First World War victim laid to rest in new cemetery

The last of 250 soldiers discovered in First World War communal graves will be reburied today in a ceremony marking the completion of a new cemetery in memory of thousands who died at the battle of Fromelles.

The Prince of Wales will be among dignitaries walking behind the coffin as it is drawn through the French village just over two years after the mass graves were discovered and work began on giving each serviceman an individual burial at a new site.

Not all the 250 British and Australian soldiers found in the grave were identified, and those without names bear headstones marked Known Unto God, while efforts continue to match them with descendants using increasingly-sophisticated DNA science.

More than 5,000 Australians and 1,500 Britons were killed or captured by the Germans in a battle in which a young Adolf Hitler is believed to have taken part.

The dead included soldiers from regiments in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire and hundreds of UK families submitted DNA samples in a bid to establish whether their relatives were among the 250 bodies unearthed in an archaeological dig which began in May 2008.

The reinterment work, creating the first new First World War cemetery for 50 years, was funded by the British and Australian governments and coordinated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Fromelles battle was a disaster, designed to pin down the Germans and stop them getting to the Somme.

For Australia in particular, the result is seen as the worst 24 hours in its military history.

So far 94 of the 250 bodies were identified by name - all Australian. A further 111 were identified as belonging to the Australian army, and three to the British army. The remaining 42 were not identified.

The Prince of Wales is in Fromelles with the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke of Kent, the current President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Australia's delegation is headed by the Governor General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce.

The coffin of the final soldier will be carried from Pheasant Wood, the site of the original communal graves, by a First World War wagon pulled by horses from the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, and escorted by soldiers from the British and Australian armies.

It will travel through the village of Fromelles, arriving at the new cemetery for a reinterment service and a wreath-laying ceremony.

The Prince of Wales will then dedicate the cemetery - on the 94th anniversary of the battle.

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