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No Man’s Land

January 14, 2010

In late 2009, a team of archaeologists unearthed a series of unmarked pits on the outskirts of the village of Fromelles in France.  A mass grave that contained the remains of some 250 Australian and British World War I soldiers. Their remains had lain undiscovered until an amateur historian from Melbourne tracked down their mystery resting place.

You have to love amateurs!

DNA tests have been carried out in an attempt to determine the identities as many of the soldiers as possible, and today on the news, was a report stating that their remains will start being reinterred at a new military cemetery being built in Fromelles on January 30.

In late 2008, for some Goddess-only-knows reason,  I knocked the cobwebs off my matrilineal genealogy chart, and started transferring the information onto Tribal Pages dot com: one of many Fletcher Family Trees.

Back in 1927, my great uncle and his cousin seeded the idea of compiling this family tree after meeting once, at a picnic by a river.  Yet it was not until the mid 1960s that the quest really took off, and my mother’s twin brother got involved and, in the late 1980’s drew up the Fletcher Family Tree that got passed down to me.

It contained less than 230 names.  Within six months, I had expanded the Tree to 1316 names and as it is my ancestry, it now includes my maternal grandfather’s lineage and my paternal lineage, and bloodlines that my uncle didn’t wish to trace for personal reasons.  Curiously, it was those bloodlines that were the most interesting, the ones that had just been given cursory attention by my uncle and great uncle.

I grew up in a House of Spirits and working the Tree helped me to realise just how many ancestor spirits I did grow up with and the details of the  karmic family inheritance I needed to understand, process and clear.  I found skeletons rattling restlessly in closets, secrets that needed to be unveiled and forgotten ancestors who simply wished to be remembered.

A week before Christmas 2008, for the first time in 14 years, I returned to the hometown of my mother’s family, which started a chain-reaction of events that contained massive healing and closure for not only myself, but for many of my cousins. 

It was during that visit, that I met a cousin of my mother’s who, synchronistically, lives in Bendigo.  When I lived in Bendigo, I lived just around the corner from him and I never knew.  He thought that nobody was interested in the Tree anymore and as our meeting was very spur-of-the-moment, was thrilled to discover that I had in my possesion this photo of one of his uncles: Japhet Money Fletcher.

Japhet Money Fletcher

As I am writing this post, Pink Floyd’s song “Money” is playing on the radio.  I kid you not.

2009 was a Year of Wonders for me as I scampered up and down the Tree, making connections, joining the dots and trading information with other Fletcher branches.  Many of my intuitive hits were right on target which often led to finding deeper and richer veins of gold and, ultimately, for me, clearing a great deal of bad blood that lay between me and my mother’s siblings; the last of whom died in May 2008.

How this bad blood came to be is a long shaggy-dog story that started generations before I was born, and I do not know exactly how to tell this story, or in what form it will take; only that I am free to tell it without rancour, prejudice or malice in my heart towards those, whom in their living years, considered me…hmmm…how shall I put it? of no obvious importance. 

During 2009, I received a letter from this mother’s cousin saying that he had undergone a DNA test in the hope that one of those bodies in a Flowery Field in France would be that of Japhet Money Fletcher.  And if you have been paying attention to what I write in this blog, you will see a wheel has been turning here.

Japhet was killed in action on 19 July 1916 after being wounded at Pozieres in the Somme sector of France.  He died a mere five months after enlisting and a day before his 26th birthday.  Presumed buried in ‘No Man’s Land’.

Before enlistment, Japhet was a farmer. 

The whereabouts of the mass grave was officially confirmed in May 2008 after years of research by Melbourne amateur historian Lambis Englezos who pinpointed the exact location alongside Pheasant Wood, on Fromelles’ outskirts.

Remember that Sabian Symbol from New Year’s Eve? 

I do not know if the family are arranging to have Japhet’s remains brought home, or whether he will be reinterred in the new military cemetary in Fromelles.   Either way, what was once lost has now been found, and all secrets have a strange way of finding their way back into the light. 

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

~ Mark Twain~

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One comment

  1. Wow, what a great story! Genealogical research is fascinating. I’ve dabbled, but nowhere near the extent of the work you’ve done. Mostly I’ve benefitted from other family members’ research — bless them!



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