Archaeologists say there is "compelling" evidence they have
found the mass burial site of British and Australian troops who were
killed during World War I.
They believe the bodies of up to 400 soldiers remain in unmarked
graves in northern France near the site of the Battle of Fromelles.
It is the largest discovery of its kind and the Australian,
British, French and German authorities must now decide whether to
proceed with a mass exhumation of the soldiers' remains.
The Battle of Fromelles was an unmitigated disaster. It was conceived as a ruse to divert German attention away from
the campaign on the Somme in July 1916.
The British and Australians launched an assault on heavily
fortified positions in broad daylight.
Although they fought bravely they suffered heavy losses. The British withdrew and the Australians had to fight their way
back through the German lines.
A second assault was cancelled, though the Australians were not
told and they lost more men.
A geophysical survey has located burial pits where hundreds of
soldiers were buried after the battle. Dr Tony Pollard, the director of the Centre for Battlefield
Archaeology at Glasgow University, has just returned from the site.
"To my knowledge this is the largest unmarked mass grave from
the First World War to be discovered in modern times," he said.
"There have been multiple graves in the past, but they've been
maybe twenty to thirty men. We're talking here of somewhere in the
region of 400 men according to the German records that we have".