Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Steve L is a key member of the No Mans Land team at Plugstreet. Steve is one of the core team excavating the mass grave at Fromelles. The grave was dug in July 1916 by the Germans to bury bodies of British and Australian troops killed in an attack on the Aubers Ridge. For 90 years the bodies have lain undisturbed as they seem to have been overlooked during clearance in the 1920s.

Excavations are now underway to confirm that there are bodies in the large holes identified from aerial photos and geophysical survey. News reports suggest that bodies have been found. However the project is heavily political, as its impetus comes from campaigners in Australia who wanted to find their fallen. This pressure means that the focus is biased one way! The connections felt by descendants in these situations is not like that with any other relative who died in 1916 and who may feek rather remote. Rather the war dead still hold a mysterious power and in connection with them individuals (and not only at this site) develop attitudes more akin to first nation groups than 21st century westerners. This is not to criticise anyone's opinion but is worh remarking upon. In a culture which does not deal well with death and in which the dead are usually not accorded stature the war dead are fetishized to an unusual extent. However, as I have written here before the emotional dynamics are complex and strange.

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