- Day-to-day death
- War on an industrial scale, death on an industrial scale
- German and French casualties at Massiges
Covering an area of just over 3 hectares, the site known as ‘the Crater’ has become emblematic of the war’s impact on the Champagne region. For the past five years this site has been managed by the La Main de Massiges association. The members of this association are working to re-excavate the wartime trenches and faithfully restore them to their 1915 condition, the year which saw fierce fighting between the opposing French and German forces seeking to win control of the strategically important positions overlooking the village of Massiges. This work has unearthed the remains of numerous soldiers. The study of these remains by archaeological experts, and particularly their location within the trench network, has allowed us to better understand the process by which the ‘bodies and personal effects’ of soldiers could disappear on the battlefield. Of the nine bodies recovered since 2011, 3 German and 3 French soldiers had received no burial to speak of, instead being found in shell craters or at the bottom of trenches, covered over when the earthworks crumbled at the end of the war. The body of one French soldier had received a very hasty burial, curled up in a shell crater, but two others had been carefully laid down in individual graves dug for this purpose. The archaeologists were able to identify one of these two bodies thanks to the presence, unusual in such circumstances, of his identity tags. The soldier’s name was Albert Dadure. In July 2014, 5 bodies of German soldiers were uncovered just outside the ‘Crater’, buried haphazardly and hurriedly in the access tunnel of a subterranean shelter. This site offers a glimpse into the horrors of war, where more often than not there was no time to give the dead a decent burial, not even your own comrades in arms.