Bert’s identification ends a 98-year wait

AMONG the latest veterans to be identified at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles, is Bert Williamson, whose Tamworth family has always felt his loss.

John and Sue-Ellen Nash always knew there was someone missing from their family, after Mr Nash’s great-uncle, Mr Williamson, never returned from World War I.

FOUND AT FROMELLES: John Nash will attend the last ceremony in Fromelles for those Diggers who were identified from a mass grave in Pheasant Wood in commemoration of his great-uncle, Bert Williamson. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 240414GOG01

FOUND AT FROMELLES: John Nash will attend the last ceremony in Fromelles for those Diggers who were identified from a mass grave in Pheasant Wood in commemoration of his great-uncle, Bert Williamson. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 240414GOG01

It’s been a 98-year wait, but last month, just three days before Anzac Day, the family received a call to say Mr Williamson had been identified at Fromelles.

“John’s mother always said the family knew someone was missing and they always talked about Bert,” Mrs Nash said.

These last 20 identified take the number to 144 Diggers identified by name in the five years since the project began to identify Allied remains from the Battle of Fromelles.

Mr Williamson was 22 years old when he enlisted.

He was originally assigned to the 2nd Battalion, then transferred to the 54th battalion when he arrived in Egypt, moving to the Suez Canal for further training. 

After moving with his battalion to France in June on board the Caledonian, he proceeded to northern France.

The 54th Battalion was involved in the Allied attacks on Fromelles as one of the attacking battalions of the 14th brigade. Mr Williamson, having reached the German lines, was killed during the night, his body recovered by the Germans and buried in the mass grave at Pheasant Wood. 

After he died, his mother put advertisements in papers including The Sydney Mail appealing for information about her son and what had happened to him.

Mr Nash said it was a fantastic feeling knowing Mr Williamson had been found.

The couple will attend the final service at Fromelles on July 19.

The day will begin with a service at VC Corner followed by a dedication of the headstones afterwards at the cemetery. 

This will be followed by a function for the families at the Cobbers School.

Mrs Nash said they had visited the Western Front and Germany before because war affected both sides of their families.

“Australians have done an almighty job in finding these men,” she said.

“If it wasn’t for Lambis Englezoz and his tenaciousness, they never would have found the graves.”

Mr Nash said they had been notified exactly where Bert’s grave was and French contingent member Pierre Seillier said he would acknowledge the grave for the family on Anzac Day.

He didn’t lay a wreath, though – he left that for the family to do when they visited.

The Nash family are not the only ones in this region who have found family members previously missing at Fromelles.

In 2010, Tamworth’s Greg Sampson found out his great-uncle, Victor Horatio, had been identified, and in 2012, the Wynn family were able to properly farewell John Cyril, or “Uncle Jack” as he was known.

This year is the last official year of the identification program.

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