MINISTER for Defence Personnel Darren Chester today announced the identification and burial of two World War One (WWI) Australian soldiers, previously recorded as missing.
The soldiers can now be identified as Lance Corporal James Leonard Rolls and Private Hedley Roy MacBeth, of the 24th Battalion Australian Imperial Force.
Lance Corporal Rolls and Private MacBeth were buried with full military honours on 12 November 2018 at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Queant Road Ceremony, Buissy, France.
Mr Chester attended the ceremony alongside the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), and descendants of Lance Corporal Rolls and Private MacBeth.
Mr Chester said he felt deeply honoured to be able to pay his respects to the fallen men.
“It is a rare privilege to be a part of a ceremony so important to two Australian families. Their loved ones have been returned to them and buried with full military honours,” Mr Chester said.
“It is a measure of who we are as a nation, that we continue to strive to find, recover and identify our missing service personnel It is a sacred duty, which honours all who serve and have served.
“I wish to pay tribute to the work of all the many individuals, volunteer groups and organisations involved in the identification of Lance Corporal Rolls and Private MacBeth. Without their tireless work we would not be able today to recognise the service of these soldiers.”
On 23 May 2015, the remains of two then-unknown Australian soldiers were discovered. On 17 August 2018, following forensic examinations and extensive investigations by the Unrecovered War Casualties – Army (UWC-A) team, the two soldiers were formally identified as Lance Corporal Rolls and Private MacBeth.
Born in Prahan, Victoria, Lance Corporal Rolls was a draper by trade until his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 17 July 1915 at the age of 22.
On 3 May 1917, a high explosive artillery shell exploded in the dugout that Lance Corporal Rolls was located in. He was reported ‘Missing in Action’ and later declared ‘Killed in Action’.
Private MacBeth was born in Launceston, Tasmania, where he was employed as a rubber worker until he joined the AIF at the age of 30 in January 1916.
On 3 May 1917, a high explosive artillery shell exploded in the dugout Rolls and MacBeth were located in. They were both reported ‘Missing in Action’ and later declared ‘Killed in Action’.