The bodies of 125 World War One soldiers have been discovered entombed in a perfectly preserved German trench system 101 years after they were killed. Most of the men, who were British, German, French and South African, were found where they fell during some of the most ferocious fightings of the war. Other skeletal remains were buried in mass graves alongside religious artefacts placed there by their comrades.
The formidable trench fortification on top of a hill in a village near the city of Ypres in Flanders, Belgium, remained covered over and untouched since the end of the conflict. The complex network of fighting and communication trenches was first uncovered in 2015 by archaeologists brought in to examine a field due to be built on as part of a housing development.
Immediately next to the immaculately-kept gardens of properties on the edge of the village of Wijtschate they found ‘hell on earth’ – a site the size of two football pitches. Experts believe that approximately 100 of the dead are German, most of them killed by shot or shell fire during the First Battle of Ypres in November 1914.
The ridge, known to the Allies as Hill 80, was held by the enemy until June 1917 when it was taken by British and Irish troops during the Battle of Messines. But the Germans re-took it in 1918 which is when many of the British casualties were killed. Some of their remains were later pulverised by the artillery bombardment from their own side.