The National Army Museum in Chelsea tells how, since 1918, the battle fields of France and Belgium have yielded a terrible harvest. Every year the bodies and possessions of lost soldiers of World War One (1914-1918) are being unearthed.
Commonwealth War Graves in France
Fabian Ware originally arrived in France in September 1914 at the head of a mobile British Red Cross Society unit. He quickly realised the importance of recording burials, for the solace of relatives and the morale of the soldiers. So Ware’s unit was charged with recording and caring for all of the graves they could find. Their work was recognised in 1915 with the official foundation of the Graves Registration Commission.
But thousands of bodies were never found in the battlefield clearances during or after the War; at least 100,000 from British and Commonwealth armies alone had been missed. As well, the remains of thousands of German soldiers lay undiscovered and hidden from history. Tonnes of abandoned equipment, munitions and other debris were left buried in the remains of the trench systems, each piece having a story to tell.
National Army Museum workers
The programme on Serre in France located three bodies who were buried where they had fallen in 1915. From the uniforms, dog tags and personal possessions, the experts were able to reassemble their lives and their deaths, including the towns they had come from, their wives, their children and their jobs. It was absolutely moving, to be able to see these men given a decent burial, complete with a named tombstone, 95 years after the Battle of the Somme. Jakob Hönes’ family in Munchingen was informed and was very involved in the research. Albert Thielecke’s family in Halberstadt, if there is anyone still to be found, have not yet been located.
Uniform and diary, located in the trenches
kae's bloodnut Australian blog saw the Fromelles Belgium programme and was equally moved. percy smith, anzac wrote a beautiful Australian blog about her grandfather in Flanders and France. British respondents in the Great War Forum, on the other hand, did not like the series very much. So I wonder if it is a colonial thing.
Plugstreet blog is a Great War project exploring sites around Comines-Warneton and Messines in Belgium. Since 2007, the project has been being led by members of No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War Archaeology and the Comines-Warneton Historical Society.
A Blog About History posted some poignant examples from the 6,000 personal artefacts that were recovered from WWI mass graves in Fromelles, including a personal bible with passages underlined by hand and small photos showing British soldiers on their way to the Somme. Heart breakingly personal relics.