Sunday, 20 September 2015

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State


Three First World War graves in the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery in Belgium will be rededicated today, finally commemorating by name three Australian soldiers who died in the First World War.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson said he was honoured to announce the rededication of the graves of Private Charles Eacott and Private Harry Huntsman of the 7th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and Private John (Jock) Neilson of the

8th Battalion AIF.

“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 20 September 1917. Private Neilsen was a 26-year-old engine driver from West Wallsend, NSW. He died at the Battle of Passchendaele on 10 October 1917.

“Thanks to the extraordinary research of Andrew Pittaway of Fremantle and Dennis Frank of Melbourne, the graves of these three 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.”

Images are available on the DVA Flickr page as follows:

Media enquiries:

Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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