I owe my brother for finding this article. He had just shared with me the other one on the museum-like bedroom of a French World War I soldier, which I shared earlier on the blog. Then dropped this in the comments. It is chilling to say the least, but I am also filled with nostalgia, historical curiosity, not simply empathetic panic for the last moments these men encountered on Earth.
The Archaeologists are calling the find The Pompeii of the Western Front. Just like in that natural disaster, the figures are found as they were the minute they died–in living positions–sitting on benches, lying in bed, one thrown down a set of stairs. To look at the images as they’re exhumed is breathtaking, not merely because of the care with which the network of trenches was built, but because men died there in the most horrible way imaginable. A view of the scene puts you in their shoes.
There is no doubt that the First World War was a nightmare for both sides’ forces. We have the image of the Christmas armistice fresh in our heads thanks to the British Retailer Sainsbury. Though we can quickly come down on sides, we are beginning to more clearly see that regardless of why the men were fighting, they were human and suffering and human desire didn’t stop for war, or for borders, and certainly not for beliefs. In fact, these things exacerbated the conflict. The young men wanted to be noble, loyal to their country and do the right thing. Right or wrong doesn’t matter years later when handling the artifacts of the conflict, especially human remains. I am glad to see proper burials being made and respect given the dead. Not one of the photos in the article shows the remains of a human being. I applaud the tact of the archaeologists in handling the find, considering familial relations may still be alive and well.