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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
WWI bodies are found on glacier
Team working on San Matteo mountain
A team led by Vicenzi recovered the bodies
The bodies of three Austrian soldiers killed in World War I have been found on an Italian glacier, almost perfectly preserved, an Italian museum says.

The corpses were found at about 3,400m (11,500ft) on the mountain of San Matteo in the Trentino region.

The area was the scene of high-altitude fighting between Austrian and Italian forces towards the end of the war.

Historians believe the men may have died on 3 September 1918, during what was called "the great battle".

The preserved bodies were spotted and retrieved by Maurizio Vincenzi.
Map of Peio, Italy

Not only is he an amateur historian, but he is also a member of the local mountain rescue team, and the director of the military history museum at the small town of Peio.

The museum announced the discovery on Sunday, after Mr Vincenzi and his colleagues recovered the bodies on Friday.

Mr Vincenzi, 46, said: "Using binoculars, I saw what looked like a stain on the Forni glacier and went to look."

Funeral planned

"When I got close, I discovered they were the bodies of soldiers frozen in the glacier. Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime. Bodies haven't been found in the ice around here for decades," he said.

Head of preserved body
The bodies were preserved by the ice
He said the bodies were found upside down, encased in ice.

Their uniforms included leather belts, a gas mask and a cap with a star on it - all in good condition.

It is thought the men may have died in a grenade attack.

The battle, 86 years ago, was won by the Austrians, but they lost 11 men in the process.

"This is an important discovery from a historical point of view, and exciting for the communities on both sides of the border," said Mr Vicenzi.

A funeral for the men is planned for Tuesday afternoon, after which they will be laid to rest in the local military cemetery.

Krista Beighton reporting
"The corpses have been almost perfectly conserved by the freezing conditions"

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