Archaeologists Find Bodies of 21 WWI Soldiers in Perfectly Preserved Trenches Where They Were Tragically Buried Alive
In 2012, the bodies of 21 German World War One soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved underground shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed. French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.
The 21 men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in. Thirteen bodies were recovered from the shelter, but the remaining bodies had to be left under a mountain of mud and debris as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found.
The dead soldiers were part of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Their names are all known - they include Musketeer Martin Heidrich, 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, 22, and Lieutenant August Hutten, 37, whose names are inscribed on a memorial in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth.
The bodies have been handed over to the German War Graves Commission but unless relatives can be found and they request the remains to be repatriated, it is planned that the men will be buried at Illfurth.
It is estimated that over 165,000 Commonwealth soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.