More than 80 skeletons found in a mass grave in the Dutch town of Vianen have been identified as British soldiers between the ages of 15 and 30 who died fighting French revolutionaries during the First Coalition War.
The grave was first discovered by city workers digging a moat that once surrounded Batestein Castle on the outskirts of Utrecht on November 20 last year.
It was previously thought that the site was some sort of battlefield and that the 81 skeletons could date back to medieval times.
However, new research has shown that the remains actually belong to British soldiers who died in action in the First Coalition War between 1792 and 1797, and the site is more likely to have been a field hospital.
A mass grave containing the remains of 81 men aged 15 to 30 has been revealed as the site of a British field hospital that was used during the First Coalition War, which lasted from 1792 to 1797
The site was discovered by city workers who dug the disused moat of the now destroyed Batestein Castle and was originally thought to mark the site of a medieval battle.
But the researchers found that the skeletal teeth were marked with tobacco, a substance that wasn’t widely available to Europeans until the 1690s, meaning the grave couldn’t be older than that.
The marks on the bones that the researchers initially thought were caused by saws or spears were actually found to be made using surgical saws, and they now believe the site was in fact a British field hospital.
Teams working at the site now believe the remains are British soldiers who died fighting French revolutionaries in the First Coalition War, a precursor to the Napoleonic Wars
It was previously believed that the marks found on many of the bones at the site were the result of violent clashes – possibly injuries from swords or spears.
Now, researchers say the marks were made by medical saws and were actually the result of medical procedures such as amputations and autopsies performed on recently deceased people.
However, it is now known that in many cases these were saw marks, the result of medical procedures such as autopsies and amputations.
The team working on the project concluded that the site was a field hospital.
Project manager Anne-Floor van Pelt said: âSo the site was not the battlefield itself, but a more remote location where melee casualties were received and cared for.
âIt wouldn’t have been a nice place. We believe that many soldiers here died from their wounds, but also from all kinds of hardships such as hunger, disease and frostbite.
Researchers believe those who died at the site are the most likely to have died from wounds they received in combat, but some may also have died from frostbite, illness and starvation.
The First Coalition War was a series of conflicts waged against the constitutional kingdom of France and later the French Republic against various European powers, including the British, who attempted to force the revolution to collapse.
The site was first discovered in November last year when it was thought to date back to medieval times, but researchers now believe it is around 220 years old.
British troops were involved in the fight against French revolutionaries on Dutch soil as France’s borders shifted amid competing seizures of power in the wake of the country’s revolution
Dutch researchers are now working alongside their British counterparts to excavate and preserve the remains of the dead
The remains are believed to belong to English soldiers fighting the French on Dutch territory.
UK authorities have been made aware of the discovery and will work with researchers on the project in hopes of revealing more details.
According to Van Pelt, the breakthrough came when marks were found on the victims’ teeth.
She said: âThey showed men smoke pipes. Pipe tobacco did not appear in the Netherlands until around 1600.
âTobacco was an expensive stimulant, so initially only wealthy pipes smoked. It did not become common in the population until 1690. For this reason, the tomb cannot be older.
A search of the digital newspaper archives revealed that the establishment of a field hospital was discussed in the “Amsterdamse Courant” on December 28, 1794.
British Ambassador to the Netherlands Joanna Roper wrote on Twitter: “An extraordinary find: the remains of 18th century soldiers on Dutch soil. Glad to see (the UK) and (the Netherlands) work together to identify and preserve them with dignity and respect. ‘