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    Remains of unidentified World War I Australian soldier

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    From the trenches of France - news of another lost son By Jonathan King

    February 9, 2006

    French, British and Australian officials have begun searching for information on an unidentified World War I Australian soldier whose remains have been found close to the former Hindenburg Line near St Quentin in northern France.

    Experts from the National Institute for Research in Preventive Archaeology, who found the remains, reported a "rising sun" badge of Australian Commonwealth Military Forces.

    The remains were found in a mortar hole 50 metres from a trench on the Hindenburg Line.

    They believe he was killed in 1918, because he carried a coin from that year, and could have been an officer, because he had bullets used in British firearms issued to officers. The senior curator at the Australian War Memorial, Peter Burness, believes the man was among victorious forces that finally broke the Hindenburg Line at the battle of Bellicourt on September 29.

    Mr Burness believes he was in the 3rd or 5th Australian Division commanded by Melbourne's General John Monash, who was also commanding the newly arrived 27th and 30th American divisions in a triumphant attack.

    He said so many Australians were killed that General Monash needed to bolster their numbers with inexperienced American troops who he had been asked to train - as he had done since the July 4 battle of Hamel.

    "But talk about going out on a real high note," Mr Burness said. "This soldier was killed in the battle that broke through the notorious Hindenburg Line and sent the Germans running - it was the second-last battle Australians had to fight before the war ended in November."

    Although it is unlikely archaeologists will find any identifying "dogtags" when improvements in the weather enable them to remove the remains from the site, officials from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission need to establish his identity before planning an appropriate burial service.

    The Minister for Veterans Affairs, Bruce Billson, said that "if a positive identification is made" the department will invite any next of kin to attend a military funeral at the nearest war cemetery. But "if the soldier cannot be identified, he will be buried at the war cemetery as 'An Unknown Australian Soldier of the 1914-1918 War"'. Mr Billson said officials will be "examining the uniform, weapons and any personal items found at the site".

    If he was an officer, Mr Burness believes the search can be narrowed down.

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