A man with a mission to search for missing Australian casualties during the Battle of Mouquet

Dennis Frank’s obsession of military history has inspired him to form a team in search for the missing Australian casualties of the 1916 Battle of Mouquet.(Photo from The Age National)
Dennis Frank’s obsession of military history has inspired him to form a team in search for the missing Australian casualties of the 1916 Battle of Mouquet.
(Photo from The Age National)

Dennis Frank is on a mission. He wishes to raise $38,000 to fund the search and recovery of the missing bodies of Australian diggers in Northern France during the World War I.

Frank is gathering a team of experts who will hopefully find and recover the bodies of Australians who were killed after the 1916 Battle of Mouquet Farm. Many of the remains were never recovered.

The Age National reports that there were more than 11,000 Australian casualties during the battle. The names of those who joined the brutal battle to seize the farm from the Germans are documented by the Australian War Memorial. The battle, which lasted for a month, also claimed the lives of 846 Australians who were of the 4th Australian Division alone. Their remains were never found.

In his mission, Frank created a non-profit organization, Fallen Diggers. The organization holds fund-raising activities to fund the research. On October 27, the group plans to hold a benefit lunch and seminar at Watsonia RSL for $95 a head. The group will send out eight researchers, including an archaeologist. The on-site survey will cover 16 days and 150 kilometers north of Paris, next March.

According to Frank, Fallen Diggers hopes to ”to give these guys the burial they deserve. They shouldn’t be lying in the mud out there. The [Australian] government should have done a lot more to recover these guys.”

Frank’s interest in history when he read Patsy Adam-Smith’s book, The Anzac, when he was 13. Now at 400, Frank who is a small businessman finds himself a buff for military history. During his honeymoon this year, he did not miss a tour on the World War I battlefields of France and Belgium.

When Frank read the names of the missing at the Somme memorials, he could not help but sympathize to the families “who never get to say goodbye. I thought, ‘nah something more has to be done’.”

Lambis Englezos is expected to speak at the fund-raising activity. He is known for his research in 2009 which discovered the remains of over 250 Australian soldiers who were killed in the 1916 Battle f Fromelles.

Frank has done his research before embarking on the mission. His team is said to survey the field north of the Mouquet farmhouse. This is the site where the history map of UK records a hurried mass graveyard of 40 Australian soldiers. The burial site was made by British soldiers at that time.

The French government, however, bans any civilian from digging human remains on the site. So the team will use ground-penetrating radar to survey the trenches and find the remains. Signs and evidences of human remains will be used to alert the Commonwealth WAr Graves Commission.

Frank keeps constant contact with relatives of 10 Australians missing in the Mouquet Fram. He wishes to increase his contact for documentation.

Among the relatives is Anne Bray of Canberra who will make a donation to help find the fallen World War I diggers, including his missing great-uncle James Little Harper, 20. His brother Robert Emlie Harper, 22 , also died at the farm but his remains were recovered.

Bray said she may not have met her great-uncles but finding the remains would bring closure.