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The Trench Detectives

All Episodes 2006 - 2009

  • Ended
  • Channel 5
  • 2008-08-16T00:00:00Z
  • 45 mins
  • 9 hours, 45 mins
  • Documentary
At the end of the Great War, nearly two million soldiers were missing, presumed dead. Almost 90 years later, the bloody battlegrounds of France and Belgium are surrendering their secrets. A team of archaeologists, historians and forensic experts is working to identify unknown soldiers and finally lay them to rest. The Trench Detectives is a documentary series that follows the work of this team as it moves through time and across the battlefields of France and Belgium, releasing the fallen and their stories of courage and sacrifice from the mud of the First World War battles in which they fought and died. Each episode focuses on an archaeological dig at the site of a single significant battle of the Great War. Objects and evidence found there are traced back, through painstaking detective work, to a soldier or soldiers whose personal story can then be told.

13 episodes

1x01 Loos

  • Series Premiere

    2006-08-16T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

Tunnels and craters in the heart of a coalfield hide the bodies of soldiers from WW1 lying with their belongings, including a postcard that leads to Bavaria, the Storm Troopers and links to a young corporal called Adolf Hitler.

1x02 Passchendaele

  • 2006-08-23T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

A First World War wristwatch found in a complex trench system in the churning sea of mud at Passchendaele, leads to descendants of a Welsh officer who died there. But all is not what it seems.

1x03 Serre

  • 2006-08-30T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

An enlisted man and an officer - WW1 brothers in death - are laid to rest. The men are identified through forensics, made possible because one of them broke a basic rule of war and the other carried his bankbook to the front.

1x04 Ypres

  • 2006-09-06T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

Human bones reveal the partial remains of three men. A uniform button identifies them as Germans from the 213 Reserve Regiment and leads to the discovery of an atrocity committed near the birthplace of WW1 trench warfare.

1x05 Beaumont Hamel

  • 2006-09-13T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

The site of the bloodiest battle in WW1 yields evidence of a front-line medical post and the doctor who ran it - traced through a button that could only have been worn by one man at that place on that day.

2x01 Man and Horse

  • Season Premiere

    2009-06-15T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

In the First World War, men on horseback with swords fight against an emerging modern weapon, the machine gun. In Northern France, on the site of a cavalry charge into the face of relentless machine gun fire, the Trench Detectives discover evidence of a desperate act of bravery that stopped the German advance in the Spring of 1918, but decimated the ranks of a Canadian cavalry unit. It was the last great cavalry charge of the First World War, and it was made by Canadian soldiers.

2x02 Codename Tank

  • 2009-06-16T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

In the second episode, the Trench Detectives discover the shattered remnants of a tank in French woodlands and try to trace its identity.

2x03 The Wedding Rings

  • 2009-06-22T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

In the third episode, experts hope that a pair of matching wedding rings, found on an unknown soldier that fell on the Western Front in 1915, will help them identify the body.

2x04 Barnardo Boy

  • 2009-06-23T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

In this episode, the team trace the history of a Canadian orphan.

2x05 A Silent Witness

  • 2009-06-29T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

The Trench Detectives dig into the past of a picturesque French hunting lodge, which was a silent witness to the war, to reveal its troubled history.

2x06 A Secret Trench And Mystery Officer

  • 2009-06-30T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

In this episode, the Trench Detectives attempt to discover what happened to a signaller who was stationed near a village in Belgium.

2x07 Buried Alive

  • 2009-07-06T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

The Trench Detectives uncover the story of a civilian gravedigger serving on the Western Front, whose greatest fear was being buried alive.

2x08 Highland Warrior

  • 2009-07-07T04:00:00Z — 45 mins

The Trench Detectives try to identify the remains of an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander, who fell in September 1915 during the first massive Allied attack on the German positions at Loos, Belgium.