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tammilnad

Today's harvest with the diggers in Boezinghe

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Aurel Sercu

I was a member of the Diggers until April 2004. In november 2004 I handed in a report of "Stoffelijke resten van gesneuvelden W.O. I gevonden door de Diggers op de Boezingse Kanaalsite". 24 pages containing the actual list + approx. 20 pages of articles related to it that are on the (since April 2004 no longer updated) website http://www.mausershooters.org/diggers/

The report was handed in to the Documentation Centre of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, not to the CWGC.

It contained

- a list of the period summer 1999 to end of April 2004

- a description of the individual findings from 2001 to end of April 2004

Having joined the team not until the summer of 1999, I had no information whatsoever on the remains found before the summer of 1999. I think the information must be with the IAP (Instituut Archeologisch Patrimonium, now VIOE), and the Rijkswacht (Federal Police).

These were the remains numbered (in our Diggers archives) 1 to 42.

In the list : no individual reports of the found remains in 2000 (the numbers 43-75). (These were integrated in the "Jaarverslag - Werkzaamheden van de Diggers op de Site Uitbreiding Industriezone Ieperleekanaal - Grondgebied Boezinge 2000")

I gave all the information available though for the period 2001 to April 2004 (numbers 76-186)

After leaving the team I had no information on the remains found after April 2004.

The British remains in the total number of 186 (all nationalities, period 1998 - end of April 2004) as far as I know were reburied in Cement House Cemetery in Langemark. I do not have the exact number of the British remains (due to the fact that I have no information on the period before summer 1999). Let me point out that a small number of British remains found by the Diggers were not reburied in Langemark, having been found elsewhere (not in Boezinge). This goes for remains of 2 men found when the Zuiderring was constructed (near Hell Fire Corner), 3 April 2001, reburied Perth Cemetery (China Wall), and remains of 3 Canadian soldiers found in Passendale (2 Febr. 2002, reburied Passendale New British Cemetery).

There may be some discrepancies, and I'm afraid I cannot explain them, among these the discrepancies between 91 and 66 as Norman pointed out.

Aurel

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Seadog

Thanks for the information Aurel, I do appreciate the difficult task undertaken by the “Diggers” on such a large site unlike the finds at Pheasant Wood which were concentrated in a much smaller area. I also appreciate the fact that if it were not for the considerable efforts expended by the team then we would not be even discussing the number of remains found as no doubt they would either stay undiscovered on the site or be in some mass burial within a CWGC War Cemetery.

My reasons for requesting the actual numbers found are twofold, firstly on a general point the numbers,locations and final place of reburial MUST have been recorded by someone in the team or persons in authority such as the police indeed as you had for a substantial period. This would have been an essential function of the team and just to jot down the location, date and any other information relating to the discovery would have been the very least that I would have expected someone to do.

Consider this, and please correct me if I am wrong, the remains would eventually be handed to the CWGC in respect of those identified as British and to the German and French equivalent for their fallen. The remains would then be interred and recorded as such by the CWGC again for the British. Why then is there does there appear to be a major discrepancy between the figures supplied in respect of the British via John Reed who kindly obtained the figures from I believe Ypres and the CWGC. The number of 25 unrecorded is considerable and I am sure there must be an explanation.

My second point is much more basic in that I believe that the CWGC have not treated the “finds” with the proper degree of importance that they deserve insofar that they do not record the fact that these men were found in one of the largest discoveries of its type prior to Pheasant Wood, this I believe is a gross disservice to the memory of these soldiers who now lay for posterity as “Known Unto God” and the visitors to the war cemeteries where they are buried will be none the wiser.

Regards

Norman

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Aurel Sercu

Norman,

I'm afraid I have no answers to your questions. I could say : when talking about the 1990s, this is about a period that Battlefield Archaeology (let alone Battlefield preservation) was no priority at all.

Also : when it was done indeed, this was by "amateurs", like the Diggers. And when they started, this was not with the Concept : "OK, here we go, let's start the finding of remains of over 200 men." If after the first (when was that ? no idea) it had been known that 199 would follow ...

Also I'm afraid that finding remains at the time, for the point of view of the authorities, was not really something that had priority either. (This was the (early) 1990s !) If I may point out : when the motorway A19 was laid, between Ypres and Kortrijk, I am sure that remains must have been found in Beselare and Zonnebeke etc. too. By bulldozers. With no "amateur archaeologists" were around. Was attention given to that (in the media or by the authorities ? I'm afraid not. The interest did not come until later. With and thanks to the Diggers.

As to the discrepancy between approx. 91 (John Reed) and approx. 60 ... I have absolutely no idea. But I am a little surprised ... For though I did my best, as a member (and secretary and records keeper etc.), I have (had) no information at all about the remains found before June 1999 (Numbers 1 - 42). Not even the nationality. It seems that John Reed (or his source) has more information about them, including the nationality. But I don't ... Can it be confirmed that the number of 91 is correct ?

All I can say, that in my own records, for the period 15 June 1999 to 22 April 2004 I count (a hasty count) :

British : approx. 60

German : approx. 50

French : approx. 26

Aurel

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Seadog

Again many thanks for the additional information Aurel, I am sure there is a simple answer to the apparent discrepancy with the number of British soldiers and no doubt this will become obvious in time. Meanwhile if you are near Cement House will you please take photos of the scene in the war cemetery of the plots as detailed in my post No. 2047 and post them here. For me general scenes will suffice but I of course leave the choice up to you. If you still have my email perhaps you can send some to me and with your permission I will post these on my Flickr photo-sharing account.

Kind regards

Norman

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Aurel Sercu

Norman,

I just can't find my way in the "new" forum, and I don't know how to send you a PM. (Is this still possible ?)

Could you let me know what your e-mail address is ? So sorry I can't find it in my address book.

Aurel

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Seadog

No problem Aurel, when PMs are working again I will send email details. Thanks for doing this.

Regards

Norman

PS Hopefully I have sent details via the forum email facility. (I stress hopefully)

PPS No luck so I will wait until the bug(s) have been fixed

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johnreed

I view of recent postings, I thought that I would bump this up, so that new members could read all the posts on the subject of the diggers. it also will remind members who have posted recently to their original posts in the past.

John

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Seadog

Good thinking John, this is a major thread. It is worth repeating the existing web site for those who have not seen it.

The Diggers

Norman

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Seadog

Thanks to John Reed of the GWF I now have photos of the graves of the British soldiers found during the excavations and who are buried in Cement House War Cemetery.

Flickr Photoset

Norman

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johnreed

Just bringing this to the top for interest.

John

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egbert

Why are you bringing this up John? Any new developments? Or do you want to bumb up all the 106 classic section threads up again and over time?

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johnreed

Yes

John

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gilbo139

Well thanks for bumping it up. 3 years on the forum and somehow I had missed it.......I,ve spent the last 2 days ( with the odd break when my wife was looking at me a bit daggers ) reading it.......absolutely fascinating ........thanks to all involved....

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cullbaggie

its a total learning curve for me - i have not studied much in the Pilkem ridge to Ypres area, this thread has made me hungry to learn more about it!!

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johnreed

I'm glad that by bumping it up it has given those who have not seen the thread the chance to see it.

John

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Roger H

I'm with you on this one John. Good move

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Beechhill

Thank you for the ttt. New thread to me too. Fascinating effort from De Diggers!

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