Somme sign

A FRENCH archaeologist is searching for the family of a WA soldier whose signature is one of thousands left by WWI Anzacs in cave walls deep beneath the Somme.

More than 3000 signatures were discovered by Gilles Prilaux, director of the National Institute of Preventative Archaeological Research, and with Australian government help they’ll soon be recognised as part of a small museum.

“I discovered these signatures by the greatest chance during an archaeological intervention whose purpose was to date the origin of the caves,” Mr Prilaux told the Voice.

• Pte William Truran’s (inset) signature carved into a cave deep under the French village of Naours. Photo supplied.

The caves date back to the Roman era and started life as a limestone quarry, but in the intervening years locals from the village of Naours used them for storage and to hide from encroaching armies.

“In December 2013 I had the idea to observe the walls of the caves to search for engravings and this day it was a real shock to discover all these signatures.”

Mr Prilaux says he’s searching for any descendants of Pte William Howard Truran who left Fremantle on September 2, 1915. His battle baptism came in the hellish trenches of Gallipoli, but after the Allied retreat his unit was reorganised and sent to the Western Front in 1916, where he made his mark on the walls of the cave.

by STEVE GRANT

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