Australian soldier killed in WWI identified 105 years after death
A Victorian soldier killed in World War I has been identified more than a century after his death.
The breakthrough discovery of Lieutenant James Kennedy’s identity was verified by investigators who linked a Boer War service ribbon to the fallen soldier, who lay in an unmarked grave in France for 105 years.
The remarkable find brings closure to four generations of descendants, including Lieutenant Kennedy’s grandson Mark Kennedy, who described it as a “small miracle”.
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“Since 1987 I’ve tried here and there to search for information regarding my grandfather’s whereabouts,” he said.
“But like thousands of others like him, he vanished in the trenches.
“I’d grown up with many stories of him from my father, so I think it’s fair to say he was lost but not forgotten.”
The discovery also draws close to the final chapter of what Mr Kennedy described as “a great wartime romance” between his grandparents.
Lt Kennedy met Australian Army Nurse Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Kendall from Geelong on a troopship bound for Egypt in 1915.
One year later, after fighting at Gallipoli with the 26rh Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force, James married Lottie at the famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt.
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Four months before the birth of his son, James was sent to the Western Front and then to France in late July 1916, where he was seriously wounded at Pozieres.
He was able to spend a short time recovering with his new wife and son in Scotland before re-joining his battalion in October 1916.
This would be the last time Lottie and baby Bruce would see James. He was killed on November 5, 1916.
Lt Kennedy’s unmarked headstone near the battlefields in France will now be replaced with one bearing his name.
Margaret White, Mark’s sister and James’ granddaughter, said she was grateful and surprised by the news.
“I find it amazing they were able to discover my grandfather’s final resting place after so many years,” she said.
“I’ve got my grandfather’s medals, bugle, and other memorabilia at home, and it’s quite incredible how much information is still available more than one hundred years later.”
“It’s a very emotional time for the family, but they regard it as a small miracle that over 100 years after he fell, Australia has still now been able to identify him,” Veterans’ Affairs Minister Andrew Gee told 9News.
Fallen Diggers Incorporated has now helped identify 37 Australian First World War soldiers.
World War I remains the costliest conflict for Australian lives and casualties.
With a country of fewer than five million people, 416,809 men enlisted, of which more than 60,000 were killed.