Last week a team of Army personnel and civilian specialists headed off to Europe, predominantly France and Belgium. They are going for a very special reason. There are 15 previously Unrecovered War Casualties (UWC) from World War I who have now been identified through DNA tests. The team will dedicate new headstones for each of the recently identified fallen WWI soldiers, and in many cases some family members will be present for each service. One of the soldiers has indigenous heritage and so his service will be tailored accordingly. The chaplain accompanying the team also has indigenous heritage and will play the digeridoo.
The team also included members of UWC-A. What is the UWC-A I hear you ask.
Unrecovered War Casualties
UWC-A investigates all notifications of the discovery of human remains that are believed to be those of Australian soldiers. The unit also responds to reports or information that may lead to the recovery of human remains of Australian servicemen.
Did you know that over 60,000 Australians gave their lives during The Great War. UWC-A continues to work towards finding those that have no known grave.
Additionally there are over 2000 Australian Servicemen who remain unaccounted for in Papua New Guinea from World War Two. Unrecovered War Casualties – Army works tirelessly to locate these soldiers and commemorate them appropriately.
At the end of the Vietnam War six Australian servicemen were still listed as “Missing in Action”. Between 2007 and 2009 Unrecovered War Casualties – Army successfully recovered four Soldiers and two Airmen. The remains were repatriated to Australia and laid to rest by their families, there are now no Australian Servicemen missing in Vietnam.
The Chief of Army’s Jonathan Church Award is awarded annually to junior soldiers and officers who personify compassionate and ethical soldiering. The award is named in honour of Trooper Jonathan Church, pictured above in an iconic photo.Trooper Church was a Special Air Service Regiment combat medic who served with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and in 1995 he helped save children whose parents were massacred. Trooper Church’s actions were historically captured by George Gittoes in the image above but poignantly, his soldiering personified Army’s ten core behaviours and the ethical dimension of the profession of arms. Trooper Church was one of the 18 soldiers killed in a training accident when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed at High Range near Townsville on 12 June 1996.
Award recipients are selected by the Chief of Army on an annual basis with a number of recipients also named as Ambassadors. All award recipients become representatives for the Australian Army and receive a fully funded intensive overseas study tour of an Australian Campaign. These tours coincide with commemorative events such as Anzac Day and anniversaries of major battles. Of course, no travel was possible over the last two years so recipients from 2020, 2021 and 2022 will travel together on this trip. The recipients are also on call for 12 months to act as representatives for the Army across both internal and external engagements such as speaking at schools, community/media engagements, key military activities, and commemorative ceremonies and dinners.
Overall, the Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award highlights ethical and compassionate soldiering to all members of the Australian Army while individually awarding soldiers and junior officers who exemplify these traits as a central pillar to Army’s ten core behaviours.
You can read a little of the background of two of the recipients if you click on the following link.
Of course there are other team members also, including, but not limited to the chaplain, a bugler, vocalist and an historian.
So, as you can see, we are supporting a very special project. Not only are we supporting some of the young highfliers of the Australian Army but we are also, in our own small way, paying our respects to 15 young soldiers who never made it home from World War I.
Each of the team members was presented with a very special laundry bag commemorating their involvement in the project. Huge thanks goes to the volunteers who made the bags in quick time and got them to me in time for me to present them before they headed off on their trip. Big thanks goes to Inge who created all the special patches required for each laundry bag including a Rising Sun and a special commemorative patch. Thanks also to Arthur who helped with the formatting of the latter.The text stands for "Unrecovered War Casualties - Army/Jonathon Church Good Soldiering Award Tour 2022.
Now feast your eyes on all the marvellous laundry bags that were made. Huge thanks to all who took part in this secret project.