First World War cave inscriptions discovered in France

Soldiers leave parting messages

First World War Cave Inscriptions Discovered in France
Historians have been given a powerful insight into the final thoughts of soldiers who died on the battlefields of the First World War after discovering a treasure trove of engravings on the walls of underground caves in France.

The engravings in the chalky rocks of Bouzincourt range from inscriptions of a soldier's name to crudely carved flags and hearts.

Historians believe they belong to British and Canadian troops caught up in the summer Somme offensive in 1916, one of the bloodiest battles of the 20th century.

Expert Jeffrey Gusky said "They knew that they may be about to die. And so we all want to be known, we all want to feel like our lives matter.

"And so here on these walls we see them writing their last messages to all of us, not knowing if any of us would ever see it.

"These have been covered in darkness for almost 100 years and now we can all get to see them and people can come to Bouzincourt and view these names and touch the past as if it's yesterday."

Caves date back to 17th century

Accessed by a spiral staircase in the village church, the caves are located some 12 metres below the surface. They were used by locals to store food and shelter their families and livestock as early as the 17th century.

But during the first world war, they offered refuge from German assaults. And now, as the centenary of the Battle of the Somme approaches, local volunteers say they hope the Canadian and British governments help them bring more exposure to the underground inscriptions and bring more visitors to the site.

In all, 829 names are recorded in the caves.