Hundreds of mourning gathered today to mark the funeral of 13 unknown soldiers who died in Belgium during the First World War.
The unidentified war dead – all from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries – were buried side by side with full military honor at Ypres.
Shots from the salute shooter sounded over the quiet clearing, the same field in Flanders where the men lost their lives.
The gripping ceremony at the Wytschaete military cemetery was one of the last chapters of the Dig Hill 80 project, which discovered the remains of 110 soldiers.
Father Patrick O & Driscoll, curate of the 1st battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, led the service, starting at 11 am.
Father Patrick O & # 39; Driscoll conducts a funeral service at the Wytschaete Military Cemetery of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, near Ypres
Soldiers of the 1st battalion The royal regiment of Fusiliers carried the coffins of the two unknown British soldiers to the final resting place in Ypres, Belgium
He spoke about the symbolism of the red poppy and the need for lasting peace.
He said: & We gathered today in a community before God to remember those who made the greatest sacrifice by giving their lives in the service of their country.
& # 39; We remember and pray for all those who have suffered and still suffer as a result of war.
Finally, we pray for peace and reconciliation – especially when we think of those responsible for the leadership of nations – that conflicts can be avoided and peace reigns among all people. & # 39;
The service was attended by representatives of the armed forces from different countries, to pay their respects to the fallen 13 men.
Two of the unknown soldiers – identified as British – were carried to the ceremony by soldiers from the Fusiliers and Union Jack flags were draped over the coffins.
The remaining 11 war dead were buried in a third coffin before the service began.
Father O & # 39; Driscoll paid tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of the 13 soldiers when he addressed the crowd.
He added: & # 39; We are coming together today to remember and thank these men for their great sacrifice in fighting and dying together as one.
Soldiers preparing to bury two coffins. The funeral with full military honor is the high point of the & # 39; Dig Hill 80 & # 39; project that discovered the remains of the soldiers in 2018
The service was held at the military cemetery in Wytschaete where 13 unknown soldiers who died in Belgium during the First World War were given full military burials
& # 39; Although we don't know their names, we remember their humanity and courage and that they were even in the hell of the fight for each other, even to death.
& # 39; So in prayer and celebration we place these men together in this sacred and special ground so that they rest in peace and we learn and ensure that humanity continues to exist in its fullness.
& # 39; While we use the remains of our brothers for the deep, give them peace and tranquility. & # 39;
After the funeral, shots echoed from the traditional salute with four guns to the fallen over the silent clearing.
The reminder was read, with guests repeating the famous promise: & # 39; We will remember them. & # 39;
Music was performed by a joint venture between British and German school children, to symbolize peace and cooperation.
Students from Mildenhall College Academy in Bury St Edmunds and St Joseph's College, Ipswich, were the UK's contribution.
The service was the result of the hard work of those on the Dig Hill 80 project, who are digging up Hill 80 – the location of a German gun, where many British and Commonwealth soldiers fell.
The project led to a crowdfunded archaeological excavation of 1.1 hectares, which took place at the former location of Hill 80 in Wytschaete, on land that was allocated for future housing.
Coffins arriving for a funeral service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Military Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium, for thirteen unknown soldiers who died in Belgium during the First World War
The project has dug up 550 meters of trenches and 430 bomb craters, with the remains of 110 soldiers discovered, including British, French, German and South African personnel.
Dig Hill 80 was well known at the time and attracted international media attention and celebrity pattern from comedian Al Murray and support from military historian Dan Snow.
It has not been possible to identify the 13 unknown soldiers buried today, but at least two are believed to be British.
Three gravestones from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) will mark their collective final resting places, which will be provided by the committee forever.
In accordance with the funeral tradition, the victims were buried together, so that those who served and died together are buried and commemorated together.
Hill 80 was the location of a windmill before the First World War, but became a deeply rooted German cannon position after the conquest of the village of Wytschaete in 1914.
The location offered the Germans an observation advantage because it offered a view of the city of Ypres and was part of the Messines Ridge.
The site remained in German hands until the Battle of Messines in June 1917, when it was reconquered.
In 1918, Hill 80 was again taken by the Germans during the Battle of the Leie, before finally returning to allied hands in September 1918.
Dig Hill 80 chief archaeologist Simon Verdegem said: & It is now about a year since the investigation into the Hill 80 soldiers was completed.
& # 39; Thanks to massive international support from individuals and organizations, sufficient funds have been raised through crowdfunding to enable a detailed excavation.
Coffins arriving today for the funeral. The Dig Hill 80 project has dug up 550 meters of trenches and 430 bomb craters, with the remains of 110 soldiers discovered, including British, French, German and South African personnel
& # 39; The goal was not only to dig out the trenches, but also to find the soldiers again. Now the British and German soldiers will finally get a final and worthy resting place together with their comrades. I dare believe that it gives them peace, knowing that people from all over the world have joined forces to recover their remains.
& # 39; In my opinion, this can be seen as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. & # 39;
CWGC Director General Victoria Wallace said: “It is always moving and a real privilege to attend reburials.
& # 39; And it's an honor for the team that dug up Hill 80 that they finally found these men, who will now be laid to rest with former comrades and cared for forever by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
& # 39; It is sad that the men cannot be identified individually, but they will never be forgotten by their nation or by the people in Flanders who always show so much respect for our war dead. & # 39;
The German soldiers discovered on Hill 80 are laid to rest on Friday at the German war cemetery in Langemark.
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