The bodies of 125 soldiers from the First World War, some of them teenagers, have been discovered in a German-built trench system, more than a century after they were killed in action.
The skeletal remains were found on a ridge outside the Belgian city of Ypres known as Hill 80, near the village of Wijtschate - known as Whitesheet to British troops, The Times says. As a key German defensive position, it was the site of intense fighting in June 1917, when it was captured by allied forces during the Battle of Messines, and later when the Germans re-took it in 1918.
The trench had been covered over and remained untouched since the end of the conflict.
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Experts believe that approximately 100 of the soliders are German, most of them killed by shot or shell fire, though the remains of a number of British and Commonwealth soldiers are also present. Some of the soldiers are estimated to have been as young as 15.
Other remains were buried in mass graves alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades, says the Daily Express. A number of other “poignant personal effects” were also found on the men, including “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”.
The painstaking task has now begun of finding out their identities and to which regiments they belonged so they can be buried with full military honours.
Professor Peter Doyle, of London South Bank University, one of the leaders of Dig Hill 80, said: “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.”
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