The remains of an unknown soldier from WWI has been identified, Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester confirmed this week.
The remains of an unknown soldier from the First World War has been identified following an investigation by Fallen Diggers Incorporated, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties division this week.
Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester confirmed the remains to be those of Private Leslie Styles of the Australian Imperial Force’s 40th Battalion.
“Private Leslie Styles, from Ringarooma, Tasmania, enlisted on 4 March 1916 and during the Battle of Amiens on 12 August 1918 was killed in action shortly after he and three other soldiers successfully took two German machine gun posts,” Minister Chester said.
“He was buried initially near the place of his death, but his body could not be identified when later recovered and was buried as an Unknown Soldier of the 40th Battalion.
“Thanks to detailed research in recent years from Fallen Diggers Incorporated, Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it was established that Private Styles is the only missing soldier from the battalion in proximity to the recovery.”
Minister Chester continued, thanking those that helped identify a lost Australian soldier.
“This is an important event for the family of Private Styles whose service is honoured through the identification of his final resting place. Lest we forget,” Minister Chester said.
“The identification of Private Styles brings the number of Australian First World War soldiers the group has helped identify to 33 bringing closure to the families of our fallen and allowing us all to know the resting places of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
PTE Styles’ great grand niece Sandra Barreau provided some insight into the family that he was to leave behind when he left Australia.
“He went to war leaving his new baby daughter Hazel and wife Ella never to return,” Barreau said.
“Leslie, has always been commemorated as a hardworking young man from Ringarooma, Tasmania, who had much strength and courage.
“Hearing the news that a gravesite marked 'Unknown Soldier' in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France, has been confirmed to be the resting place of my great great Uncle Private Leslie Styles is heartening news.
“I am sure that there are many of his relatives who will feel the same, once they are aware of what has happened.
“A tremendous amount of appreciation and thanks goes to Dennis Frank and Andrew Pittaway from Fallen Diggers Incorporated who worked tirelessly with their research and without them this would never had happened.
“Also, to the Australian Army for their work especially Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Dawe, thank you. You have put all the puzzle pieces together and solved the mystery. Congratulations.
“On Anzac Day we always pay homage to our fallen Diggers but this year will be different, we shall raise our glasses knowing he has been found and can now rest in peace.”
A new headstone bearing PTE Styles’ name will now be erected with discussions are taking place between the family and Defence.
[Related: New recovery program launched for veterans]