Aussie who found WWI mass grave banned Belinda Tasker April 23, 2009 - 12:04PM An Australian school teacher who pinpointed the spot where nearly 200 World War I diggers lie in a mass grave in France has been effectively banned from helping to recover and rebury their bodies. Lambis Englezos led Australian army officials to the spot of the mass grave on the outskirts of the rural town of Fromelles, near Lille in northern France, after years of painstaking research. A team of archaeologists uncovered what were believed to be the remains of about 400 Australian and British soldiers in a series of pits on the edge of Pheasant Wood last May. Work to exhume the bodies and rebury them in a new cemetery being built nearby is due to begin in May. But Englezos has been told by Australian army officials he will be granted special access to the excavation site only once during the five-month project. "It would be somewhat ironic and ultimately disappointing if Canberra were not to allow access," a disappointed Englezos told AAP from his Melbourne home. "I can't come and hang on the fence. I would like to be useful. "I know the ground and the people. Maybe I could meet and greet people and act as a kind of public liaison and help around the place. "I'm not there to gawk. I would like to be able to help see it through." A team of 32 archaeologists will begin excavating the bodies on May 5 amid tight security around the grave site. They want access to the site limited so as to prevent any contamination of DNA samples they plan to collect from the soldiers' remains in the hope that some of them can be identified. Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin, who is in France for an Anzac Day dawn service on Saturday, visited the Fromelles site on Wednesday and said he hoped Englezos would be able to play a role in the recovery of the diggers' bodies. "Lambis Englezos has been a huge contributor to us being in the situation that we are in today," Griffin told AAP. "It would not have happened without him, and I would hope that he is appropriately recognised for his role throughout the process." Fromelles was the site of one of the most ferocious battles of the Great War, with 5,533 Australian casualties in just one night of fighting in July 1916. German soldiers buried the Australian and British soldiers in a series of pits on the outskirts of Fromelles next to Pheasant Wood. A defence spokeswoman said the question of access to the site had been vexed and complex. Following an open tender process, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission appointed Oxford Archaeology to conduct the excavation. "Due to quality assurance, safety and evidentiary concerns, Oxford Archaeology will completely restrict access to the site," the spokeswoman said. "Only Oxford Archaeology qualified employees and respective government quality assurance officials will be granted unrestricted site access. No unauthorised access will be granted." The spokeswoman said special limited access for individuals would be permitted, based on advice from respective authorities. The Australian Army will recommend that Mr Englezos and Tim Whitford, a former soldier also involved in the search for the fallen diggers, be the only two Australians granted this access which will be on one occasion each for a limited period. "The Australian Army does not foresee that anyone else from Australia will be granted special access to the archaeological excavation site," she said.