Remains of 128 soldiers unearthed at 'Hill 80': "A staggering number given the limited surface"

The remains of an estimated 128 soldiers who perished in the First World War have been dug up in Wijtschate, West Flanders. Most victims were British, German or French nationals. 'Hill 80' was a renowned German stronghold in the Great War. The site is being amply excavated before a new real estate project is to be started, a major effort which was made possible by crowdfunding. 

The underground parts of 'Hill 80' had been left mostly untouched after the First World War.  'Hill 80' occupied a major strategic position 100 years ago. The site used to host a milling business but was turned into a stronghold by the Germans. They also dug underground tunnels from there towards the British frontline.

Before the Germans were there, the site was briefly in French hands, in 1914. The British arrived there at the end of the war. This explains why the victims are mainly from these three countries. The nationalities were given away by the buttons found near the bones. It is not clear whether all victims can be properly identified, but even if they remain anonymous a name, they will get a funeral. 

The number could be adjusted at a later stage, but even then the number remains very large

Archaeologists started the excavations four months ago. For the moment, the remains of an estimated 128 soldiers have been found. "This is in fact a gigantic number if we take into account the surface that is beind searched", explains archaeologist Simon Verdegem. "128 is just an estimation, we still need to puzzle some pieces together. But even we end up with about a hundred, it remains a very large number." 

Numerous items were also dug up, including things that soldiers carried with them, such as drinking bottles. This shows that the occupants had to get away fast, running for their life. 

The real estate project on the site will start early July. At present, a lot of video footage is being collected, in order to create a 3D impression of what the site would have looked like. A virtual reality movie will allow people to make a virtual walk through through the site. 

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