The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) are searching for a living relative of Private William Kavanagh, of “A” Company, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who fell during the Battle of Fromelles, Northern France, In 1916.
His remains are believed to have been among those found in a mass grave of 250 soldier’s remains. They were buried in Fromelles by their German foe after the battle. Last year the soldier’s remains were reinterred in a new cemetery in Pheasant Wood, Fromelles.
The 35-year-old, Private Kavanagh’s Regimental number was 23042. He was married to Mary Kavanagh and their address was 5 Tyrone Place, Goldenbridge, Inchicore, Dublin. However, nothing more is known about him.
Seamus Greene of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association said, “We believe one Dublin Fusilier and three Munster Fusiliers are among the 250 found in the mass grave.”
Greene pointed out that that while 35-years-old might seem old for a Fusilier, many joined up after the 1913 strikes due to financial difficulty.
"You have to remember what conditions in Dublin were like then, people were living 100-200 to a tenement and the Army provided a good income.
"A lot of people would like to think they joined to fight for freedom, or for Home Rule for Ireland or for King and Country, but a lot of times it was out of economic necessity."
The remains of the 250 soldiers were found in 2008. So far, DNA testing has indentified 96 Australians by name with a further 109 unnamed remains are known to be Australian. There are also three confirmed unnamed British soldiers. Another 42 remains are completely unidentified.
However, experts believe that using DNA testing and “family tree” research they will be able to identify the soldiers.
Private Kavanagh and the other 250 men were killed on July 20, 1916 during the Battle of Fromelles. British and Australian troops attacked a section of the German frontline, of over 4,000 men. They were centered on a strongpoint called “Sugarloaf."
The aim of their attack was to divert German forces away for the allies Somme offensive. It turned into a disaster. Over 7,000 of the allied forces were killed, wounded or reported missing after just a couple of minutes of fighting.
Private Kavanagh was one of 4,777 Dublin Fusiliers killed on various fronts during the First World War. The CWGC are anxious to contact any of his living relatives.
They can be contacted at www.CWGC.org.