Builders make miracle find of WWI time capsule

The Local Germany
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Builders make miracle find of WWI time capsule
The open end of the tin discovered by builders. PHOTO: MST GmbH

A century after the 1914 outbreak of World War One, builders restoring a castle hit upon an infantry unit’s hidden tribute to their fallen comrades.


The odds were definitely against it: Not only did the folder-sized copper box surface in this commemorative year, but a worker’s drill neatly severed its top edge to reveal documents that lay concealed behind a plaque dedicated to the war dead for more than 80 years.

“It was a big surprise,” Heike Bläser-Metzger from the MST tourism and marketing company for Mülheim an der Ruhr in North Rhine-Westphalia told The Local on Thursday.

"Today we plant such time capsules but we didn’t think that it might be the case with this plaque as well.”

Dedicated to fallen members of the 159th Infantry Regiment, which was stationed at Schloss Broich a century ago, the plaque was fixed to a wall in the castle at a ceremony in 1928.

Judging from dates on coins and a pendant that fell out of the breached tin, it was embedded in the wall at the same time.

The coincidences don’t end there. Because of the dilapidated state of the wall the plaque was removed in 2011 and placed in storage. Bläser-Metzger remembered only later where it had been mounted – almost the exact spot where the drill had gone through.

The tin contains newspapers, notebooks and other papers. But because of mould inside it has been passed to conservation experts who will remove the contents to avoid damage.

The find is the property of the North Rhine-Westphalia state government under German law and is expected to be returned and put on display. Or maybe not.

“We might decide to repack it all in a container and place it back inside the wall,” said Bläser-Metzger.

“Then in 500 years when the wall needs repairing again someone may chance upon it.”


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