Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WWI Trench Discovered

By Lisa Karon Richardson

In the quest for a quicker way to get from here to there, workers in France have uncovered a fascinating bit of history. 18 feet below the surface, they discovered a trench and underground shelter from WWI.

94 years ago a deluge of mud engulfed the space when an allied shell exploded nearby and caused a cave in. 34 men were killed instantly. German soldiers were able to extricate some of the bodies, but for more than 2 generations, the bodies of 21 men lay entombed and forgotten.

But now archaeologists liken the site to Pompeii because the catastrophe was so quick and complete it left the site exceptionally well preserved. A 300 foot-long section has been excavated including the shelter which housed 500 men and had 16 exits.

The bodies are all from the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment and have all been identified, their ages ranging from 20-37 and their names are already recorded on a war memorial just over the German border in the town of Illfurth. Unless relatives are found who wish to claim the bodies, the men will also be buried in Illfurth.

In addition to the bodies, they have discovered all manner of personal effects, from wallets to drinking glasses. Archaeologists have even discovered the remains of a goat, which they believe was kept by the men to provide fresh milk.

I don’t know if it’s just a ghoulish part of me, but I found this discovery fascinating, macabre, and infinitely sad. Almost as if a little hole has been torn in time, allowing us to peek back at what was both a pivotal point for the entire globe and a very intimate, very small tragedy, effecting 21 men and their families.

165,000 soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.

Read more here.

I'm left longing to know more about these men and their stories. How did this discovery make you feel?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.


  1. i feel the same way. i want to know more about these men whose lives were snuffed out so quickly. also, about the families who never had a grave to visit - just a loved one lost.

    is is weird i feel the same way about historical finds about people entombed instantly in a moment of great catastrophy? like you said, a little rip in time. a snapshot of a life - one that abruptly ended.

    thanks for sharing.

  2. Hey DebH, thanks for stopping by. Doesn't it seem that there must have been at least one great romance that was shattered by that shell, just as lives were shattered?

  3. From what I've read, it seems like the trench warfare was particularly traumatic for soldiers, although I suppose all war is traumatic. So sad.

  4. It's tragic.

    So terribly sad.

    I just can't imagine how it must have been for those young men to be away from home and put into a terrible war.

    I thank God for our service men and women, but I don't think I'm that brave.

  5. 165,000 still unaccounted for? All those families waiting for loved ones who never came home. I know this is a fact of war and didn't only happen in WWI and the total number of MIA would astound the world, but it really makes you blink when you see the number.

    Thank you for sharing this information, Lisa. Especially the photos. I hadn't heard about this discovery, and I, too, am fascinated by the historical discovery. And really, there's no difference between archaeologists discovering these 'tombs' and the Egyptian ones in and under the Great Pyramids, except these ones contained average men who died for a cause.

    Anita Mae.

  6. You know, Dina. I'm not so sure that it was necessarily more traumatic, or just that that generation finally broke with the stereotype that war was somehow heroic and honorable. They died and suffered in such great numbers that people weren't able to hide away those with PTSD or what they termed shell shock.

    I think the openness the men displayed at home in addressing these issues is another example of courage.

  7. DeAnna,

    I'm not sure I'm brave enough either.

  8. Those numbers are astounding aren't they, Anita? I mean, hard to wrap the mind around they are so big.

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Lisa. I agree, it's so sad. I think it must be the writer in us that leaves us all so fascinated and thinking of stories to fill the empty places for their families. Wow.

  10. First -totally off topic... I'm not sure I like the new commenting format on Blogger. What's odd is how it may be different for everyone (showing up on different days, different blogs?)

    It amazes me how elaborate the trenches were. the number of missing is mind-boggling. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. You know I posted about my Aunt a few weeks ago, and I'd been going through family things. Seeing this trench is a little upsetting but it should be. We keep finding reasons to keep going to war, don't we. The whole thing . . . ugh. mud and blood, or dust and blood. It's a wonder any of them come back in one piece mentally or physically.

    To face a good chance of dying any day is more than I can imagine.

  11. Suzie, I do believe the families were informed that their loved ones had passed. They just didn't have the luxury of a body to bury and mourn over. I think you're right that it's the writer in us, that makes us want to finish the story. It seems to abrupt and totally not complete as it is.

  12. Deb,
    I don't care for the new comment format. It feels weird, though I'm sure we'll all eventually get used to it.

    Do I sense a WWI story percolating somewhere in your consciousness? If ever there was a dark tale that could use some light this was one of them.

  13. What an amazing discovery. But how tragic and sad. I agree with Deb, seeing the pictures is somewhat upsetting but I think it's supposed to be. It chilled me to imagine what those poor souls endured.

    And on another note, I don't care for the new comment format, either. It seems cold for some reason.

  14. Yeah, Susie, I think it would say something unflattering about us if we didn't find the photos and the thought of these deaths a little disturbing. Even knowing that these men would have been our enemies if we had lived at the time, since they were German soldiers.

  15. Sad, Lisa. One of my mother's cousins was on a plane that went missing in WWII. He was an only child. I can't imagine.

    There are still Civil War trenches in Virginia.

  16. I can't imagine losing my son to a war either, CJ. But it is a reality for so many. I didn't know that about the trenches in Virginia CJ, that's interesting.

  17. Oh my, Lisa, the pictures bring it to life, don't they? More so than watching a movie or reading a book about WWI.
    This reminded me of Pompeii, too, and the Titanic, in a strange sort of way. I remember seeing pictures of the discoveries in Pompeii in National Geographic when I was little and being alternately horrified and fascinated. Same with these. Maybe that makes me morbid. Or just fascinated by those moments in history so completely captured. Like when they find petrified dinosaur eggs half-hatched in a nest. It is like a time warp...
    OK, must go to work.

  18. I agree Niki a time warp is a good way to describe it. The sense of the past bulging out and edging away the present for a moment.


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