Wednesday, 20 August 2008

An Announcement

Ladies and Gentlemen it is with some pride that I am able to now make this announcement...

No Longer Missing in Action:

No-Man’s-Land Archaeology recovers the body of an Australian soldier of the Great War

On 6th August 2008, No-Man’s-Land Archaeology, a multi-national archaeology group who specialise in the First World War, found the body of an Australian soldier of the Great War whilst excavating German trenches near St Yves in Wallonia, Belgium. The soldier was in full battle order with all his well-preserved equipment, medical kit, weaponry and parts of his uniform. His shoulder and collar titles identified him as an Australian. The area was attacked by the Australian 3rd Division on the morning of 7th June 1917 as part of the Battle of Messines, a prelude to the better known battle of 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele). Unlike recent discoveries at Fromelles, this was a battlefield casualty in full kit buried where he fell rather than a burial in a grave behind the lines.

The work is part of a wider landscape project to examine the effectiveness of the training of the Australian 3rd Division on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire with the actuality of battle through archaeological excavation of trench systems, historical studies, aerial photography, map work, geophysical survey and other techniques. The project has run for four years so far, with this being the second season of fieldwork in Belgium and the first time that significant human remains were recovered. The work has been accomplished by a multinational team in collaboration with a number of academic departments and local partners.

The remains of the soldier tell a significant story of one man’s involvement in a major piece of world history through his personal kit and effects including the evidence for the taking of trophies in the form of a German pickelhaube. The body was recovered with scientific techniques; geophysical survey, forensic archaeology (techniques familiar to viewers of CSI), and on-site conservation from our mobile lab.

The group is very proud to have recovered a previously missing soldier with the highest scientific skill and appropriate levels of respect; this was a man who endured unimaginable hardship and met a violent end.

Over the years, there has been strong Australian involvement in the project with assistance from the Australian War Memorial, fieldworkers from Australia, and the presence of the Australian Army at commemorative events.

All of the artefacts, along with the remains of the soldier have been taken by the Belgian Army to be given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission prior to attempts to identify the man.

Contacts: Richard Osgood and Martin Brown Co-Directors, the Plugstreet Project.

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