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Mike Searle, Commonwealth War Graves commission
"They will be buried with due military respect and honour"
 real 28k

Mike Johnson, Commonwealth wargraves commission
"The are about 100,000 soldiers out in the fields of the north of France"
 real 56k

The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"Under the fields of Northern France lie the remains of 100,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
British WWI bodies unearthed
World War I
The 10th battalion took part in the allied attack at Arras
The remains of 24 British soldiers killed during an offensive in World War I have been unearthed in northern France.

Archaeologists uncovered the bodies during an inspection of the 740-acre building site of a BMW car factory between the towns of Saint-Laurent-Blangy and Athies, local officials said.

The bodies have been turned over to the British Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which marks and maintains the graves of soldiers who fought in both world wars.

The organisation plans to re-bury the soldiers with military honours at a British cemetery near Arras in July.

In the common grave the bodies were all lined up together and holding each other by the arm - no doubt to signify that they were from the same army corps

The head of Arras's archaeological service, Alain Jacques
But the commission's communications officer in France Roy Hemington added: "We didn't find any identity discs, so it's unlikely we'll ever know their names."

A communal grave contained 20 corpses, which regimental badges indicate were from the 10th battalion.

The Lincolnshire regiment took part in the major allied attack at Arras in April 1917.

The head of Arras's archaeological service, Alain Jacques, said : "In the common grave the bodies were all lined up together and holding each other by the arm - no doubt to signify that they were from the same army corps.

"A few years ago we discovered 24 soldiers from the Lincolnshire buried near Arras.

map of france
"These are more from the same battle," he said.

The attack was intended to provide a diversion from a planned French offensive along the Chemin des Dames front to the southeast, but it ground to a halt after the French failed to make headway.

A short distance from the communal grave, another three bodies were found buried in a shell crater.

A fourth, who fought with the Royal Naval Division - made up of sailors from ships decommissioned for the war who were sent to serve in the trenches - was discovered close by in an isolated grave.

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