Mass grave of 80 British soldiers found with skeletons of boys as young as 15

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A mass grave has been unearthed which contains the skeletons of more than 80 British soldiers.

The 220-year-old remains have been identified as belonging to troops who died fighting French revolutionaries on Dutch territory.

They were discovered at a site used as a field hospital in the Dutch city of Vianen.

The grave was first found by city workers excavating a moat outside the grounds of the 14th century Batestein Castle last November.

All 81 skeletons were previously thought to have dated back to medieval times.

But new research has found they were actually English soldiers aged between 15 and 30.

They died during the War of the First Coalition between 1792 and 1797.

Researchers say many of them died from their wounds, along with disease, hunger and frostbite.

The marks found on many of the bones at the site were also previously believed to have been the result of violent clashes.

But they actually saw marks from medical procedures such as autopsies and amputations.

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The team working on the project has concluded the site was a field hospital.

Project leader Anne-Floor van Pelt said: "The site was therefore not the battlefield itself, but a place further away where the wounded from the fray were received and treated.

"It would not have been a nice place. We think that many soldiers here died from their wounds, but also from all kinds of hardships such as hunger, disease and frostbite."

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She said the breakthrough came when tobacco marks were found on their teeth.

The researcher said: "They showed that the men smoked pipes. Pipe tobacco only appeared in the Netherlands from around 1600.

"Tobacco was an expensive stimulant, so initially only the rich smoked pipes. It only became common among the population from 1690.

"For that reason, the grave cannot be older."

The British authorities have been informed of the find and will collaborate with researchers on the project in the hope of revealing more details.

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) & (the Netherlands) working together to identify and preserve them with dignity and respect."

Newspaper archives show the establishment of a field hospital was discussed in 1794.

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