Lost for 90 years, diggers identified by DNA

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THEY were lost for 90 years, killed in the slush of the Passchendaele battles of 1917, and forgotten. Now DNA technology has identified the remains of two Australian World War One diggers unearthed last year in the Belgian hamlet of Westhoek, east of Ypres. Sergeant George Calder, of northern Victoria, and Private John Hunter, of Queensland, will be overlooked no more.

Belgium's National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology has matched the remains with DNA taken from living descendants of the two men. They will be buried with full military honours at Belgium's Buttes Cemetery on October 4.

Private Hunter's niece, Mollie Millis, who provided a saliva swab for the DNA tests, was stunned by the news yesterday. Her uncle, who served in the same unit as a younger brother, Jim, died in the Battle of Polygon Wood. "It puts a finish to the story," she said. "It knocked the wind out of my sails a little bit when one of the family rang me to say they had found Uncle Jack's bones."

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