tv University of Wisconsin World War I Exhibit CSPAN December 24, 2014 3:03am-3:19am EST
leopol was exempt from military service. why? he had done his two years training but now age 22 he was not expected to fight because he was a concert violinist. he was a concert maestro. he was exempt from service. sadly, his brother otto was killed in the battle of the frontiers and this man, leopold, volunteered. he went off to work. what do you think a concert violinist as a soldier's chances are of being any cross? iron cross within three months. he's doing very well. more importantly there is an outbreak of musicality in the regiment when they form a band and an orchestra. it has to be leopold. it is not very often that you can do a link from a first world war to elvis presley but i'm going to do it because this song book includes the words and music to a song elvis presley
brought back from his service in germany when he served in the american military. the song is "wooden heart." some of you remember as a german marching song. so we've identified our soldier. we knew about his brother. we'd seen memorials. we wanted to try and find the family to get the photograph. we'd done it before so why not? why wouldn't it work? we went to find where the family had lived. we knew the address. his father was an electrician. his mother ran a tobacconist. when we got there, there was nothing at all. it was a memorial park. we walked over to look at the black for the memorial park. it said it was a memorial for allied bombing in 1943, that wiped out the entire city block. that's why there was no family. but it was one final twist to the story. do i remember i mentioned that leopold was about 23, a real artist. he was a corporal. we knew that from his collar
dogs. he was also a recipient of the iron cross 2nd class in the list regiment, the 16th bavarian reserve regiment. guess what? in the same year leopold died in battle, we know who killed him and how he died. there was another soldier, not german but austrian, a volunteer. number three company of the list regiments. slightly older than leopold, an artist of sorts with the iron cross 2nd class. that man was adolf hitler. as i said, if you look at this war, you would immediately see another. we're now in a situation where we're continuing to do work. we have never yet gone prospe prospecting for the dead but we'd been approached to do just that by a large number of people. we have a burial of at least one plan, and probably his comrades
from the village. i've spoken to the mayor and said we'd like to mark the plot. we know exactly where he is. the mayor said, i wouldn't bother. why not? he said the way it works in french law, if a family don't claim building plot for 100 years, we can sell it, the community gets the money and we'll build on it. so if you're going to do any work you've got about a year. we have another site, a site for the lancasters, about 54 bodies. we know where they are buried because the man who buried them was a german officer wrote to the family of the young officer and said i buried your son and his comrades and he gives a glass reference. it is now under a glass house in large industrial area. we think that site needs protection. and all the others. we're not going to necessarily look for the dead but when we do
we'll be ready. what we're trying to do is say here to all of you, this story is, in some ways, depressing. somebody once said that a death in a war is like throwing a stone into a pond. the ripples go out and they come back. as i've just proved, it still matters. no matter it is a hundred years ago. and. doesn't matter to me and my team whether we're dealing with french, belgium, german or occasionally british. we will do everything we can to make sure these men get the best treatment possible top ensure that they are buried not as an unknown soldier but either by their regimentregiments, or if lucky, by their name. of course, as i've indicated, the good news is because the
australia australians, they can't prevent us from taking a dna. i'm not sadvocating for prospecting for the dead. frankly for britain there are too many of them. what i'm telling you now, when human remains are found, i will do everything i can with my small team to ensure every means available are used to establish who they are. we do not want to see these men killed twice. thank you for listening. >> we'd now like to take questions from the audience. if you raise your hands, i'll come find you. if you could speak into the mike, that would be great. any questions. >> so given the concerns that you raised about looters getting
there before you have a chance to work, and the massive scale of potential sites along the front, i'm wondering if your team or other teams are working on efforts to proactively survey the western front especially using satellite. i mean all the things that we use for survey all over the world in archaeology to try to identify where some of these sites might be, then without having to get on the ground, if there's already a building over it, then move on but work on the sites that are still accessible. >> the situation right now is that we're looking at one particular area. we're looking at the area famous for the memorial to the we've been offered a chance to use the technique you are talking about. we don't have 30,000 pounds. that's what it would take to do
that survey. the point about the raid, by the way, was that if you dig a hole anywhere in europe, basically looters regard it as being an invitation to come and have a look. so what we now do is whenever we do any work, we have 24-hour security so we've learned flnow. we very carefully back fill when we're done so it. doesn't encourage people. sadly, only a few years ago i was asked by somebody to go to their house. they said what's this, andy? i opened up a garbage bag and there was a set of human remains in it with no insignia. i said where did that come from? it came out of the field from the side of my house. someone had come at night, dug this poor guy up and put him by the outside of the hole. all the medal and insignia were gone. i took him back to where i was staying with my family.
couldn't find my wife, found my daughter, i said where's mommy, they said mommy's gone shopping in your car. that wouldn't have been too bag but that was the car with the garbage bag in the back. so i had to phone her and say there is a big surprise in the boot -- don't open it. there can be some dark humor in this. >> the type of archaeology that you're doing on the eastern front as well? >> i was asked to go and have a look at a site near to berlin. my guide was a guide called dave schiller, an ex-israeli special forces man, who now advises the german army. when he pick me up from the airport, i was a bit surprised to see when he reached up to open up the advisor on the car that he had a 9 millimeter. i said, pete, why do you got a .9 millimeter?
he said doesn't worry, you've got an automatic as well. it's in the glove compartment. can i ask this? what's the problem here? the problem is how the pocket is is being strip mined basically by members of metal detecting groups who are sponsored by the ukrainian and russia mafia. they will defend their pitches. it is also being defended by the neo-nazi far right who regard it as being sacred site. so we said we both have weapons if anything kicks off. i didn't do the project. i just thought -- i know what shallow burials look like. i didn't want to be one of them. but, yes, there are big problems with the eastern front and it's probably getting worse. dry weather recently means that that lot of very wet sites are drying out. if you want to go on ebay and look up for sale german i.d. tags, they're available. if you buy one from them, you've
ensured that that german soldier will remain missing, whatever his politics. by the way, even if you don't buy them, they'll still dig it up. certainly the purchase of nazi memorabilia is fueling that particularly grizzly business. >> here in the united states we have the civil war preservation trust which we attempt to protect the battlefields and especially where people have fallen. we regard those as sacred sites. now i've been all over belgium and done the visit. are there preservation efforts going on within -- particularly france and belgium and those areas, to try to protect these areas because it appears that the relic hunters have really gotten out of control really. i mean there's probably a place for those things but they're
apparently not following. >> if you're caught with a metal detector in france there are no penalties than the fact that you lose your equipment, you lose your finds, you lose your car and you go to prison. they're really quite strict. we have to ask permission through frempnch authorities to use any kind of that equipment. they are absolutely rabid about it. we're talking about the extent of the battlefields. massive. if private owners gives permission, prying eyes will never see them. but you've got signs everywhere. i was actually there recently and someone was with me, an american, said, do you have gophers in france. i said no. that's call a metal detectorist. what appears to be holes all over the site was quite clearly some very fresh work.
of course what that means is they are taking away the evidence. if it's in the plow soil it doesn't really matter very much. but if it's still in situ, it is associated with human remains and we all know what that means. >> one of the themes i picked up on your talk is the considerable loss of data as a result of the second world war. you talked about the german side but also the destruction of public record office during the blitz in 1940. i was wondering if you kwo coul expand on that a little bit and talk about some of the road blocks about that and give the audience an perspective. >> because of the german bombing from 1940, 60% of british service records are destroyed. they can never be reconstructed. it means that for my grandfather we have a metal index card that says he was eligible for two medals and he was in two ledge mea
regiments. that isn't correct. he was in three. there are medieval archives, all gone. however if you are bavarian, they're untouched because they were not there. that state system is very, very useful. there is at the moment an initiative going on in the uk run by the imperial war museum asking people to basically add information to what's already in the public doe plain. the very limited information. including the photographs. clearly once you've got a photograph, sad, but somehow it makes it all the more poignant once you have those images. they're ret tro fitting saying people, give me the information that we can then put back into the public domain. >> i know during world war i that medical field hospitals were moved close to battlefields. i mean obviously death in a
medical field hospital, they knew who they were dealing with. but i've always wondered, because of the accounts i've read where so many people had to be buried, i've always wondered if they weren't in fact reburied. i always wondered if you came across any sites that were clearly tied to medical field hospitals. >> because we're not looking at formal burials. we're normally looking at hasty battlefield burials we don't know. however, if you look at any list of british cemeteries, it will say things like all hallows at an advance station. avs. the most famous british doctor in the great war gets two vcs in the course of the war, dies of an abdominal injury. he's buried in a cemetery associated with a casualty
clearing station which is the next step back. there are places on the coast, a big training camp and a big field hospital is where we have one of the biggest cemeteries. these are guys that guy of disease or die of their wounds. and women as well. in fact, it's interesting because it is the only place where they actually do anything to indicate rank. in every other cemetery whether you're an officer or another rank, you get the same burial. but there what they've done is put a semi-circle of officers in and interspersed it with german troops. beyond that, we've got indians an chinese. it is actually a segregated cemetery which is very, very unusual and it is not the