Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

The Application & Funding of DNA & Isotopic ID Techniques


76 replies to this topic

#1 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:03 AM

Whilst I am sure that some will groan at the immediate reappearance of this topic, personally I think it is very important and merits a place for comments to be made.

I think it should DNA techniques (inc isotopic analysis) be used when it is appropriate to deliver the MOD's current stated aim (via the British JCCC) of securing the ID of found remains and thereby to find any living relatives of the Fallen. I am aware that the cost implications of using these techniques are significant and some Pals believe that these costs should be met be personal charitable contributions not from MOD funds.

It has been suggested that there is more enthusiam for the use of DNA based techniques in Australia and New Zealand. I don't think this is necessarily the case although my impression is that most of the "Anti-DNA use" wing of this Forum are British. There may be a cultural difference here - although I would have to say that I am a Brit that does not share the anti viewpoint.

Anyway, groans, cries of "Tiresome" , "Not again", "No more to be said" etc notwithstanding, I leave this thread for your consideration - or not.

#2 seadog

seadog

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 4,877 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bristol UK

Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:17 AM

No problem with starting a new thread Ian, mind you the latest excellent news about the identfication of the Canadian soldier would appear to bring this particular topic to a swift close.

Regards
Norman

PS Looks like Australia and Canada are showing the UK the way here.

#3 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:52 AM

Norman,

Remiss of me but I am not up to speed with news of the Canadian - I will rush off to remedy this.

Regards Ian

#4 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 25 February 2011 - 08:55 AM

Story of the Canadian given back his identity by DNA - after the field of possible men was narrowed down by isotopic analysis that showed he had lived his early life in Ireland. Both sets of remains found in 2003 have now been identified with diligent work.

http://www.metronews...-as-calgary-man

He is to be buried at La Chaudiere on March 15th.

The Canadian Minister for Veterans Affairs said :-

"Once again, we are reminded of the value of a single human life and our debt of gratitude when that life is given in the service of others,"

It would seem they still believe in that naive pre-slump sort of stuff over there.

This led them to fund, DNA testing, isotopic analysis and facial reconstruction. Good job he chose to emigrate to Canada and not the UK!

#5 C_O_L_I_N

C_O_L_I_N

    Sergeant-Major

  • Members3
  • 51 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Port Talbot

Posted 25 February 2011 - 10:55 AM

For what it is worth I think that the UK Government through the MOD should fund all attempts to identify the fallen, be it DNA techniques including Isotopic analysis, after all he gave his life for this country and the very least we can do is give him a decent burial in an Identified grave if at all possible regardless of cost, we owe him at least that much.

I know we live in hard economic times, but compared to the vast sums spent by UK Governments of all political colors, the cost of DVA and other testing would be peanuts.
Well thatís my two penneth worth.



#6 Piorun

Piorun

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,539 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Scotland
  • Interests:Rugby football, golf, family research, military history, Scotch whisky, Polish vodka.

Posted 25 February 2011 - 11:37 AM

It should be used whenever possible. Antony

#7 andy pugh

andy pugh

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 933 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:mildenhall suffolk

Posted 25 February 2011 - 09:31 PM

Good Evening All.
My personal view is on this subject is that there must be a lot of people who have taken plenty of time,and a deep passion to research their family members with the additional and most powerful tool of all,the internet.How many members of this forum have, and are researching family members killed in the Great War,and through their research are 90% sure in their mind that they may have found that family member as an unknown in a cemetery in France ,Belgium or some other places where the war was fought all those years ago?
My Great Grandfather and Gt Gran never had oportunity,or the tools mentioned above we have today to find their sons reported as killed and missing,we do.After researching my Gt Uncle for the last 8 years or so I am 90% sure we have our man as an unknown in a cemetery in France, and if it were possible, under those circumstances I and my family would pay as much as it would take to have his remains brought up and a DNA carried out on the remains, with the intentions of putting a name to the bones.I personally think if you can put strong case together and have the relevent authorities see that you have a strong case, then you should have the right to pursue the case for DNA testing, providing you pay up front for that service and the cost of putting the grave back in order.What are your views on this? How many of you are 90% sure.My brother and I are probably the last of our family that will ever research our Gt Uncle.If those tools or means are there to try and identify they should be used,but wisely and not abused.I would like to know if I was right or wrong before I pop My Cloggs.
The British Goverment never really cares about our armed forces after a war especialy the 1st Gt war. and never will to this day, their always worried about money. It was only through public outrage after the Gt war, that the searches were carried out after the war.The Ausies, Canadians and New Zealanders still have that passion in trying to identify there fallen,And I respect them for doing so.Im all for DNA testing.

REgards Andy

#8 DavidB

DavidB

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,375 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:genealogy and classical music.

Posted 25 February 2011 - 10:38 PM

My only concern about DNA testing is if the soldier does not have any ancestors or family like for comparison purposes. In that case DNA would be useless would it not ?
The other is that I suspect that with the passage of time a lot of people will have developed a so what'' attitude and refuse to have their DNA taken for comparison purposes.
Once again it comes down to political will to spend money where the benefit to a lot of people seem to be nil. Mind you, I am all for testing, having a relative or two in unknown
places in France.

#9 ph0ebus

ph0ebus

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,875 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 25 February 2011 - 11:13 PM

My only concern about DNA testing is if the soldier does not have any ancestors or family like for comparison purposes. In that case DNA would be useless would it not ?
The other is that I suspect that with the passage of time a lot of people will have developed a so what'' attitude and refuse to have their DNA taken for comparison purposes.
Once again it comes down to political will to spend money where the benefit to a lot of people seem to be nil. Mind you, I am all for testing, having a relative or two in unknown
places in France.

Hi Ian and David, all....


Ian, I did not groan at the appearance of this topic; to the contrary, I groaned at the abrupt disappearance of this topic! Glad to see it is back.

:thumbsup:

Indeed, David, DNA is not a magic bullet. There are certainly scenarios that would not allow for a successful application of DNA technology (i.e., samples too degraded, contaminated, no comparison samples, etc). What makes the recent identification story interesting is how they used a variety of means in combination to identify the soldier, including facial reconstruction, isotope analysis, historical document research, and mitocondrial DNA analysis to close the loop.

One thing I have not seen in all these discussions: how much does this actually cost? I hear some say it is expensive, but what dollar amount are we talking about here?

I am still awaiting a reply from JPAC on this and other questions relating to this topic. Once I receive a reply I will post it here.

-Daniel

#10 Herekawe

Herekawe

    Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 240 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Zealand
  • Interests:Hunting, Fishing, Labradors, Great War

Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:14 AM

Hi

DNA testing will get cheaper, more versitile and more accurate, and be able to be done with smaller and smaller samples. Look how far DNA testing has come in the last 20 years and imagine 5 times that progress over the next 20 years.

At some stage in future the government will have all our DNA on file for one reason or another (how long until they want a sample for your passport for example), perhaps your DNA will be on several databases and maybe for a fee you could ask to have your DNA compared to samples held on the unidentified recovered Great War remains database.

In view of the potential of this and while things are currently financially and technically difficult not to keep and store a sample of any recovered remains seems shortsighted.

I am not in favour of digging up cemeteries of the off chance of recovering viable samples, wait long enough and no doubt some form of sampling in situ will be possible.

At that stage user pays will be funding the whole process - those of you who are quite happy with the Known to God idea will be under no pressure to change that and those who think they have the funds and a viable chance of an ID will be able to have that too.

Personally I am happy to have things the way they are but we cannot assume that everything will be the same in the future, so now is probably a good time to put some guidelines in place.


James

#11 Connor

Connor

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 751 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • Interests:Lawyer (Crown Prosecutor). I have a passionate interest in he Great War, in particular the Battle of the Somme. Have tramped over the battlefields a dozen times or so when lucky enough to travel. Afghanistan history also of interest, having "served" there as a civilian advisor.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:33 AM

I am glad to see the topic again. Despite my concerns about protecting a data bank (and i've exhausted that topic so nothing more to say! I hear a collective sigh of relief across the Forum) I am in favour of such a bank given it is key to successful identification.

I had assumed that a more permanent data bank would be anticipated, as opposed to one for one project, than a new one for the next etc... Would you not wish to hold on to donor samples as, while they might not match one discovery, there could always be a new one in a similar area. Or am I overlooking some important considerations?

#12 Blackblue

Blackblue

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,897 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • Interests:Lancashire Fusiliers (9th & 1/5th Battalions)
    Australian Imperial Force

Posted 26 February 2011 - 04:50 AM

Bring it on. Successes we have seen in the last few years...not just WW1....do not lie.

There are apparently labs in Australia now that will do it for $300 AUD - $500 AUD a pop. A very small price to pay regardless of who foots the bill.

Rgds

Tim

#13 AussiesinArras

AussiesinArras

    Major

  • Old Sweats
  • 372 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Melbourne / Arras
  • Interests:Battlefields
    Steam Locomotives
    Underwater Wrecks

Posted 26 February 2011 - 05:28 AM

Wouldn't it be a good thing if the governments involved would allow individuals to submit their own DNA profiles (produced at their own cost) to be on a multinational database so that they can be compared against all those remains found out in the battlefields that deliver viable DNA. This means that even if the country of origin cannot be determined, they still have an opportunity of being identified. Naturally, those considering submitting their own DNA would need to take professional and qualified advice as to who is the most suitable one from their family to provide the sample.

Us Australians have to remember that many of the men who fought in the Australian uniform, in fact, came from many different parts of the world, and especially from the UK.

The cost would be reasonable to all involved and should defeat the various governments argument that they cannot afford it. Perhaps the CWGC would host the storage of the profiles?

I feel saddened that none of our English cobbers from the Fromelles exhumation have been identified in the new Cemetery. I often have a look around just in case they have changed the memorial to show an identity, but none so far. If my memory is correct, it was said that viable DNA was found in all of the remains, not just the aussie ones.

Regards, Peter

#14 Kevin H

Kevin H

    Corporal

  • Members2
  • 27 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Scotland

Posted 26 February 2011 - 12:21 PM

There are apparently labs in Australia now that will do it for $300 AUD - $500 AUD a pop. A very small price to pay regardless of who foots the bill.

Rgds

Tim


Agree a small price to pay if you are talking about a small sample group. I believe the UK equivalent cost for a DNA test is around £120 - £200 BUT: if they need to sample a large group the cost mounts up (100 people could cost £20,000)

However, the real expense is not the testing of the living, but the cost of testing recovered bones which cannot be achieved by a mouth swab. I believe the specialist work / sampling here may cost around £1,000 a go depending on what type of analysis is carried out . Again not an unreasonable cost if taking a sample from 1 skeleton, but what if you have 1000+ unidentified bone fragments from potentially multiple sources at one site alone?

As to exhuming bodies from existing graves to conduct DNA tests to try to prove an ID of an unknown soldier that will be a non starter. The CWGC and its member nations do not agree to such speculative tests and I for one support such a policy, other than where the opportunities arises when a mass grave need to be relocated (as with Fromelles). Let the dead rest in peace.

Kevin

#15 Auimfo

Auimfo

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,187 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Queensland, Australia

Posted 26 February 2011 - 12:59 PM

As everyone no doubt knows, I'm an advocate for DNA testing and all the other latest scientific analysis (anthropolgical/archaeological) that also needs to be conducted to make a positive ID.

That being said, I have some doubts and misgivings about exhuming unknown graves already in CWGC cemeteries. Firstly I'm pretty certain that will never be agreed to anyway but even if it was, the evidence and grounds required for such an exhumation to take place would have to be extremely stringent and with no chance of being exploited by those on a whim. One method to reduce those just fishing would be to make it a user pays system.

In the previous thread Connor brought up some concerns about a 'long-term' type DNA databank and I think they hold some merit if that's whats proposed.

I find the current procedure where thorough historical and genealogical research is conducted to locate potential descendants for each specific recovery is by far the most appropriate. Costs are kept to a minimum because the number of people tested is only relatively small (i.e. on a case by case basis where DNA is a viable option). In addition, this then allows for the donor DNA results to be destroyed after the comparison work is complete (whether they lead to an ID or not). In this way, at any given moment there would only ever be a handful of donor samples on file for a relatively short time each and the remote chance of those being accessed for some third party enquiry (i.e. paternity suit) is virtually eliminated.

Cheers,
Tim L.

#16 Tom Tulloch-Marshall

Tom Tulloch-Marshall

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 2,757 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Surrey, UK
  • Interests:The Cemeteries and Memorials of The Imperial War Graves Commission.
    The graves of the Known, and the Unknown ~ Sir Fabian AG Ware's Immortal Heritage.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 06:21 PM

In view of everything that has been claimed in favour of this DNA testing, especially given the way that Pheasant Wood and "Fromelles" have repeatedly been put forward by way of (with the intention of) leverage, and the fact that great play has been made of the apparent enthusiasm of (especially) Australian citizens to provide DNA samples ... Why has a clamour yet to start on GWF for the immediate excavation of VC Corner Australian Cemetery (for example), and the testing of the remains there ?

Tom

#17 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 26 February 2011 - 07:03 PM

Why has a clamour yet to start on GWF for the immediate excavation of VC Corner Australian Cemetery (for example), and the testing of the remains there ?

Tom


Perhaps because this would be a remarkably stupid thing to suggest doing and completely contrary to the principles of appropriate use of DNA ID techniques as far as I understand them.

#18 Tom Tulloch-Marshall

Tom Tulloch-Marshall

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 2,757 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Surrey, UK
  • Interests:The Cemeteries and Memorials of The Imperial War Graves Commission.
    The graves of the Known, and the Unknown ~ Sir Fabian AG Ware's Immortal Heritage.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 08:40 PM

Perhaps because this would be a remarkably stupid thing to suggest doing and completely contrary to the principles of appropriate use of DNA ID techniques as far as I understand them.


Yes it would be remarkably stupid, but fully in keeping with the apparent intent of the braying tone of the proponents of this technique so far, on both this and the thread which I closed.

Now somebody please explain, logically (if that is possible), what reasons would preclude the exhumation for DNA examination of the unknown” burials at VC Corner and elsewhere ?

Great weight has been put on the argument that men whose remains are found now should be afforded the dignity of proper identification, so why should a double standard be applied to those unidentified already buried within an established cemetery ? Most of them will probably have been buried, exhumed, and re-buried at least once already; so why not again ?

I’m not advocating it; I’m asking for an explanation from the self-appointed “experts”.

Tom

#19 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 26 February 2011 - 09:54 PM

Yes it would be remarkably stupid, but fully in keeping with the apparent intent of the braying tone of the proponents of this technique so far, on both this and the thread which I closed.

Tom


A fairly large number of people putting forward a whole series of reasonable propositions and points isn't "braying" in my opinion. If the repetition of any of these points offends you, it's just that there seems to have been a consistent unwillingness to take any of then on-board. If anything is "asinine" , it is this.

The general consensus would seem that DNA and other ID techniques are only appropriate to be used for newly discovered remains. I would support this because, as a matter of principle, I think it would be invidious to disturb the rest of those previously buried as unknowns. If you consider this stance a "double standard", I will have to put my hand up to this. There you have a victory.

For the record, I am no expert at all in DNA ID techniques but take the simple view that it works - just today we have another success announced- is cost effective and we have a sacred duty to secure these IDs if possible.

I know some of our posters have actively been involved in assisting with the DNA ID process by way of gathering the ancillary information needed. They may well know enough to be considered relative "experts".

I do hope this thread isn't now continually punctuated by TTM posts saying "But my question in post 18 still hasn't been answered" as I have done so, at least on my behalf. Please feel free to post something that actually contributes sensibly to the argument though.

#20 Piorun

Piorun

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,539 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Scotland
  • Interests:Rugby football, golf, family research, military history, Scotch whisky, Polish vodka.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:07 PM

In the name of Heaven, can't we conduct a discussion on this Forum without using words like "stupid" and stating that other Members haven't put a "single sensible riposte". Please let's show some courtesy to each other. Antony

#21 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:11 PM

Antony,

I agree and have modified my post accordingly. Sorry.

Ian

#22 Piorun

Piorun

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,539 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Scotland
  • Interests:Rugby football, golf, family research, military history, Scotch whisky, Polish vodka.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:20 PM

Thank you, Ian, but it was post 17 that struck the greatest discord. Yours, Antony

#23 ianw

ianw

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,999 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:34 PM

Thank you, Ian, but it was post 17 that struck the greatest discord. Yours, Antony


The "stupidity" referred to in post 17 is the concept that the unknowns buried in VC Corner cemetery should be exhumed for DNA ID testing. The poster in post 18 acknowledges that this indeed would be "remarkably stupid". Therefore, I shall not be modifying post 17 as it seems "a truth generally acknowledged".

You objection to the other phrase was well-founded and I removed it.

Regards Ian

(Of course, I will not object to any further modifications that the moderators deem appropriate.)

#24 Blackblue

Blackblue

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,897 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • Interests:Lancashire Fusiliers (9th & 1/5th Battalions)
    Australian Imperial Force

Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:49 PM

I invite all those who are going overboard here to actually read what has been said in this and other threads. Nobody has ever advocated wholesale 'digging up' of established cemeteries. All the 'brayers' have been promoting is the reasonable use of technology in attempting to identify recoveries.

As for the attempted identification of existing burials...particularly where unequivocal evidence exists regarding identity? Perhaps these cases deserve further exploration based on the merits of each...look at the case of America's Vietnam Unknown Soldier.

Rgds

Tim D

#25 Tom Tulloch-Marshall

Tom Tulloch-Marshall

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweat
  • 2,757 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Surrey, UK
  • Interests:The Cemeteries and Memorials of The Imperial War Graves Commission.
    The graves of the Known, and the Unknown ~ Sir Fabian AG Ware's Immortal Heritage.

Posted 26 February 2011 - 11:19 PM

In the name of Heaven, can't we conduct a discussion on this Forum without using words like "stupid" and stating that other Members haven't put a "single sensible riposte". Please let's show some courtesy to each other. Antony


Antony - I wouldn't get too excited about it; but thanks for trying to restrain the thuggery.

Much as Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, so the cheap personal insult is the last refuge of someone who has nothing weighty to say, and no coherent argument.

I'll re-address the issue when I have time and inclination.

Tom