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Anzac DNA link

NOT FORGOTTEN: Gympie’s Sue Forrest tells of her family’s search for a lost soldier.
NOT FORGOTTEN: Gympie’s Sue Forrest tells of her family’s search for a lost soldier. Renee Pilcher

PRIVATE John Robertson Forrest did not know what he started when he migrated to Australia, but his Gympie relatives still remember the great uncle who helped get their large and extended family started.

Gympie's Sue Forrest says she is delighted that the family she married into has at last found out what happened to the man they still call Uncle Jack, an Anzac hero killed in action in the First World War.

It has taken 96 years of history and the latest in DNA technology to find out what happened to the man who sponsored the migration of a brother and sister - founders of a huge extended family that now includes a long list of prominent Gympie surnames.

Pte Forrest was killed in action at the Battle of Fromelles in 1916 and was buried in a mass grave at Pheasant Wood.

He was 25 and unmarried. His brother, who fought with the British Army, died in London of war wounds.

Now, just in time for Anzac Day this year, the truth has been revealed.

Private John Robertson Forrest was only recently formally identified as a victim of the fighting at the French battlefield of Fromelles.

The latest DNA technology used samples from four of his family's descendants.

He was formally identified only last month at the recent Joint Identification Board held in London.

He is one of 250 diggers buried in Pheasant Wood, near Fromelles, by the Germans and was one of nine men identified at last month's identification board.

Former Gympie woman Katrina Giebels says the family, which has connections with some of Gympie's best known surnames, are all descended from the sister and younger brother sponsored to Australia by John Forrest.

Family names such as Grant, White, Wilbraham and Hall are among members of the huge extended family which owes its genetic history in Australia to Pte Forrest.

"My father, a Forrest, managed the National Bank for about 11 years and I worked there for a while," Mrs Giebels said yesterday.

"His sister Elizabeth came out by herself at 15 to join him in his business in Sydney.

"She wrote in her memoirs that she was looking for him in civilian clothes and when she saw him in uniform, realised he would not be there for her.

"She wrote that her heart sank.

"When she realised he was never coming home, she sent for her younger brother Samuel.

"They both moved to Gympie .

"Eliza married Harold White and Samuel married Harold's sister Gladys."

It was a prolific relationship.

"Samuel and Gladys, my grandparents, ended up with nine children.

"My dad also had nine children."

Harold and Eliza's daughter married into the Grant family and there are also links to the Whites, Wilbrahams and Halls.

"Barbara was one of Harold and Eliza's five children. Her DNA was important because she was in a direct female line.

"Three male descendants also provided samples which helped in the identification."

Gympie Times

Topics:  anzac, dna



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