In 2008, OA was awarded the first contract of its kind to archaeologically excavate and analyse eight First World War mass graves for allied soldiers killed during the Battle of Fromelles (1916) in northern France. The works, undertaken for the Australian and British governments and overseen by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), aimed to identify and rebury soldiers in individual graves with a headstone, and to inform their families. With just six months to complete the works, and operating under intense media scrutiny, several innovative techniques were devised to meet the very unique requirements of this project. A special site compound was designed that facilitated continuity between excavation, recovery and analysis and allowed a fully integrated approach between recovery and analysis. A software programme (http://oadigital.net/software/xbones) was developed to help interpret commingled remains, and a ‘chain of custody’ approach meant that human remains and associated artefacts had to be signed for whenever they were moved. The technical report is now available and provides a comprehensive, fully illustrated account of the work.
The works were undertaken within tents, and were attended by international specialists and representatives from the Australian army and CWGC. Burials were examined in the on-site laboratory.