WWI soldiers to be buried 101 years after they died

The Australian Monument at Bullecourt

Descendants of two Australian soldiers killed in May 1917 will attend ceremony at cemetery where bodies of their comrades in arms are already buried

The bodies of two Australian World War One soldiers are to be buried at a military cemetery in Pas-de-Calais on November 12, the day after the Armistice centenary, 101 years after they died in the Second Battle of Bullecourt in May 1917.

Descendants of privates James L Rolls and Hedley R MacBeth, who were with the 24th Battalion (Australia), when the underground bunker they were resting in after a day of fighting was hit by a shell, will attend the ceremony at Quéant War Cemetery, near Bullecourt, where their comrades-in-arms are already buried.

They were identified in August 2018 following "a thorough historical investigation and extensive DNA testing," the Australian Embassy said, several years after their remains had first been discovered by a local amateur historian.

Before joining the conflict, the former was a fabric merchant and father to a four-year-old daughter. The latter was a labourer and father of two children, aged seven and 11 at the time of his death.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 bodies of Australian, British and German soldiers are thought to be undiscovered on the battlefield more than a century after the two Bullecourt battles in spring 1917, in which nearly 18,000 soldiers on both sides were killed or injured in just two-and-a-half weeks of fighting, when the Allies launched a major offensive against the German-held Hindenburg Line.

Plans to build a windfarm on the site of the battlefield were abandoned following protests from the descendants of Australian soldiers.

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