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Thirteen unknown First World War soldiers to be laid to rest a century after they died | UK News



Thirteen unknown soldiers who died fighting in Belgium during the First World War will be laid to rest today, more than a century after they died.

The war-dead, all from the UK and Commonwealth nations, will be buried side-by-side with full military honours near Ypres.

It has not been possible to identify the 13 unknown soldiers, but at least two are believed to be British.

The ceremony at Wytschaete Military Cemetery in Heuvelland forms one of the final chapters to the Dig Hill 80 project, which discovered the remains of 110 soldiers.

The project led a 1.1 hectare crowdfunded archaeological excavation at the former site of Hill 80 in Wytschaete, on land that had been allocated for future housing development.

550 metres of trenches and 430 bomb craters were excavated in the dig between April and July 2018, with the remains of 110 soldiers – including British, French, German and South African men – discovered.

The ceremony will take place at Wytschaete Military Cemetery on Thursday. File pic
The ceremony will take place at Wytschaete Military Cemetery on Thursday. File pic

Dig Hill 80 was highly publicised at the time, attracting international media attention and celebrity patronage from comedian Al Murray and support from military historian Dan Snow.

The service later will be conducted by Father Patrick O’Driscoll, chaplain to the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, supported by present-day serving fusiliers from the regiment who form the bearer parties and a firing party.

The casualties will be interred in three coffins, with three Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones marking their collective final resting places.

Two coffins will each contain one unknown soldier, with a third containing the partial remains of 11 unknown individuals.

The casualties will be interred together in keeping with burial tradition, ensuring that those who served and died together are buried and commemorated together.

Hill 80 was the site of a windmill before the First World War, but became an entrenched German gun position following the capture of the village of Wytschaete in 1914.

The location afforded observational advantage to the Germans as it overlooked the town of Ypres and formed part of the Messines Ridge.

The site remained in German hands until the Battle of Messines in June 1917 when it was recaptured.

Hill 80 was again taken by the Germans during the Battle of the Lys in 1918, before finally returning to Allied hands in September 1918.

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