Archaeological project sees missing soldiers buried at Commonwealth cemetery

An archaeological project has lead to 13 of 110 missing soldiers being laid to rest at the Commonwealth Wytschaete Military Cemetery near Ypres.

A crowdfunded archaeological project discovered 110 previously missing soldiers from Commonwealth nations who were buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) cemetery. A service was attended by current members of 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusileers and 13 of the soldiers discovered were laid to rest together.

The service was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) who were unable to properly identify the missing soldiers. Current service personnel in attendance formed bearer parties and a firing party.

Chaplain to the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusileers Father O’Driscoll said: “We come together today to remember and thank these men for their great sacrifice in fighting and dying together as one. Even though we do not know their names, we remember their humanity and courage and that even in the hell of battle they were there for each other even to death.”

“So in prayer and celebration we place these men together in this consecrated and special ground, so that they rest in peace and we learn and make sure humanity endures in its fullness.”

The service formed one of the final chapters to the ‘Dig Hill 80’ project that discovered their remains in 2018. The project led a 1.1 hectare crowdfunded archaeological excavation, which took place at the former site of Hill 80 in Wytschaete, that had been allocated for future housing development.

The project excavated 550 metres of trenches and 430 bomb craters, recovering 110 soldiers including British, French, German and South African. The graves will now be marked by headstones provided by the CWGC, who will care for their final resting place in perpetuity.

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