WWI Unknown Soldiers Grave Records Found

#1
Looks like finally our comrades in arms from WWI resting in unknown graves may be identified.Question is should we identify them or leave them as they are?
I'm sure the will be some relatives who may want the fallen repatreated.
Opinions chaps?
Spike

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1161810/Unknown-longer-thousands-WW1-dead-identified.html

They are the nameless heroes buried in anonymous graves after the carnage of the Great War.

For nine decades their last resting place has been marked simply with the words 'Unknown Soldier' or 'Known Only Unto God'.

But thousands may soon be identified after the discovery of a vast forgotten archive.

For British families who know they have a relative who died in the 'war to end all wars', but have never been able to pinpoint their remains, the discovery could at last provide some comfort.

British historian Peter Barton unearthed the archive, virtually untouched since 1918, in the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. The organisation knew it had a vast amount of information there, but Mr Barton is the first to study it in detail. It documents information about the death, burial or capture of more than 20million soldiers from 30 countries who took part in the Great War.

Carefully entered on card indexes or written into ledgers, the details include name, rank, unit, time of death, exact burial location, home addresses and next of kin.

The information has the potential to pinpoint unmarked graves along the Western Front and other battlefields, and could mean headstones which currently mark the grave of an unknown soldier will finally bear a name.

It also paves the way for families to complete the history of relatives who died in the bitter trench fighting.

Some of the records, in immaculate condition, refer to the sites of mass graves where the bodies of soldiers were piled alongside each other.

They give detailed directions about where they were dug - many have since been overgrown or built on - and include details which could lead to the identification of soldiers buried in them. 'The emergence of this archive is hugely important,' said Mr Barton. 'It will change the way we look at World War One.
Historian Peter Barton

Historian Peter Barton was given access to the archive which has remained untouched since 1918

'To a military historian it's like finding Tutankhamun's tomb and the Terracotta Warriors on the same day.

'This archive has been hidden away - not deliberately - for 90 years. We historians just did not know that this existed. The Red Cross tells me I am the first researcher who has ever asked to see it.' Mr Barton, a First World War historian and author, stumbled across the records after being commissioned by the Australian government to find the identities of soldiers found at Pheasant Wood, Fromelles, France.

The trail led him to the Red Cross Museum in Geneva where he was given access to their basement. The records were passed to the Red Cross by the combatant countries at the end of the war.

The Red Cross acted as a gobetween for the protagonists. Information was then copied and passed to the soldiers' home countries but, according to Mr Barton, the UK's copy of the data no longer exists, much of it having been destroyed in the Second World War. The same fate is believed to have befallen the records in France and Germany.

The Red Cross is already working to bring the archive into the computer age.

The organisation has set aside £2.4million to conserve and digitise the paper records. The project will begin in the autumn and will involve experts from around Europe.

The Red Cross hopes to have the archive online by 2014, the centenary of the Great War.

'We want to archive these records because it will be far easier for families to access the information they require,' said a Red Cross spokesman.

' They hold an incredible amount of detail.'
 
#4
Dead of the World Wars were not/are not repatriated. Provision is only to reinter within the country where they died. If records of where first buried can be married to those of removal and reinterment in cemeteries, then there's a prospect some of the 'Unknowns' can be named and some named removed from such as the Menin Gate. Perhaps some new mass grave memorials may result.

No.9
 
#5
Whenever possible ALL war dead should have a marked grave. This has the potential to identify the resting places of a lot of WWI casualties who are still officially missing. The down side is that it would involve opening a lot of graves marked "known unto God" to obtain DNA for comparisom.
 
#6
Invicta - "The down side is that it would involve opening a lot of graves marked "known unto God" to obtain DNA for comparison."

Between extremely unlikely to no way whatsoever. DNA is very conditional over periods like this and unlikely there'd be a suitable descendant. It's also incredibly expensive for the MoD who use an outside agency. It's going to have to be on precise match of record details stating exactly where the body was recovered from and which grave he now occupies.

No.9
 
#7
Many forget that after the initial battles of WW1, record keeping of all sorts was of a very high standard. Many, many temporary graves were constructed and the precise location recorded. Sadly attempts to find many of these following the end of hostilities failed.

Many, many others were buried in shell holes at the front line and disitegrated by artillery while others rotted on the surface. If recovered these will never be identified.

The CWGC is very precise as to what constitues identification and that has to be complte identification. Remember Rudyard Kipling's son. His body was recovered at a location where only one Irish Guards officer was killed but remained 'unknown' for most of the twentieth century.

I have been in a small cemetry in Normandy where four members of the same tank crew are buried three are named one is not as he was not ID'd. No-one else from that regiment died there and his headstone is amongst the others but is recorded as 'unknown'

What is good about these records is the chances of discovering details of deaths and actual localities recorded soon after events.
 
#8
Giving the fallen theirs names back is the very least we can do. I hope the governments involved have the decency to fund this effort and not simply leave it to charity.
 
#9
SkiCarver said:
Giving the fallen theirs names back is the very least we can do. I hope the governments involved have the decency to fund this effort and not simply leave it to charity.
My bold.

I'm afraid, they won't have the decency and will simply put the blame on the financial crisis.
 
#10
YesItsMe said:
SkiCarver said:
Giving the fallen theirs names back is the very least we can do. I hope the governments involved have the decency to fund this effort and not simply leave it to charity.
My bold.

I'm afraid, they won't have the decency and will simply put the blame on the financial crisis.
I'm sorry to say that i think you are correct.
 
#11
No.9 said:
Invicta - "The down side is that it would involve opening a lot of graves marked "known unto God" to obtain DNA for comparison."

Between extremely unlikely to no way whatsoever. DNA is very conditional over periods like this and unlikely there'd be a suitable descendant. It's also incredibly expensive for the MoD who use an outside agency. It's going to have to be on precise match of record details stating exactly where the body was recovered from and which grave he now occupies.

No.9
The cost would be way to high, also the fact is, that whilst records exist of where they fell, there is still no actual proof that who lies where is correct. to many graves were blown apart in a lot of cases.

The plus side is that at least some will know where there relatives MAY lie.

Hopefully our Gov and Commonwealth ones may finacially assist the Red Cross
 
#12
SkiCarver said:
YesItsMe said:
SkiCarver said:
Giving the fallen theirs names back is the very least we can do. I hope the governments involved have the decency to fund this effort and not simply leave it to charity.
My bold.

I'm afraid, they won't have the decency and will simply put the blame on the financial crisis.
I'm sorry to say that i think you are correct.
I know you are correct. Having spoken to someone at the Service Personnel & Veterans Agency, who oversee this work with CWGC, in connection with the progress of an ID claim, I learnt / was told they have insufficient staff to progress this work and all requests to fund additional resources have been refused by senior managers.
 
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