Early next morning we carried our stuff a few hundred meters to the pick-up point and met up with our Latvian friends. On our way to the first dig site we met up with the rest of the Latvian crew and our Lithuanian team.
Vlad had been busy searching WW1 positions south of Riga and he had located several massgraves on a sandy ridge where the old frontline once stood. Vlad has found hundreds of missing soldiers and I had made him a small piece of relic-art to honor his work. On a piece of shrapnel I had made a miniature of a WW1 memorial which once stood on a WW1 cemetery where missing soldiers Vlad has found have been reburied recently.
As soon as we had parked the cars and covered ourselves with mosquito spray digging began.
Having most of the top soil removed and the size of each massgrave established the work slowed down abit as we carefully uncovered the soldiers remains showing how they lay and what equipment and such they had been wearing the day they were buried. Several of them had crosses and small icons, some ammo pouches and handgrenades as well as boots and greatcoats. On some soldiers we found shrapnel embedded in their bones, one of them had pieces of a wooden sole from a boot stuck in his hip and on some we could see where bullets and shrapnels had went through the bones. On the soldier Steve and Anders were working they found an award that identified the soldier even before he was completely exhumed and also a small gold cross was found on him.
Evening approached but one of the massgraves was still full of soldiers so we decided to cover it up and go back to complete the job on the last day of the expedition.
On the lovely resort, Radi , in Kurland, the Prize Draw winner recieved the Legenda badge to put on his jacket and we had a great dinner and a little party before sleep caught up to us.
The heat was intense but a small breeze kept us going until we had completed the first line of the cemetery. It was late afternoon so the second line would be dug a few days later.
The guys having roamed around the forest came back with some interesting bits. A Sherman lendlease tank had been blown up in the battles here and track links, parts and huge chuncks of it was dragged out by the diggers. The engine radiator hatch found by Matt and Steve was incredibly heavy but none the less loaded into the van. On the way back to the resort we stopped by a farmer that had contacted us suspecting it could be some soldiers buried next to his house. We opened up a big ditch but found only some rusted boot heel irons and pioneer wires.
In the evening we got back to the resort sunburnt and mossie bitten and had a Swedish Surströmning party after dinner. For those who hasn`t heard of this dish it is basically canned rotten fish. I wasn`t among the brave bunch who tasted it :D
On some of the soldiers we found rests of shoulderboards and uniform effects, and two surviving bits of cloth were the Arm Shield with the Norwegian flag from two soldiers belonging to Regiment Norge. This regiment was mostly made up by Norwegians and other Scandinavians having volunteered and many of them are still listed as missing in action. A spectacular find.
Another fantastic moment was when an old man came by and shared his story. He had been a kid when his safe little childhood world became a frontline. He remembered a soldier marching by had given him a candy, and some days later he saw the same soldier being carried back dead, and buried on this site. It was amazing being part of that little moment in history!
We saw that the last line of graves stretched under the road which hadn`t been there during the war and we needed to open it up. It took a quick call to the Mayor who instantly gave us the green light, as we promised to repair it once done.
The weather had gone from boiling sun to a storm growing and we had a race with the rain. The weather-gods seemed pleased with us because as we rolled out with the last car over the filled in and repaired road, the river of rain broke loose on us. It had been an amazing recovery and we headed towared Radi for dinner and the Legenda 20 Year Birthday party with cake, gifts and a firework only Legenda can display.
The line of graves was filled up with people working and others searched the forests. More parts from the blown up Sherman were picked up, among it a nice American made scope.
When we had made sure there were not any more soldiers buried here, we loaded up the cars and drove to another site from our maps. Oposite an old civillian cemetery there should be a Regiment Danmark field cemetery. The machine opened up ditch after ditch but the cemetery couldn`t be found. While the search went on some of the guys searched the riverbed, while some of Legenda`s more childish elements bombarded them with small rocks and lumps of soil, and shouted fake alligator warnings. They found half German helmet and a rifle buttstock, and a large bomb or katyusha which was left alone.
At Kristine`s resort we got our things ready for tomorrow`s last expedition day and had a great dinner and a nice party.
We had recovered 83 soldiers in total this expedition, and found ID tags on about 1/3 of them and they will all be buried on official War Cemeteries in Latvia and hopefully some families will get to know what happened with their family members.
Time had come to say goodbye as some drove straight to the airport and some of us went to Riga to wait for our flights out and back home and the Latvian and Lithuanian teams had shorter ways home. Over a few beers in Riga the last of us in the International team decided it had been an exellent expedition although prehaps the warmest one in mans memory...
We made Livestreams every day, I ve collected these and you can see them all in my next post.
Hope to see you again soon my friends:)