Private Robert Oliver Bowness has been identified as an unknown soldier who died in World War I at Hamel.
Private Robert Oliver Bowness has been identified as an unknown soldier who died in World War I at Hamel. Australian War Memorial

Century-long wait over as unknown soldier is identified

AN UNKNOWN Australian soldier who fought and died in The Great War has been identified and hailed in a re-dedication ceremony in France.

Private Robert Oliver Bowness was fighting on the front lines when he, along with two other soldiers, was buried by the blast of an exploding shell at Hamel in 1916. He was just 22 at the time of his death.

However, his identity remained a mystery for over a century with the three soldiers named as Private Peter Anderson, Private Edgar Armour and an Unknown Australian Soldier.

That was until his identity was unveiled by the Australian Army's Unrecovered War Casualties unit (UWC-A).

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said it was an "honour" to pay tribute to Private Bowness at his grave in the Villiers-Bretonneux Military Ceremony.

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"It is as important as ever to remember the sacrifice soldiers like Private Bowness made on behalf of Australia during WWI," Mr Chester said.

"Now his previously unmarked headstone can be replaced with one bearing his name and service particulars."

Born in Brisbane, Robert Bowness was employed as a grocer until his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 30 March 1916.

He would later fight as a member of the 4th Pioneer Battalion.

Mr Chester hailed the UWC-A for its never-ending quest to put a name to a soldier who put his life on the line for his country.

"To be able to identify a soldier who lost his life in the service of his country is a great achievement for which they should be rightly proud," Mr Chester said.

"Their tireless work was supported by submissions from the public, culminating in the official identification of Private Bowness."