The West

Names put to faces from WWI

The number of soldiers identified in rare photos of World War I Diggers continues to climb, with names put to the faces of young men from WA and SA.

After cross-referencing photos and unit records, the Australian War Memorial identified Pte John Charles Bitton, of WA, and Cpl Robert Chaffey Stuart, of SA.

They are the 98th and 99th soldiers identified in the collection.

Frenchman Louis Thuillier and his wife Antoinette took the photographs for the soldiers to send home as they passed through the village of Vignacourt on the way to or from the front.

More than 800 glass negatives were stored in the attic of a French farmhouse until Channel 7's Sunday Night program found them and WA businessman Kerry Stokes bought them to donate to the war memorial.

An exhibition of 74 photos printed from the negatives, titled Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt, has been on display in Canberra after beginning its national tour in Brisbane.

The memorial said Pte Bitton, a labourer from Maylands, embarked with the 28th Battalion in January 1916. He was transferred to the 51st Battalion that March and then to the 13th Light Trench Mortar Battery.

In March 1919 he was Mentioned in Despatches.

Cpl Stuart, a labourer from Naracoorte, SA, embarked with the 12th Battalion in December 1915.

In 1919 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

Both men returned to Australia in May 1919.

The exhibition will arrive in WA in March and go to Albany, Geraldton, Fremantle and Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The photos are on the memorial's website and it hopes to identify more subjects.

The West Australian

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