 250 Australian and British First World War soldiers who were recovered from a mass burial site at Pheasant Wood in France. The soldiers were recovered by a joint Australian Army and UK Ministry of Defence project team in 2009, before being reburied in the newly constructed Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in 2010.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected new headstones with the identified soldiers' details, ahead of a dedication ceremony which took place during the annual commemoration of the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 2013. The identification of the five soldiers was confirmed by the joint Australian Army and UK Ministry of Defence project team.

The Battle of Fromelles was the first major engagement fought by the Australian Imperial Force in France. The 5th Australian Division suffered more than 5500 casualties (killed and wounded)  in twenty four hours. The British 61st (South Midland) Division reported over 1,500 killed, wounded and missing. No tactical advantages resulted from the action.