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Remains of 125 First World War soldiers found in German trench 101 years on

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 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. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

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 earth’ – 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.

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Nathan Howarth, on secondment from The Britsh Army. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

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. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** A Webley & Scott flare, used by the the British. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

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. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Historians and archaeologists excavating the site... Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

Other skeletal remains were buried in mass graves alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Bavarians in Wijtschate, 1914. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

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 £150,000 to finance it. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

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 £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.’

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** A German searchlight. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

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. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Statue of mary magdalene found. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

Recovered religious relics include crucifixes, rosary beads and a statue of Mary Magdalene. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: PeterDoyle/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Andrews Liver Salts tin. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.

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.’ (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

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 didn’t 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 line.

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** Andrews Liver Salts tin. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.

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. (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DanMorelle/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** British shovels. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.

‘To put it into context, an average of 10 bodies a year are usually found in the area of Ypres’ (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833)?Pic: DigHill80/BNPS ***Online Embargo 13/7/18** A German newspaper which is around 100 years old. Some 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 are 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 located buried in a mass grave alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades. ??The 'hell on earth' discovery was made by archaeologists ahead of a housing development on a small field in Flanders, Belgium.?

‘All trenches and bomb craters were thoroughly searched and all the remains were mapped, photographed and catalogued.’ (Picture: DigHill80/ BNPS)

‘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.’

Source: http://metro.co.uk/2018/07/13/remains-of-125-first-world-war-soldiers-found-in-german-trench-101-years-on-7710357

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