Australia completes exploratory excavation of Battle of Messines site

An Australia Federation Guard prior to the Anzac Day service at Toronto Avenue Cemetery in Belgium. The cemetery contains 78 graves of servicemen from the 9th Brigade (3rd Australian Division) who died in the Battle of Messines between 7 and 10 June 1917.. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

The recent efforts of the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team in Belgium at the site of the 1917 Battle of Messines have been recognised by Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester.

As remains were not found during the exploration excavation, the site will now be ruled out and investigations into the final resting place of these servicemen can continue.


"The Army Unrecovered War Casualties team has been planning towards this activity for over two years and can be proud of completing the process of responding to well evidenced research suggesting the men may have been located there," Minister Chester said.

"The sacrifice of the men of the 45th Battalion Australian Imperial Force at the Battle of Messines is a significant part of Australian military history. I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful assistance provided by Belgian authorities in facilitating this excavation. The defence relationship between Australia and Belgium is a long, proud and strong one."

Minister Chester praised the work conducted by the Unrecovered War Casualties team.

"This highly skilled group of forensic staff and historical experts have been extremely focused and dedicated in compiling the evidence behind the battle and the men who fought in it," the minister said.

"Although all available evidence suggested the men were still where they were reportedly buried, they may have been subsequently moved without documentation."

Data and records, including soldier’s service history were analysed to assist in the process. All available records indicated the men were at one stage buried near Messines, however this site has now been explored and excluded from the search for Australia's soldiers on this occasion.

Unrecovered War Casualties-Army (UWC-A) is the Army unit responsible for finding, recovering and identifying Australian servicemen and women who remain unaccounted for (missing or presumed deceased) from all past conflicts.
UWC-A currently has investigations into potential final resting places of Australian servicemen in Papua New Guinea, France, Belgium, South Korea, East Timor and Indonesia.

Australia completes exploratory excavation of Battle of Messines site
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