WWI ‘tunnel of death’ of 270 suffocated soldiers unearthed by amateur sleuth

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A tunnel of 270 First World War soldiers has been found in a "tunnel of death" more than a century later.

Amateur father and son historians Alain and Pierre Malinowski have made the biggest Great War discovery in France for decades by hunting down and exposing the tragic Winterberg tunnel.

Built near the town of Craonne in Northern France, 270 men from Germany's 111st Reserve Infantry Regiment took their last breaths inside it after an explosion above ground left them trapped.

A French shell detonated during the Second Battle of the Aisne in May 1917, exploded munitions at one end of the tunnel which blasted down toxic fumes, cutting it off from all oxygen over the next six days.

Conditions were so horrendous that those yet to suffocate either took their own lives or asked comrades to kill them, Daily Mail reports.

The dad and son duo risked criminal charges by taking a mechanical digger to the site where they had already come across gas mask canisters, machine guns and the remains of two soldiers.

Pierre told the BBC on Monday that every soldier in the tunnel would "have a story" and "It will be the biggest ever reserve of human material from the First World War."

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Against all odds, three men managed to survive long enough for fellow Germans soldiers to pull them out before abandoning their position to the French forces.

One soldier, Karl Fisser, recalled how the men were "calling for water" while another soldier asked him to "load his pistol" for him.

Pierre said the bodies will have been preserved "like mummies", with "skin and hair and uniforms",

It is now hoped that the descendants of the trapped men can be identified.

  • BBC
  • World War 1

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