The remains of Australian and British soldiers who fought in a 1916 World War I battle and were buried in a mass grave in northern France will be exhumed and given individual burials with full military honors, Australian officials said Thursday.
The decision, made in conjunction with the British government, is intended to honor the heroism of the soldiers who died during the Battle of Fromelles, Federal Defense Minister Warren Snowdon said.
"The Australian and British governments have agreed that individual military burial is the most fitting way to commemorate our brave soldiers and will ensure the heroism they showed in the terrible battle of Fromelles will be remembered and revered," Snowdon said.
Archeologists excavating a small field at Fromelles confirmed the presence of the mass grave in May. It is believed to contain the remains of about 400 British and Australian soldiers killed by German forces during one of Australia's bloodiest World War I battles.
The battle took place July 19-20, 1916. It was the first major battle in France in which Australians were involved.
Snowdon said the process of attempting to identify the bodies through DNA testing will begin sometime next year. The bodies will be reburied in an area next to the field in which they now lie.