Thank you to our Sponsors

Sunday, July 25th, 2010
 
       

The Plugstreet Team would like to thank Ypres Flanders Battlefield Tours and Cherry Blossom B&B at Brandhoek, for their support.

Part of the fund has been put towards essential services to help make our stay on site more civilized.

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The project is still seeking sponsorship in exchange for advertising on our website, if you are interested in advertising on this site please get in touch

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Team Nosferatu vs Team Avril: The battle lines are drawn!

Saturday, July 24th, 2010
 
       

Plugstreet 2010 has produced the latest trench rivalry between the 2 teams excavating in the copse at St. Yvon. Latest reports have suggested that a verbal slanging match has broken out across the 30 metres of No Man’s Land between them. The latest exchange has been an argument over who has got the biggest timbers.
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Team Avril has struck the first blow with the sensational unconfirmed claim that the discovery of mirrored glass inside their trench is conclusive proof that they have the discovered the dressing room of a German officer. It is assumed that Team Nosferatu was angered by this when their leader, Jon Price, was unable to confirm or deny that the two puncture marks on Angela’s elbow were caused by a member of his team.
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As the stand-off continues, it is expected that eventually one of these teams will go over the top. Team Nosferatu is currently fortifying their 2 metre deep trench in anticipation for a German grenade attack by Team Avril.
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The Plugstreet Project 2010- Days 1 and 2

Saturday, July 24th, 2010
 
       

The Plugstreet Project 2010 is underway!
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Work began at 9am on 23rd July 2010. Three trenches have been opened overall and our four teams have been working hard through tough conditions to find the trenches of the German line.
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Team Kirsty (led by Kirsty Nichol) and Team Slither (led by Steve Litherland) are working on 2 trenches in close proximity to each other on an area to the north-west of St.Yvon. Team Colonel (Geophysics) has identified a German crenellated trench with a communications trench connected to it which is located far back from the German front line.
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Day 1 for these teams consisted of de-turfing and digging down about 30cm on very hard ground. On Day 2 (today) Team Slither found the crenellated trench with shell fragments and components of shrapnel ball explosives. Team Kirsty has had less success, with the somewhat unexpected discovery of Roman pottery, redeposited by the actions of the Great War!
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Team Avril (led by Avril Gibson) are extending the trench that they excavated last year. So far timbers and a post hole have been found.
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2010 has seen the return of Team Nosferatu (led by Jon Price) and they are back with a vengeance, complete with black high vis jackets! The team is resuming excavation of Trench 7, which, after digging to a depth of around 2 metres in 2008, is not yet finished. Days 1 and 2 have mostly consisted of digging to the 2 metre finish point from 2008.
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Day 3 looks set to promise some exciting discoveries as with past seasons! More news soon!
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Turning points

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
 
       

Our current trip to Belgium is something of a turning point in the story we are slowly revealing.
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Arriving on Wednesday morning the media team were soon installed in our home away from home, the Peace Village at Messines. The cameras were quickly unpacked and we headed down to Prowse Point to observe the Australian Army rehearshing the funeral service, timing every step to perfection. This rare opportunity to observe proceedings, ensured that we would be in a position to capture the best possible footage the following day.

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Soon afterwards the Mather family arrived for a tour of the battlefield, taking in Toronto Avenue cemetery, to hear the story of the 33rd Battalion’s struggle through the gas filled wood and to lay a wreath on the grave of another family member who lies there.
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Richard and Martin led a tour of our excavations in the small wood near ultimo crater and took family members into the field to stand at the place Alan had lain undiscovered for so long.
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There was a special poignancy in the Menin gate ceremony at 8pm that night, it was the last ceremony at which Alan’s name carved on the white Portland stone panel, would be relevant. Tomorrow he would no longer be counted amongst those with no known grave. After the service his family gathered around the wreath they had laid beneath the names of the 33rd Btn missing and his great great nephew was lifted onto the shoulders of his Australian Army colleagues to place a poppy beside the carved letters “A. J. Mather”.
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The funeral service was beautiful and very personal, the coffin being carried by bearers from the Australian Army, draped with the Australian flag and topped with Alan’s own medals, a bayonet and slouch hat with the patch of the 33rd Battalion. All of which were presented to his nephew after the coffin had been lowered and the volley fired, three haunting shots from the amassed rifles, which rang out across the valley and echoed from the trees of Plugstreet Wood.
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Alan’s family and invited guests went on to a reception hosted by the local Mayor and the public dispersed, leaving just a few of us in the tranquil cemetery, waiting for the road to reopen and vehicles to arrive to collect the equipment. As the workers from the CWGC brought the carefully bagged soil back into the cemetery and began their work, it felt like the closing of a vital chapter in the story of our project.

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Back in the Peace Village there was time to relax and reflect on events, with a presentation on the process of identification of our Australian followed by raised glasses and a brief pause before the 2010 dig began to open a new chapter….
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A proud day for the Plugstreet Team.

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
 
       

Today over thirty members of the Plugstreet Team attended the burial of Pte. Alan Mather at Prowse Point cemetery. He was laid to rest with full military honours, a very moving service with readings by members of his family, a proud day for all involved.

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Find out more about the funeral of Pte A. J. Mather
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BBC Radio 4 Broadcast

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
 
       

Martin & Richard will be on BBC Radio 4 “Material World” at 16:30 UK time today, talking about the recovery and identification of Pte Alan Mather KIA 1917, found 2008, buried 22nd July 2010.
www.BBC.co.uk/radio4

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Service of Reinterment for Private Alan J Mather

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
 
       

Service of Reinterment

for

Private Alan J Mather

of the First World War
whose remains were found near
St Yvon
11.00 22 July 2010 at Prowse Point Cemetery

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So far from home, never forgotten
May you rest in peace, bearing an honoured name

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Welcome
By Lieutenant Colonel Michael Toohey
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Address
The Hon Alan Griffin MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel

Eulogy
Read by Pte. Mather’s family

Greeting and Prayers
Led by Chaplain Russell Mutzelburg, Principal Chaplain Australian Army

Grace and peace from the Lord be with you.
Response: And Also with you.
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We have come together today to thank God for the service Private Alan Mather rendered to Australia, Belgium, other allied nations and the cause of freedom;
to mourn and honour him; and to support each other in grief.

We face the certainty of our own death and judgement,
yet Christians believe that those who die in Christ share eternal life with him.

Therefore in faith and hope we turn to God, who created and sustains us all.

Let us pray.
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Hymn

[After the hymn the Bearer Party with coffin is led into the cemetery by the chaplain who reads the following Scripture passages while leading].
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Psalm and Prayers
Led by Chaplain Catie Inches-Ogden, Senior Chaplain Australian Army Headquarters

Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die’ John 11: 25
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Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;.
He guides me in straight paths
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the dark shadow,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me.
Your rod and staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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The Rock. His work is perfect, for all His ways are just: a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is He.
Blessed be the true Judge. The soul of every living thing is in Your hand. Your eyes are upon all the ways of the children of men, giving everyone according to their ways and according to the fruits of their doings.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord
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Lowering of the Coffin
You are asked to stand.
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Chaplain Inches-Ogden says:

who died and is alive and reigns with you now and for ever, Amen.

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As the coffin is lowered the chaplain says:

and in the glorious company of the saints in light, Amen.

(Volleys will be fired after the “Amen” is said)
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The Ode
Read by Major General Brian Dawson
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They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grown old.
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
we will remember them. We will remember them.
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Lest we forget. Lest we forget.

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The Last Post
Silence

Rouse
[you may be seated]

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Wreath Laying
Wreaths will be laid by:
Mr John Mather, Nephew of Private Alan Mather;
The HON Alan Griffin MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs;
Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, Chief of Army;
The Representative of the Belgian Government;
Mr Gilles Deleu, Mayor of Comines-Warneton;
MC will invite additional floral tributes from those present.

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Anthems
The National Anthem of Australia
The National Anthem of Belgium
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Benediction
Led by Principal Chaplain Mutzelburg

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Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil, rather, strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you all, evermore. Amen

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Prowse Point

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Further details for those wishing to attend

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Heritage Alliance Heroes Award 2010 announced

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
 
       

The Heritage Alliance have announced a new initiative to celebrate the achievements of heritage volunteers:

Heritage Alliance Heroes Award 2010

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Technisch hoogstandje van Britse en Belgische labs – Technical feat of British and Belgian labs

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
 
       

Een van de 6.000 Australische soldaten, die tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog vermist raakten aan het Westelijk Front, is terecht. Lab-onderzoek heeft uitgewezen dat de stoffelijke resten die in 2008 werden opgegraven bij Ploegsteert (België), hebben toebehoord aan soldaat Alan James Mather uit Inverell, New South Wales.

Mather, een 37-jarige landbouwer die als vrijwilliger diende bij het Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), sneuvelde op 8 juni 1917 als gevolg van granaatvuur, tijdens een offensief dat bekend is geworden als de mijnenslag bij Mesen.

De stoffelijke resten werden in augustus 2008 gevonden door leden van de Europese vereniging voor Eerste-Wereldoorlogarcheologie ‘No Man’s Land’. Aan de uitrustingsstukken was nog te zien dat het een Australische infanterist moest zijn geweest, maar zijn identificatieplaatje was te ver weggeroest om nog te kunnen lezen.

Aan de hand van het tandglazuur konden onderzoekers van de K.U.Leuven echter vaststellen in welk deel van Australië de soldaat moest zijn geboren. Dat gebeurde aan de hand van de verhouding tussen de isotopen strontium-86 en strontium-87. Strontium komt het lichaam binnen via de voeding en wordt via de bloedstroom naar de botten getransporteerd, waar het wordt ingebouwd in plaats van calcium. De isotopenverhouding komt daarbij overeen met die in de voeding, die weer afhankelijk is van de grond waar die voeding op is gegroeid. En aangezien al het tandbot in de eerste levensjaren wordt gevormd, is de 87Sr/86Sr signatuur van dat bot representatief voor de plek waar iemand in de wieg gelegen heeft.

In dit geval werd een isotopenverhouding gevonden die maar op een paar plekken in New South Wales voorkomt.

De archeologen wisten nog wat meer. Gezien de sector waar de resten werden gevonden, moest de soldaat tot het 33e bataljon hebben behoord. Dat had daar maar één keer aan een offensief meegedaan dus ook de sterfdatum was bekend.

Uit de hoeveelheid munitie en granaten die de soldaat bij zich had, werd afgeleid dat hij met de hoofd-aanvalsmacht moest zijn meegekomen. Dat verkleinde het zoekgebied tot de D-compagnie.

Toen was men er nog niet, want in die compagnie zaten meerdere vrijwilligers uit dezelfde streek. Uiteindelijk liet het Australische leger DNA-monsters laten nemen van nabestaanden van alle militairen uit die groep die bij Mesen waren gesneuveld. Het DNA van een inmiddels 97 jaar oude nicht van Mather leverde uiteindelijk een ‘match’ op.

Op 22 juli zal hij met militaire eer worden herbegraven op Prowse Point Cemetery, een militair kerkhof in de buurt van Ploegsteert.

Translation:-

One of the 6,000 Australian soldiers who had gone missing during the First World War on the Western Front. Lab research has shown that the remains were excavated in 2008 by Ploegsteert (Belgium), belonged to a soldier Alan James Mather from Inverell, New South Wales.

Mather, a 37-year-old farmer who served as a volunteer in Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) died on June 8, 1917 due to shelling, during an offensive that has become known as the Battle of Messines
The remains were found in August 2008 by members of the European Group for First World Archaeology “No Man’s Land”. On the equipment had yet to see that an Australian infantryman had been, but his tag was too far away to rust yet to read.

Based on the tooth enamel, researchers of the University of Leuven however determined in what part of the Australian soldier had been born. This happened on the basis of the ratio of the isotopes strontium-86 and strontium-87. Strontium enters the body through food and through the bloodstream to the bones transported, where it is incorporated in place of calcium. The isotope ratio is thereby similar to those in the diet, which in turn depends on the soil where the food is grown on. And since all tandbot in the first years of life is formed, the 87Sr/86Sr signature of bone that represent the place where someone in the cradle lay.

In this case, an isotope ratio found only in a few places in New South Wales occurs.

The archaeologists knew little more. Given the sector where the remains were found, the soldier must have belonged to the 33rd Battalion. That there had once participated in an offensive so the death date was known.

The quantity of ammunition and grenades that the soldiers with him, that he was distracted with the main assault force had to come along. That narrowed the search area to the D-Company.

Then, it was not, because in that company were several volunteers from the same region. Eventually left the Australian army to take DNA samples from families of all soldiers who were killed group of Messines. The DNA of a now 97 years old niece Mather eventually yielded a ‘match’.

On July 22 he will be reburied with military honours at Prowse Point Cemetery, a military cemetery near Ploegsteert.

Article from:
c2wlabnews.nl

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British Archaeologists find Missing Anzac – 90 years on!

Monday, June 28th, 2010
 
       

The Plugstreet Team are very pleased to announce the identification of the Australian Soldier recovered by the team.


In August 2008, archaeologists from the group No Man’s Land – The European Group for Great War Archaeology – recovered the body of an unknown Australian soldier missing since the Battle of Messines in 1917. Extensive detective work and close cooperation between the Group, professional partners and the Australian Army over the past 20 months has now revealed the soldier’s identity as 1983 Private Alan James Mather.
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Pte Alan James Mather

(photo courtesy of Kim Blomfield)

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The Australian soldier’s remains were discovered during work on The Plugstreet Project, an archaeological investigation of part of the Belgian battlefields of the First World War. Archaeological excavation was able to recover the skeleton, as well as associated objects, including rifle, ammunition, Corps badges and the contents of his pockets and haversack. Although a corroded identification disc was also recovered, forensic investigation failed to provide identification details.
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Project co-Director Martin Brown said:
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“Using archaeological techniques to lift and study the remains we were able to build up quite a picture of the man, and this led us a long way to his identity. The badges gave us his nationality. His location in the field gave us his unit – 33rd Battalion – and that tells us when he was killed because they didn’t spend long there. The fact he was wearing all his ammunition and grenades showed that he was in the main attacking force and gave us his Company.
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Excavation was only the first part of the story. Experts from Bradford University cleaned and conserved the objects which helped us to tell something about the soldier himself. He wasn’t wearing his helmet when he died, probably preferring his Australian Slouch Hat as a symbol of unit identity. Equally intriguing were the remains of a German Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) in his knapsack. This appears to have been a trophy of war captured on a trench raid. He should have left it with his heavy kit in the rear but preferred to carry it into action: he probably didn’t trust some of his “mates” in the rear echelon! If he’s survived the war it might now be a treasured family heirloom”

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Project co-Director Richard Osgood said:
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“The scientific input from our academic and scientific partners was astounding. Work by Universities of Leuven, Cranfield and Oxford studying the chemical composition of his bones enabled us to narrow down the place of birth of the skeleton to a few locations in New South Wales. Comparing that data to the casualty lists further reduced the number of possible identities for this man to five possibles.
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Forensic analysis of the bones had given us height, age and likely body type from muscle attachments. Even before we knew it was Mather we knew he had lived a fairly physical life, developing heavy muscle attachments on his bones and showing wear on his spine.
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With such a low number of candidates the Australian Army commissioned DNA testing of the surviving relatives of all the casualties fitting the profile, which resulted in a positive match with one of the Next of Kin donors. This match provided the final proof in identifying Private Mather.
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This result shows how integration of the fieldwork, use of historical documents and cutting edge science can produce very satisfying outcomes.”

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1983 Private Alan James Mather joined the Army in 1916. He was a grazier from Inverell in New South Wales, where his father had been mayor. He was survived by his parents, older twin sisters, Flora and Marion, a younger sister, Elsie, a half brother Doug and a half sister, Jessie. Following his death his Company Commander wrote that he was “one of my best and most trusted men”. He was 37 years old at the time of his death, which was caused by shell-fire on the 8th June 1917 at St Yvon, Belgium.
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He had no known place of burial and so was commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, where the names of missing are listed.
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Thanks to archaeology and science Private Mather will now be formally buried by the Australian Army on July 22nd at Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. His name will be removed from the panel at the Menin Gate in due course.
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Australian Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin said:
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“I am extremely pleased that we have been able to restore the identity of this Australian soldier who was missing for almost a century”.

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ABC Radio Interviews

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For more details on our discovery please see:
The things they carried a talk by Martin Brown.

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