WWI Australians to Get New French Cemetery

The proposed location of New War cemetery in Fromelles, France.

French authorities have donated an unused block of land to build a new cemetery for about 400 Australian and British soldiers found in a mass grave earlier this year. The grassy field is within a few hundred meters of where the bodies of the soldiers were unearthed in a series of pits on the outskirts of the village of Fromelles in May. The village council and French government have donated the land, with work on the cemetery expected to begin by the middle of next year.

The cemetery, the first of its kind to be built in France for 62 years, will feature individual burial plots for each of the soldiers, whose remains will be carefully exhumed from the pits where they currently lie. An estimated 170 Australian and 300 British troops were buried by German troops in a wood on Fromelles’ outskirts after a ferocious battle there in July 1916. Their remains were only uncovered five months ago by archaeologists carrying out an exploratory excavation of the site. Since their discovery, Australian, British and French authorities have debated where the men should be reburied.

The Australian, British and French governments have consulted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) about construction of the new cemetery at Fromelles.

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