Unknown no longer: thousands of WW1 dead could at last be identified

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They are the nameless heroes buried in anonymous graves after the carnage of the Great War.

For nine decades their last resting place has been marked simply with the words 'Unknown Soldier' or 'Known Only Unto God'.

But thousands may soon be identified after the discovery of a vast forgotten archive.

For British families who know they have a relative who died in the 'war to end all wars', but have never been able to pinpoint their remains, the discovery could at last provide some comfort.
British historian Peter Barton unearthed the archive, virtually untouched since 1918, in the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. The organisation knew it had a vast amount of information there, but Mr Barton is the first to study it in detail. It documents information about the death, burial or capture of more than 20million soldiers from 30 countries who took part in the Great War.

Carefully entered on card indexes or written into ledgers, the details include name, rank, unit, time of death, exact burial location, home addresses and next of kin.

The information has the potential to pinpoint unmarked graves along the Western Front and other battlefields, and could mean headstones which currently mark the grave of an unknown soldier will finally bear a name.

They give detailed directions about where they were dug - many have since been overgrown or built on - and include details which could lead to the identification of soldiers buried in them. 'The emergence of this archive is hugely important,' said Mr Barton. 'It will change the way we look at World War One.

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