ianw, on 06 August 2010 - 07:16 AM, said:
But of course, the elephant in the room here is the question of how many more of these pits exist. In the recent TV programme about Fromelles, Peter Barton suggested that there might be 30 more pits in the Fromelles area alone. One wonders just how keen the authorities will be to finance multiple mass excavations all over the Western Front.
We will watch this space with great interest.
I think ianw has raised a key point.
When the CWGC was working through the 1920s and 30s looking into the future it was probably assumed by the CWGC planners that the function of retreiving and burying bodies of Great War soldiers was a finite task and that as time passed the numbers of bodies they would have to deal with would decline and eventually taper off. The cost then would be the maintenance of the cemeteries. However looking at the problems they seem to have had fitting all the recovered bodies into existing CWGC cemeteries over the last 50 years, they underestimated the number of bodies that could be recovered and I think discovering more bodies is actually an embarrasment to them.
Thats why in the case of the BL 15 I am sure in the past they would have quietly slipped them into Unknown graves somewhere in France but now due to changes in public attitudes, the spectre of DNA testing, members of the GWF and world wide communications it not as easy to do that any more.
If this is correct you could ask does Frommelles set a precedent for future and potentially a change of direction in the treatment of newly discovered bodies?
The sticking point is of course the cost because looking to the next 50+ years, with broader and faster internet driven research, possibly improved body discovery techniques, an interest in the Great War which is starting to drive archoelogy, and technical improvements like DNA testing there is probably a better chance of discovering and identifying bodies than there has been for many years and these technologies will only get better, more accurate and cheaper.
To cap off their potential problem there are now many more people with the time (and in many cases money) to indulge their interest in the Great War, and other interests like Travel and Geneology. People can easily travel to the Western Front from all over the world or alternatively they can study it via the internet. Either way they feel they have visual stake in it and they will set a higher standard of what they expect from the government and CWGC where they have an interest. The coverage of Frommelles will lead to a lot of people assuming that all bodies discovered from both World Wars are treated (as they should be) with the same pomp and ceremony.
In France and Belgium land use has changed if it weren't for the CAP a lot of land on the Somme would not be required for agriculture. Population has changed, more people will move in from outside and slowly interest will change to preserving the land and exploring its archeology. When you look at things like Digging up Plugstreet, Digging the Trenches and Finding the Fallen it appears that very little is touched below the plough line, so there will be a lot more bodies turn up in future.
So I am sure ianw has raised a good point. Its going to cost. I think there is probably plenty of money to pay for it, but as the last two years have shown its how and where government money is spent that might be the problem.