The team go to Northern Belgium, to excavate the site of the infamous battle of Passchendaele, fought in 1917, where man and beast drowned in a churning sea of mud. The British idea was to fight through to the English Channel and deny German U-boats the use of Belgian ports. It was a sound theory but turned into carnage. More than half a million men died at Passchendaele, many of them drowning in the waist high mud of the battlefield or its water filled shell les. As they unearth the remains of a complex trench system, a wristwatch is found; a technological innovation whose popularity was largely a product of the Great War’s need for accurate, easily accessed timepieces that were shock proof, waterproof and could be read at night. The War virtually gave birth to the modern watch. The watch is sent to the forensic laboratory at University College London, where the strap is painstakingly restored. The discovery of
letters etched on the strap launches a journey to identify its owner, a soldier, one of the Fallen. The search leads to John Humphrey England, a Second Lieutenant under the Welsh regiment, who died in the mud of Passchendaele July 31 1917.
Reinforcing this conclusion is a moving letter they uncover. It was
written by England’s father and asked the War Department for the
return of his son’s watch…. Eventually, a living relation of Lieutenant England is located, who in turn helps the team find England’s obituary—replete with photograph. But this quest has a twist in the tail.