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French remains recovered


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#1 David Faulder

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 09:17 AM

Spawned from the

Channel 4 Time Team Special 'The Somme's Secret Weapon' 9pm - Thursday 14 April
thread (one of several on the programme about the dig for the Livens Large Flame Projector)

>><<
The two French soldiers that were exhumed from the site by GUARD were initially handed to the CWGC and then on to the relevant French Authorities. We were a little dissapointed when we learnt that they had been buried, without notice, in a French military cemetery locally a few months later. Many of us from the team, and I am sure, locals would have attended their burials.

Best regards

Iain

Do we have any more details of this - particularly the attitudes and expectations of the French present at the dig (rather than the authorities)? Presumably no identification was possible?

David

#2 seadog

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:07 AM

Hi David, yet another cause for concern as if there were not already enough connected with the exhumation, possible ID and interment of the dead. I believe that the documentary certainly "skated over" the finding of what I now learn were two sets of human remains as only one was shown and although I was falling asleep at the time I do not recall any mention of nationality being mentioned. The more perceptive viewer could have been left with the impression that a few bits of rusty metal were more important than the mortal remains of those who actually fought and died here.

Regards
Norman

#3 J Banning

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:29 AM

David – Iain’s post summarises events on site. The two French soldiers had no identification on them. One of them had buttons denoting they served in a colonial unit but that was all there was. The attitude of the French people at the dig (archaeologists and visitors alike) was one of great respect. As Iain said, the remains were forensically disinterred and handed over to the CWGC who then handed them on to the French authorities. I know that the Mayor of Mametz was very keen to bring many of the villagers to attend their funeral (we would also have attended) and was upset that the remains were buried in the cemetery in Albert without anyone being told where and when this would take place. There is certainly no lack of feeling amongst the local French that I spoke with but, alas, perhaps not the recognition by the French authorities that people may want to attend burials to pay their respects.

#4 seadog

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:45 AM

Jeremy are you actually saying that even though the CWGC and the Mayor of Mametz were both involved here, plus I presume Channel 4 and GUARD let alone all those individuals both French and British who were aware of the finding of the two soldiers, that all these people could not have ascertained where and when the remains were to be interred?. If this was the case then perhaps a representative of either Channel 4 and/or GUARD will be kind enough to let us know what action in respect of the non-information regarding these finds they have taken or are taking with the French authorities to make their feelings known and what response from said authorities was forthcoming if any.

Regards
Norman

#5 David Faulder

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 11:56 AM

Jeremy

Thanks for this additional detail. Interesting points; do I understand that:
  • CWGC seem to have been the initial custodians of the remains, even though it was fairly clear that they were remains of French soldiers?
  • The French civil authorities (police, coronor, etc.) seem not to have been involved
  • The (British?) staff on the dig had the authority to do the exhumation (was this pre-obtained, or rapidly obtained locally?)
  • Or was the CWGC Exhumation officer involved? If so, was he acting on some "continnuing authority" from the French, and they are happy to make use of his services for the recovery of French remains (which pragmatically may be a very good arrangement)?
  • The French MOD is as secretative as the UK MOD! (assuming it was the French MOD that managed the reburial)
  • The local Mayor was unable to do anything.
David

#6 J Banning

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 12:04 PM

I must correct you Norman – it was the Mayor of Mametz, not Albert.
To repeat, the remains were handed over to the CWGC who then handed them to the French authorities. I understood that the Mayor of Mametz asked to be kept informed of when these men would be reburied – he would then let us and his villagers know so we could attend. It was the lack of information from the French authorities that meant that no one knew. I don't feel that there is a need for anyone from Glasgow or C4 to comment. If you have a real problem with this then I suggest you take it up with the French authorities as it was their lack of communication that precluded anyone attending their burial. I am sure someone on here may have a contact that you can write to.

David – just seen your reply. I will refrain from answering some of the points as I am unsure of some of the answers and do not want to write anything erroneous. I do know that the Police were called and attended. I didn't have any involvement myself. Iain McHenry was the site manager and will know the answers to your points. He is currently guiding a group so can't respond until perhaps tonight or tomorrow so I will draw his attention to your post and he can get back with some answers. I would stick my neck out though and agree on the secrecy aspect of our respective authorities…

#7 seadog

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 12:29 PM

Thanks for the typo Jeremy, now corrected. I do not agree with your opinions with regard to any responsibility falling on those persons/organisations mentioned in my post. Surely the simple fact that GUARD dug the human remains up and Channel Four I presume commissioned the documentary places a duty of care on both organisations with regard to both the treatment and eventual interment of those remains found as a result of the excavations we viewed last night. I reiterate that I would have expected those aforementioned organisations to have made their concerns known to the French authorities or at least for the CWGC to have liaised with them to fully update them on the situation, none of which seems to have happened here.

Regards
Norman

#8 David Faulder

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 12:53 PM

>><<Surely the simple fact that GUARD dug the human remains up and Channel Four I presume commissioned the documentary places a duty of care on both organisations with regard to both the treatment and eventual interment of those remains found as a result of the excavations we viewed last night.>><<

Regards
Norman


I think Norman, the duty of care can only extend to ensuring that the remains are:
  • properly reported
  • properly and respectfully exhumed (if applicable)
  • handed over to the relevant authorities (if applicable)
I don't think the duty can extend to eventual re-burial; provided the remains have been reported and handed over to the relevant authorities, concerns about reburials are of a more general "policy" nature.

David

#9 seadog

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:08 PM

Certainly a valid point of view David, but I come from the simple position of the fact that these remains were dug up as a result of a deliberate archeological excavation involving a major TV company and a the personnel of GUARD. Not only that but then a documentary was broadcast both in the UK and with apparent extensions added in other countries. This is not the accidental finding of soldier’s remains such as occur in the case of farmers working the land or commercial groundwork’s and building projects. In this and similar cases I contend that by their very actions the organisations concerned have a duty of care to ensure that the human remains that they have found are treated in accordance with best practice and that the final interment of such remains are made public knowledge irrespective of the nationality of the individual(s) concerned. I know that if I were a member of either of the above organisations and was involved in the exhumation of said remains, I would insist that such concerns be fully addressed.

Regards
Norman

#10 J Banning

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:22 PM

I agree with David's points so, I am afraid Norman, we'll have to agree to disgaree on that one.
The exhumation was carried out by a fully trained archaeologist (who also exhumes bodies in murder cases for Scottish police so he is very experienced in this process) and best practice was followed at every stage apart from the lack of publicity by the French authorities of the burial . It would seem to me that they are the people you should be addressing. Why not contact the CWGC to get some contact details?

#11 ph0ebus

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:46 PM

Not knowing how the conversation with the French authorities went down, I would assume they promised to keep people looped in and did not. I say the buck starts and ends with them, and I would, if so inclined, follow up with them directly.

That said, it probably would not have hurt for the other parties involved to be more proactive in following up with the French to see if there were updates but I don't see that the onus lies with them, IMHO. I suspect there are cultural issues at work here.

-Daniel

#12 iain mchenry

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:55 PM

Jeremy

Thanks for this additional detail. Interesting points; do I understand that:

  • CWGC seem to have been the initial custodians of the remains, even though it was fairly clear that they were remains of French soldiers?
  • The French civil authorities (police, coronor, etc.) seem not to have been involved
  • The (British?) staff on the dig had the authority to do the exhumation (was this pre-obtained, or rapidly obtained locally?)
  • Or was the CWGC Exhumation officer involved? If so, was he acting on some "continnuing authority" from the French, and they are happy to make use of his services for the recovery of French remains (which pragmatically may be a very good arrangement)?
  • The French MOD is as secretative as the UK MOD! (assuming it was the French MOD that managed the reburial)
  • The local Mayor was unable to do anything.
David


Hi David,

As Jeremy says, I was the site manager for the dig. I can clearly state that upon us realising we had human remains on site we went through the correct guide to action which was to inform the local police. We had a number of Guides to Action set in place and agreed with the French Authorities prior to the commencment of the dig phase of the project. The French Police then gave GUARD authority to exhume the remains of the soldiers which was not done untill the CWGC exhumations officer arrived on site. As to wether a local coroner was informed this would be the responsibility of the Police and not GUARD as it would be the Police who would generate a case number, if needed here, on behalf of the coroner. The CWGC attended due to the relevant French authorities not being able to attend immediatly. Once exhumed the remains of the two soldiers were officially handed over to the CWGC and signed for. As Jeremy stated, the Mayor of Mametz was also informed and was asked by us to keep an ear to the ground in terms of dates and locations of future burials. With the cameraderie that had grown between the team and the local village, all of us who could have, would have attended their burials. Believe me when I say that a some of us French and British were upset when we heard that they had been buried without notification. As to whom you may wish to contact to see why there was no forthcoming information with regard to the burials may I suggest that you contact the French Defence Ministry. With reference to the fact that a CWGC exhumation officer was present for the exhumation of French military remains may I also suggest you contact the CWGC at Beaurains for any further information on agreements between the various Commissions/Authorities.

Regards

Iain

#13 David Faulder

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 02:06 PM

Iain

Very many thanks for the answers to my points - which widens my perspective on issues discussed elsewhere in this sub-forum. As I hoped was implied by my points, I suspected that CWGC involvement may have been a pragmatic one and I did not wish to imply any criticism of his involvement - just curiosity.

David

#14 Agh57

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 08:00 PM

I assume the Production company was responsible for filming the dig and putting the programme together and that Channel 4 was just responsible for broadcasting the completed programme and had no involvement in the dig itself. On that basis I fail to see how they can be responsible for any oversights here.

#15 aglastonbury

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:51 PM

Hi all,

Does anyone know if the French Defence Ministry put any effort identifying these two?

Alex

#16 seadog

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Posted 19 April 2011 - 07:08 AM

I assume the Production company was responsible for filming the dig and putting the programme together and that Channel 4 was just responsible for broadcasting the completed programme and had no involvement in the dig itself. On that basis I fail to see how they can be responsible for any oversights here.


You seem to have omitted the fact that GUARD actually dug these soldiers up.

Norman