Three First World War graves in the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery in Belgium were rededicated on 20th September, finally commemorating by name three Australian soldiers who died in the First World War.
Two of the soldiers identified were from the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF). They were Private Charles Eacott and Private Harry Huntsman. (The third soldier identified was from the 8th Battalion.) Throughout its service in the war, the 7th Battalion suffered 1,045 killed and 2,076 wounded.
“These men died in some of the worst fighting of the First World War. In just eight weeks, Australia suffered 38,000 casualties near Ypres,” Senator Ronaldson said.
The remains of these men were unable to be identified after the war. Their graves were marked as ‘Known Unto God’ and their names engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ieper (Ypres). The Menin Gate records the names of more than 54,000 Commonwealth troops, including more than 6,000 Australians who died near Ypres and who have no known grave.
Before the war, Privates Eacott and Huntsman, both 24 years of age, were farmers in Daylesford and Coburg, Victoria, respectively. They died together at the Battle of Polygon Wood on 20th September 1917.
“Thanks to the extraordinary research of Andrew Pittaway of Fremantle and Dennis Frank of Melbourne, the graves of these Australian soldiers have been identified,” Senator Ronaldson said.
“Mr Pittaway and Mr Frank compared Commonwealth War Grave Commission burial records, service records held by the National Archives of Australia, Red Cross files and battalion war diaries in the Australian War Memorial collection. These on-line resources have not been compared before. It is hoped this new avenue of research will allow the identification of more graves of ‘the missing’ in the future.”