DNA experts to trace First World War dead

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Armed with the latest forensic techniques used in modern murder investigations, DNA experts are to try to match around 400 soldiers' remains to their genetic signatures.

A team of British-based experts has just been chosen to attempt to unravel one of the largest-scale genetic conundrums ever They hope to obtain DNA profiles from bodies that have lain underground for nearly a century on a scale never previously attempted.

The soldiers were buried in woodland shortly after the Battle of Fromelles of July 16, 1916, which was part of the Somme campaign. At Fromelles, 5,553 Australian and 1,547 British soldiers were mown down by German guns in a catastrophically planned offensive considered the worst 24 hours in Australian military history.

German forces placed them - without their dog tags - in pits in a site known as Pheasant Wood near the village of Fromelles.

A team of British-based forensic archaeologists and DNA experts will now try to identify samples of teeth, small bones, hair and even soft tissue and then match these to soldiers' family members or even to objects the dead men touched in their lifetime.

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