Around 125 First World War soldiers have been discovered entombed in an perfectly preserved German trench system 101 years after they were killed.
Most of the men, who were German, British, French and South African, were found where they fell during some of the most ferocious fighting of the war.
Other skeletal remains were buried in mass graves alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades.
The formidable trench fortification on top of a hill in a village near the city Ypres in Flanders, Belgium, remained covered over and untouched since the end of the conflict.
The complex network of fighting and communication trenches was first uncovered in 2015 by archaeologists brought in to examine a field due to be built on as part of a housing development.
Immediately next to the immaculately-kept gardens of properties on the edge of the village of Wijtschate they found ‘hell on earthâ â a site the
size of two football pitches where the remains of 125 soldiers as young as 15 were densely scattered.
Experts believe that approximately 100 of the dead are German, most of them killed by shot or shell fire during the First Battle of Ypres in November 1914.
The ridge, known to the Allies as Hill 80, was held by the enemy until June 1917 when it was taken by British and Irish troops during the Battle of Messines.
But the Germans re-took it in 1918 which is when many of the British casualties were killed. Some of their remains were later pulverised by the artillery bombardment from their own side.
As well as bodies, the team of British, German and Belgian archaeologists and historians have also found thousands of poignant personal effects of the men.
These include helmets, rifles, ammunition, search lights, water bottles, cooking utensils, coffee pots, watches, cap badges, toothbrushes and even a bottle of HP sauce and a tin of Andrews Liver Salts.
Recovered religious relics include crucifixes, rosary beads and a statue of Mary Magdalene.
Some of these were found in the German mass graves and highlight the strong religious beliefs held by the Bavarian soldiers who died there in 1914.
It is the biggest mass grave found on the Western Front since 250 bodies were uncovered at Fromelles in France 2009.
The unique and historic excavation project, called Dig Hill 80, started in the spring of this year following a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over Â£150,000 to finance it.
Professor Peter Doyle, the lead archaeologist for Dig Hill 80, said: ‘This is more than just a dig, it is an international project centred on education, peace and ultimately reconciliation.
‘The school groups that have visited have observed what we have excavated and have been able to make the connection between the youth that lie in the ground to the youth stood on top of it today.
‘When you look at these mass graves and think of these young men, you know they had a mother and father who missed them. Yet they have never been given peace.
‘Now everyone of these men have the chance of being taken from this site and given a respectful burial with full military honours.â
After securing funding to allow the dig to be carried out using the highest scientific principles, time was of the essence to excavate it before the building work could begin.
Professor Doyle added: ‘We removed all of the top soil to allow us to see what was beneath.
‘All trenches and bomb craters were thoroughly searched and all the remains were mapped, photographed and catalogued.
‘All of the bodies have now been recovered. We didnât ant to leave a man behind. We are looking at 125 soldiers and the vast majority of them are German.
‘To put it into context, an average of 10 bodies a year are usually found in the area of Ypres.
‘Some of these German soldiers killed in action were dragged into this mass grave and buried by their comrades while they fought to hold
‘The men were buried in uniforms and with their helmets. Not a lot of the uniform fabric has preserved, just fabric around the buttons.
‘But the skeletal remains have been preserved in tact. By looking at them you can tell they are young men.
‘We have casualties who were killed and left in that position where the ground around them has been pulverised by shell fire, we are looking
at fragments of soldiers. It brings home the sheer intensity of the shell fire.
‘But something really striking about this site is that you have perfectly-kept gardens and 21st century life right next to these mass grave and hell on earth.â