April 2023

DNA identifies five more Australian World War I soldiers

Five more soldiers who fell at the Battle of Fromelles more than 100 years ago have been identified using DNA analysis performed by LGC.

After unmarked graves were discovered at Pheasant Wood in 2008 containing the remains of 250 World War I soldiers, our team of specialist DNA scientists began to work with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Australian and British Defence Casualty Units, extracting viable DNA samples from the remains in order to identify the soldiers.

The Australian Ministry of Defence today announced the five identifications of the soldiers, who lost their lives in the battle in July 1916. They are:

  • Sergeant Oscar Eric Baumann from the 32nd Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF), who worked as a joiner before enlisting and was 20 years old when he lost his life;
  • Corporal William John Stephen from the 55thBattalion AIF. Born in Balmain, NSW, who worked as a grocer before enlisting and was 28 years old when he lost his life;
  • Private Richard James McGuarr from the 32nd Battalion AIF. Private McGuarr was a dairy farmer before enlisting and was 27 years old when he lost his life;
  • Private Alexander Russell Robert Page from the 32nd Battalion AIF, who worked as a milk carter before enlisting and was 28 years old when he lost his life;
  • Private Maurice James Claxton from the 32nd Battalion AIF, who worked as a teamster before enlisting and was 24 years old when he lost his life.

Victoria Moore, Commercial DNA Services Manager at LGC, said “It is an honour to continue working with the Uncovered War Casualties – Army, Australia, using our scientific expertise and knowledge in assisting with these five new identifications. Each person has a unique story and for these five, their families and descendants finally now have the answer to which many have asked and have spent over a century waiting to hear - knowing where their final resting place is”.

With this news, a total of 173 soldiers have now been identified from the 250 found in Pheasant Wood.

The soldiers will be honoured at a commemoration ceremony on the 107th anniversary of the Battle in July, during which new headstones will be unveiled marking their identities for the first time in a century.

This news coincides with Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations and the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.

Read more about this news here.