Story of identifying unknown soldier

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A FASCINATING detective story of how the body of a fallen soldier was discovered and identified a century after his death is to be told by a historian.

Alastair Fraser will discuss the find on a First World War French battlefield when he visits the DLI museum in Durham City on Saturday.

Alastair is a member of the No Man’s Land archaeology group which promotes investigation and understanding of the war.

He and his team have been working on the battlefields since 2007 and his specialty is the Somme.

The team has been working in the Ploegsteert area of Southern Flanders since 2007, where part of their brief is to follow one unit, 33rd Battalion, from Salisbury Plain to the Ultimo Crater.

Some of their dead remained on the battlefield.

The body of one man was found by the team in 2008.

The talk at the museum is called Hopping the Bags, the archaeology of an Australian infantry battalion at the Battle of Messines, 1917.

Alastair will explain how the body was found, describe the possessions still lying with it, and set out the process by which the soldier was identified.

DLI museum manageress Gillian Robinson said: “We are thrilled to welcome Alastair to the DLI for what promises to be a truly fascinating insight into not only the Great War, but also the archaeological process.

“The No Man’s Land project aims to supplement, and in some cases challenge, historical records using newly- discovered evidence, so it will be interesting to see what new light the project’s discoveries can shed on what we already know of the conflict.

“Alastair himself has a wealth of knowledge about his subject which stems from his involvement in the project and his work at Durham University library where he is a specialist in rare books.”

The talk starts at 2pm. Admission is £4.60 for adults, £3.60 for concessions, and £2.60 for children.

Bookings can be made by telephone: 384 2214, or online via

Admission to the museum is free on the day as part of the Heritage Open Days event.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho