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keithmroberts

News from La Boisselle

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keithmroberts

I have just been advised of some news that has been embargoed, or in development for three years.  At our last conference, those who were there will remember that Jeremy Banning mentioned that there was news that he was not yet allowed to share. MOD and CWGC have clearly now lifted the embargo, and the detail has been posted in a further report from the study group. It is sad that this particular aspect of their work has had to remain confidential for so long, and even sadder that other events conspired to make it impossible for the remaining bodies to be recovered and maybe identified instead of leaving their names in the wrong location and their bodies  unrecovered. Still, it reflects painstaking work, and two soldiers will have their correct named graves shortly. All concerned in this work are to be congratulated. 

http://goo.gl/VHtU40

 

Keith

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KIRKY

Well done all involved.

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Gunner Bailey

Remarkable. Words fail me.

 

John

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egbert
Quote

.....Jeremy Banning mentioned that there was news that he was not yet allowed to share. MOD and CWGC have clearly now lifted the embargo, and the detail has been posted in a further report from the study group.....

 

More and more questions come up:

 

1. What I take from the linked news message is that the main task was a disclosed recovery job and not an archaeological research operation per se. A body recovery effort under the auspices of the British MoD and CWGC was rather supported by professional archaeologists. That seems to be a total different approach than was signalled earlier by the LBSG on their website.

Also, the effort was highly supported by the French landlord. His/Her motive though was to avoid the Glory Hole becoming a developed lot.

 

The question is: why was it allowed by those who shall know better, that -here on GWF in another thread- that the present French landlord was branded in a witch-hunt of being unsupportive and selfish when the LBSG's contract run out after 3 years?

Would the LBSG say that the secrecy behind the recovery effort was counterproductive and in fact obstructive to the overall operation to recover ALL remains?

 

2. What gives the British MoD and the CWGC the right to deal with a German remain without contacting the VdK (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge , the German CWGC equivalent) ? My VdK contacts in Kassel did not know of the operation (how should they as the recovery ops was secret). The news article says that the German remain could not be recovered. Was it really a question of priority to recover the British and French or as mentioned just the unstable condition underground? An official German involvement/observation should have eliminated a remaining bitter taste.

 

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MelPack
3 hours ago, keithmroberts said:

I have just been advised of some news that has been embargoed, or in development for three years.  At our last conference, those who were there will remember that Jeremy Banning mentioned that there was news that he was not yet allowed to share. MOD and CWGC have clearly now lifted the embargo, and the detail has been posted in a further report from the study group. It is sad that this particular aspect of their work has had to remain confidential for so long, and even sadder that other events conspired to make it impossible for the remaining bodies to be recovered and maybe identified instead of leaving their names in the wrong location and their bodies  unrecovered. Still, it reflects painstaking work, and two soldiers will have their correct named graves shortly. All concerned in this work are to be congratulated. 

http://goo.gl/VHtU40

 

Keith

 

Mr Roberts

 

Is there really any need for sanctimonious editorialising in this matter?

 

Is this thread intended to be about the successful identification and burial of two soldiers or is it intended to resurrect, yet again, a dispute between two parties that most of us know little of and, perhaps, care about even less?

 

If it is the latter then I will participate no further and open another thread that is actually about the soldiers.

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keithmroberts

In opening this thread I posted as an individual member of the GWF. When I post in my capacity as a Mod I sign my posts differently.

 

The identification and correct burial is what this is about. I am entitled to regret the issues that brought the work to an end and which meant that the exhumation process of other remains coud not be taken further, and I do regret them, but so far as I am concerned, the subject is the recovery and identification of the bodies of two British soldiers. In view of the information in the report I hope that one day the remaining bodies in that location can be recovered and identified. If any member wishes to read more into my post than the words used, then that is regrettable.

 

Keith

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Gunner Bailey

People should realise that dealing with the MOD is not always straightforward. In 2014 I was involved in an event involving Royalty and senior military etc etc. The MOD people were very difficult to deal with in the run up to the event and plans changed frequently often without consultation. So I understand where Keith is coming from.

 

John

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J Banning

Dear Egbert,

 

In answer to your questions (Post #4):

 

1. The first Essex Regiment soldier was found in July 2013 during ongoing archaeological work on the Granathof farm complex. The archaeological evidence showed it was clear there were more sets of human remains close by. As the CWGC were called to site (as per standard protocol) we entered into a discussion with them regarding the recovery of the other remains. Along with the MoD, they agreed that, as we were close to finishing our summer season, we could return to the site later that autumn to resume work. Nov/Dec 2013’s work was a recovery effort with a small, professional team. Most had worked with us already but a specialist finds conservator was brought in to deal with the expected large amount of small finds. Other than that, it was pretty much the same personnel as had been working the summer season.   

 

2. I will quote from the email I sent to you from the LBSG account back in April 2014 when you asked a similar question:


“The required protocols regarding the reporting of human remains has been made very clear to the LBSG by the several authorities: we first inform the local Gendarmerie, followed immediately by the CWGC and the ONAC. Together, they decide how remains are recovered, and also make the necessary representations to other authorities, one of which is the VDK…
It is important to be aware that as a result of the severity of the fighting at the Glory Hole, there are small bone fragments everywhere. In this particular case the remains consisted of a small portion of an individual found amongst a mass of barbed wire. The potential nationality was indicated by the design of the fragmented remains of a boot; there were no personal effects present.”


So, to be clear, it is the CWGC and ONAC who would liaise with the VDK if German remains were found. It is the same answer now as it was in 2014, and the same as I wrote when replying to your August 2013 comment on the LBSG website about the possibility of us finding German tunnellers in the tunnel system.  Again, quoting from my reply:


“We have not deliberately ignored the Germans who were lost at the Glory Hole. We have been researching German archival and published sources from the beginning of the project and have a great deal of information about the German activity at La Boisselle. However we have yet to find evidence of any German soldiers whose remains were not recovered from their tunnel systems. If we find such evidence we will of course commemorate them in exactly the same way that we have commemorated French and British soldiers. Should you have other queries then please contact us directly.”


So, despite two assurances as to the practices we adopted you persist in insinuating that there was some kind of thinly veiled anti-German feeling on site. It appears to matter little what answers we supply. I spoke about this at length at this year’s GWF Conference – people making sweeping statements that are personally and professionally damaging, statements made often without ever visiting the site or asking us questions. You have not visited the site but have continued to denigrate our working methodology and, via this, our professional reputation. If you have any proof for your accusations then please supply it. If not, please desist. Having collectively spent many hundreds, if not thousands of hours on this particular part of the project, we find your accusations highly insulting.  


Similarly, we are astonished you would question any priority on our part to recover British and French soldiers. The Granathof farm complex was in German hands from Sept – 24 December 1914. Thereafter, it was within Breton (French) and British lines. As such, it is much more likely that any remains found would be from those two nations - and this is what has transpired. We did no archaeological work whatsoever on the German lines from Dec 1914 – July 1916. If we had, then there would have been a much higher chance of us potentially uncovering German remains.  


Regarding the recovery of what may have been a German soldier (or may simply have been his leg), I can assure you that, as the News item explicitly mentions, the height of the mine crater lip over the excavation made any other work unsafe without needing further earth moving.  This was something for which we did not have the landowner’s permission.  Even if we had received permission, there was not time to do this work as the partial remains were uncovered close to the end of the working period.


I do not think the secrecy behind the Nov/Dec 2013 work period was counter-productive. It was insisted upon by the MoD and CWGC so you could contact them to ask them why they take this approach. I would hazard a guess that it is to stop discussions on forums and social media as well as unwanted visitors gazing over the fence at the work. It is worth noting that our work during this time was conducted under the close supervision of M. Tahar Ben Redjeb of the DRAC, who visited the site almost daily and actually came to work with us during the last week of the excavation period.


As for what was said about the landowner on another thread, I am aware that posts were removed from a thread but as I was on holiday last month and do not read the GWF when away, I have no idea what was said or by whom so cannot comment.


I should add, as a general note, that the families of William Marmon and Harry Carter are absolutely delighted and moved with the work. We have also been in contact with a descendant of one of the other six Essex Regiment men who has been hugely supportive. As have been the CWGC, JCCC and regimental association. Of the four fully articulated skeletal remains we found during the autumn 2013 work, the two Frenchmen have already been reburied with full military honours in named graves with Harry Carter and William Marmon to follow on 19 October. All four men were identified and have been/will be reburied in military cemeteries with surviving families present.


So, really no need for any bitter taste.

 

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egbert

Dear Jeremy,

thank you for your post here on GWF. I deliberately did not comment on the LBSG website after yesterday's news.

 

My points shown here in this thread are still valid w/r to involvement -or should I say non-involvement -  of the VdK.

It was crystal-clear from the beginning of the 3-year work that there will be finds of bodies from all participating parties, French, British and German. The responsible authorities for the French and British were present as you say from the very beginning. The German VdK was obviously not informed by neither party to include its sister commission CWGC during the 3 year effort, althoughthe VdK has a resident in Northern France ready available.

So I commented as early as August 2013 to make provisions to include the German official side of the house. It was evident for anybody involved in the project that at some point in time German remains are to be found and must be properly cared for.

And voila days/(or weeks) before the contract ended the first German remains were found. Had the VdK been involved as early as 2013 or from the beginning of the project in 2010, there might have been the chance to recover the German remain through French-German official contacts. There are, as you know, provisions available that overrule a landlord protecting his grounds when dead are found.

Here is my 2013 comment, that by the way contradicts your accusation that I insult the LBSG. The contrary is the case, I applauded the effort.

1.       egbert | Saturday August 10th, 2013 at 08:37 AM | Reply

Hi Peter and folks, I am far away from criticizing this project at all. The effort per se is excellent. My overarching point though is- a project of this magnitude, researching a European tragedy, cannot be just focused on the British side starting at the time when the project was presented with pompom (free champagne) in October 2011 to the public. A lot of excellent photos have been shown from the archaeological work over time in various fori for which I am grateful. I for my part saw only British (with hommage to the French hosts also in French language) commemorations to include British individuals kia commemorated on posts and further location explanation. I expect from upfront in our today’s Europe that both sides of the most horrible war are commemorated on an equal basis, to include the German side. If there was a German guide/individual as a member of the Study Group available to explain the tunneling story around the Glory Hole in German, why did this guy not translate a couple of commemorations from German soldiers still resting there who were killed in action as well there to pay respect to them on an equal basis? I don’t want to have the impression that the British fought, dealt and were busy with themselves there and who the hell was the enemy-was there somebody else? The German soldiers suffered the same misery like the Brits and gave their ultimate sacrifice thinking at the time to fight for their right cause. It is more than appropriate to equally commemorate them from the beginning of such a project and not “sometime later”, or never at all…..
Keep up the important work, I wish you all the best for the mammoth project

Egbert – thank you for your comments about the project. We have not deliberately ignored the Germans who were lost at the Glory Hole. We have been researching German archival and published sources from the beginning of the project and have a great deal of information about the German activity at La Boisselle. However we have yet to find evidence of any German soldiers whose remains were not recovered from their tunnel systems. If we find such evidence we will of course commemorate them in exactly the same way that we have commemorated French and British soldiers. Should you have other queries then please contact us directly.

Thank you for replying.
I have just read about your BBC radio/TV project in december 2013 where you bring down a British next of kin of a killed tunneler to remember.
Did you find so far evidence of killed German tunnelers who were equally trapped and killed down there? If yes, I am sure that you are in contact with German documentary TV/radio stations like Phoenix, ZDFinfo or French-German Arte, to work together with all these European stations, i.e to bring a German next of kin down in the tunnel galleries and where they, German and British relatives would meet each other to remember both sides equally.

Alright so far 2013.

Yesterday in your news report my 2013 comments lived up to certainty. It was too late to inform the VdK and subsequently the remains had to be left alone!. The German side never had a chance to react on the remain before the site had to be put back into the 2010 state.:

LBSG Posted on Thursday September 8th, 2016

In order to properly recover the remains, the CWGC allowed the LBSG to carry out a full archaeological excavation around the location of the dugout. This took place in November/December 2013 during the final weeks of the three-year contract with the landowner. A highly experienced team of archaeologists, finds specialists and conservators was assembled, led by archaeologist Cameron Ross. 

The search for their six comrades then continued, but the project had already become further complicated by the discovery of two French soldiers buried barely half a metre from the British. Excavated by archaeologist Brian Powell, Louis Heurt and Appolinaire Ruelland (118th Infantry Regiment) had been killed in early January 1915. The men were wearing their identity discs, and both have since been reburied. To make matters more complex, the remains of a German soldier were then partially uncovered

But time was now no longer on the side of the team, and to their bitter disappointment, not only was it impossible to explore the dugout, but the German soldier also had to be left in situ: the depth of the archaeological cutting through the high lip of the mine crater made excavation unsafe without further earth moving. The LBSG was unfortunately unable to agree terms with the landowner for a new contract to complete the recovery.

 

I just realized I am not alone questioning why the official German side was not involved as this comment from today shows:

(LBSG) 1.       Hugh R Williams | Friday September 9th, 2016 at 01:00 AM | Reply

What are the laws in France relating to human remains? How is it lawful for the German soldier to be left in the ground ? The passage of time surely is irrelevant.

The work was carried out under the full permission and with monitoring and assistance of the DRAC Picardie (the regional archaeological authority) and the CWGC. As the News item explicitly mentions, the height of the mine crater lip over the excavation made any other work unsafe without needing further earth moving. This was something for which we did not have the landowner’s permission. Even if we had received permission, there was not time to archaeologically recover these remains. This working period ran for three weeks and the partial remains of what we believed was a German soldier (based upon the design of the heel of his boot) were uncovered close to the end of the working period.

Well, I still applaud the LBSG effort but certainly have mixed feelings towards the executing role of CWGC and MoD.

Jeremy I hope I could express myself well enough in English language so that you understand where I am coming from.

I am still questioning :  "What gives the British MoD and the CWGC the right to deal with a German remain without contacting the VdK (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge , the German CWGC equivalent) "? and I should add to leave him in situ forever.......

(Did you notice that I address in my critique the executing CWGC and MoD only?)

This project was never critical to your national security and thus secrecy was counterproductive.

 

 

Edited by egbert

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Bernard_Lewis

I think the questions posed need to be referred to the CWGC and MOD. They aren't going to respond on the GWF.

 

Bernard

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trenchtrotter

I am going to remain neutral re all the above but a timely reminder perhaps

 

We should be happy two unknowns have now got identities and will have a known grave. The families have closure. The soldiers have been remembered. Any person who cannot be happy with that should reflect. 

 

It it is regrettable that others remain where they are but we know where they are and perhaps one day.

 

If I were one of those Essex fellows I would be really sad by the reactions? Keith was merely passing on news and nothing more. And For what it's worth it would not have mattered more or less if the recovered were German, French or British. Neither would the ID of the finder / recovery agent matter.

 

RIP fallen soldiers you've come in now.

 

I hope this thread can be a place of reflection now.

 

TT

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