It seems possible that there may be even more Australian Diggers missing from the Battle of Fromelles than first thought in the mass grave at Pheasant Wood where the Germans buried British and Australian dead after the battle on July 19 1916.
Lambis Englezos and his team have German and Red Cross records to suggest around 190 Australians were buried at Pheasant Wood. But Lambis now believes it’s possible that number may rise and the number of British soldiers buried there may be fewer than first thought.
That supposition would have some battlefield logic to support it because the British dead would have to have been carried some kilometres from where they died on the far side of the Sugar Loaf salient to Pheasant Wood.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has been keeping a very tight lid on information from the archaeological dig to exhume the remains found at Pheasant Wood.
They have confirmed that a total of 250 sets of remains have been recovered (around 50 in each of five main pits) and that they have now been anthropologically examined (to detect their nationality). These now lie in storage, recorded according to grave number, layer number in each grave where they were found and the other remains with which each was buried. The CWGC has also said that the ‘vast majority’ of remains found in the first three burial pits were Australian.
They have made no pronouncement of the nationality of the two remaining pits, each with around 50 remains, or the sixth pit, which had just six remains in it. So we don't yet know the total number of Australians found in the mass grave.
As Lambis suggests, it’s possible that more than 200 of the remains at Pheasant Wood are Australian.
Let’s hope the CWGC gives us some details of the full nationality breakdown of the remains soon. And let’s hope the Australian Government expedites the gathering of DNA material from the Australian families of the Fromelles missing so we can move closer to identification and individual burials.