Torrington, CT student returns from WW I archaeological dig in France
via the Torrington Register Citizen newspaper (CT) web site
HARTFORD, CT — The expedition, “Digging Into History: WWI Trench Restoration” recently returned from three weeks in Seicheprey, France. This innovative experiential learning program brought fifteen Connecticut high school students entering grades 11 and 12 this fall to the site of the first German offensive against American troops to restore a section of trench once occupied by Connecticut’s 102d Infantry Regiment.
Among the participating students was Lucas Rodriguez of Torrington, who researched a Torrington soldier with the historical society to prepare for the trip. He attends the Connecticut River Academy in East Hartford.
This program, the only one of its kind in the United States, was a spectacular success and resulted in a life changing experience for students and chaperones alike.The group stayed in a nearby village during the dig, and were in France from July 6-27.
The trench restoration work, led by local military historians Phillipe Dourthe and Denis Meyer, resulted in more than 100 meters of trench restored; two wattle walls built and a shelter rebuilt. A number of artifacts were found, including an American boot, a French spoon with a bullet hole and even a Napoleon III coin dating to the 1850s.
Students cataloged the finds and documented their work through photos and video that will become part of the Connecticut State Library’s permanent archives. The Connecticut students lived and work side by side with sixteen French students from villages within the Communauté de Communes Mad et Moselle, the French administrative organization that funded this portion of the journey. Just as the Doughboys formed bonds with the village 100 years ago, the students formed lifelong friendships with their French peers as they worked to clear rubble from the trenches, relaxed at Lake Madine or performed in a talent show at the lodge in Beaumont where the group stayed.
In preparation for the trip to France, Rodriguez researched Torrington soldier John Ryan, who served in WW I, with the help of the Torrington Historical Society. A 1918 newspaper article reported Ryan to be the first Torrington soldier to be killed with the U.S. Army in France.
Rodriguez said his interest in military history stemmed in part by stories he heard about family members who served in the military, including his grandfathers, who served in the army and navy, respectively, and his father, who served in the U.S. Marines Corps.
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