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The Discovery Of An Unusual War Grave

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In northern France, at a location between the towns of Saint-Laurent-Blangy and Athies, building work has uncovered an unusual grave dating from the First World War. While there is nothing strange about the discovery of Great War combatants, many of whose remains are still scattered throughout European soil, the style of burial is certainly an oddity. In a large rectangular pit, just wide enough to fit the bodies, lie twenty soldiers, each neatly laid out alongside the next, their arms slightly bent so as to overlap. The impression is that they had been buried with their arms interlinked, a sign of comradeship. There are four other bodies nearby, three in a shell crater, and one alone. Although their individual identities remain unknown, decaying badges reveal that the main group was part of the Lincolnshire Regiment's 10th Battalion, while the lone body was from a Naval Division.

The grave had been carefully dug, with someone paying particular attention to the layout. Not only had the corpses had been moved from where they fell, but when only fragments remained, as in the case of two bodies, a human sized gap had been left, with the pieces placed in the corresponding places. However, no record of the burial remains, and although there is agreement that the troops were killed during the Arras offensive of 1917, it is unclear precisely when the soldiers died, and what they were doing at the time. British newspapers have been quick to imagine scenarios, which range from the believable - such as the tragic attack on April 28th, in which the battalion was slaughtered - to that modern obsession, friendly fire.

There is, however, one other oddity. Several years ago the bodies of another 24 soldiers were discovered in the same region, all of whom were from the Lincolnshire Regiment. They also perished in the battle for Arras.

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For Citation And Footnotes
Title: The Discovery Of An Unusual War Grave
Author: Robert Wilde
Date: 2001

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