Eugowra digger's final resting place known after 103 years

Private C A Gage as pictured in the Forbes Advocate in January 1917.

Private C A Gage as pictured in the Forbes Advocate in January 1917.

More than 100 years after his death, a previously unidentified soldier from the First World War will have a headstone bearing his name and service details at his final resting place.

An Australian digger laid to rest in the Australian Imperial Force Burial Ground in Flers, France, has been identified as digger Private Charles Gage from Eugowra.

"Private Gage hailed from Eugowra in New South Wales and was of Aboriginal descent through his mother Mary," Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said in a statement released this week.

"After enlisting in February 1916, Private Gage joined the 56th Battalion in France on 2 December 1916, but tragically the next day he was killed by shellfire as he travelled to join his unit on the front line."

Mr Chester said Private Gage was one of the first Aboriginal Australians to die on the Western Front.

At the time, his brother who was serving in the 54th Battalion erected an unnamed grave marker indicating that Private Gage was a soldier of the 56th Battalion.

"Researchers have determined that the only soldier in the 56th Battalion to die on 3 December 1916, with a brother in the 54th Battalion, was Private Gage," Mr Chester said.

Private Gage's brother, Lance Corporal Christopher Gage, was killed during the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917 and is buried at New Irish Farm Cemetery, Ypres.

Mr Chester thanked the researchers from Fallen Diggers Incorporated, Australian Army's Unrecovered War Casualties team and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the identification of Private Gage.

"In particular, I'd like to acknowledge the work of Fallen Diggers Incorporated," he said.

"Private Gage is the 27th previously unknown Australian First World War soldier the group has helped identify, bringing closure to the families of our fallen, and allowing us all to know the name and history of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Loris Gulliver, a granddaughter of Private Gage's sister Mary-Lou, said the news brought a welcome sense of closure.

It is a significant announcement for the many Gage descendants - Loris is now in Canberra and said her father as well as one of Christopher's granddaughters Janet welcomed the news.

"It's heartwarming to know that (Charles') brother (Christopher) had done that," she said.

Loris is one of the descendants who has been drawing together their story and family history.

This information is from her research and a story previously published by the Central Western Daily in 2014.

Charles and Christopher were two of the children of Mary (nee Sloane) and Christopher Gage, growing up on a Eugowra property.

The two little boys attended Eugowra School, and would have played around and explored the carved tree stump under the verandah left by their ancestors - the Wiradjuri people.

Twenty-four year-old Charles was working as a labourer in Eugowra when he enlisted in March 1916.

He spent a month in camp at Bathurst before joining the 30th Battalion at Kiama in April 1916.

Private Gage embarked from Sydney in August that year, arriving in England in late September.

Gage joined the 56th Battalion in France in November 1916 and was killed just three weeks later - near the village of Flers on the Somme on 3 December 1916.

That day, the 56th Battalion received orders to relieve the 55th Battalion then in the front line positions, and made its way up a support trench known as Needle Trench, the marked position on the map.

According to the battalion's war diary, "These orders were duly sent to each company commander by runner. Lieutenants Cohen and Wilson arrived with 93 men from the Detail Camp."

As the men were being apportioned to companies a shell fell among them, killing Private Gage.

Charles' older brother, Christopher, was living in Orange with his wife and their two young sons, when he enlisted in April 1916.

He was with the 54th battalion, which was involved in the capture of Polygon Wood in 1917.

On the night of September 24, his unit was moved into the front line trenches, where they remained until the morning of September 26, when they came under fierce attack. Lance Corporal Gage was among the casualties.

The brothers' names are on the Cenotaph in Eugowra's Memorial Park.

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