DNA match sheds light on fate of Digger
Vic White, 83, of Floreat, holds a WWI portrait of his uncle Adolf Knable. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Digger Adolf Thompson Knable had been at the front-line a matter of weeks when he found himself amid the carnage of the Australian attack at Fromelles, France, in 1916.

Pte Knable, of Wellington Mills, near Dardanup, had enlisted in August 1915 and arrived in France with the 32nd Battalion in June 1916.

On the evening of July 19, Australian and British soldiers attacked German positions and were cut to pieces by machine-gunners.

Small sections of the German lines were captured, but Australian casualties were so high that soldiers in the small advanced positions were forced to fall back.

A Digger in the battalion later described to Australian authorities Pte Knable's fate.

"We took the German first line and on the morning of the 20th we retired to our lines which we held," he recounted. "I was alongside of Knable and during the attack saw him hit in the foot.

"He stayed with us and on our retirement between the first and second German line he was again hit under the arm by machinegun and fell.

"I had to get back to our line. He must have been either taken prisoner or killed as he was between the German lines."

More than 5500 Australians became casualties, almost 2000 of them killed in action or died of wounds, and 400 captured.

And the end of the battle was just the start of the agony of not knowing for Pte Knable's family.

He was first listed as missing, then as a prisoner of war, and finally in August 1917 the army wrote to his family to say he had been killed in action.

But his whereabouts remained unknown.

His war records show that his family wrote to the army in 1921 desperate for information about his final resting place to enable a visit to his grave.

The next year the family was told that despite "the most exhaustive inquiries . . . no trace of your son's final resting place can be obtained".

In 2009, the extended family were given hope of answers when the remains of 250 Australian and British soldiers were recovered from a mass grave near Fromelles.

The remains were reburied in a new cemetery in 2010 amid an ongoing program aimed at identifying them using DNA from relatives. Among the relatives looking for answers was Pte Knable's nephew Vic White.

Just before Anzac Day this year, the news arrived that DNA matching had confirmed that Pte Knable's remains had been in the mass grave.

On July 19, Mr White will be one of 12 members of Pte Knable's extended family to attend a headstone dedication ceremony at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.

Mr White said he felt he would be attending the ceremony on behalf of Pte Knable's mother, and the journey would enable the family to finally put a full stop at the end of the story.

Mr White's son Brig. Phillip White, who will also attend the ceremony, said it was satisfying that Pte Knable's name would finally be recorded on a headstone, which would provide a sense of pride and closure.

'I was alongside of Knable and during

the attack saw him

hit in the foot.'" A fellow Digger in *Adolf Knable's * battalion

The West Australian

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