Battlefield guide Chris Lock has reported on the Great War Forum about some battlefield archaeology going on at the Menin Gate in Ypres. There is a lot of archaeology work going on in Flanders at present, much of it shedding new light on some of the places we think we known so well.
The current dig is part of some local road and sewerage works in the road just east of the Menin Gate, on the old road to Lille and it’s side roads running off along the moat of the Ypres Ramparts. I know from some archaeologists I am working with at Messines that a team is on stand-by there to examine anything of archaeological significance; from pre-Roman times to WW1.
Chris Lock reports that today the remains of three WW1 horses were found on the site (see below), seemingly in a shell hole. The route through the Menin Gate was heavily shelled during the war and there are many reports of soldiers graves along the road here, as well as the bodies of horses killed going to and from supply dumps. Such movement was almost always at night when darkness hid it, but the position was randomly shelled, as a look at wartime aerial photos of the Menin Gate show it as much of a moonscape as other parts of the battlefield.
Equipment and other items were found with the horses – three of hundreds of thousands which died around Ypres during the war – and it is likely anything found with them will end up in the collections of local museums, such as the In Flanders Fields Museum. The horses however are a poignant reminder of the animals which trudged through darkness and out beyond the old Menin Gate towards the flash of the guns and an unknown fate; as much victims of the war as the men whose names now line the nearby memorial to the missing.