The discovery of the grave of Alain-Fournier, in 1991, was a major milestone in the evolution of attitudes to the archaeological traces of a past which remained relatively recent, and the birth of Great War archaeology as a discipline in its own right. The initiative came from a group of admirers of the author of Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), who wished to put an end once and for all to the debate over the circumstances of his death. Certain rumours maintained that the young writer had been executed after firing on German medical personnel. His admirers succeeded in identifying the exact location of what they believed to be the resting place of Alain-Fournier and his companions in death, at Saint-Rémy-la-Calonne (Meuse). France’s Minister for Culture, Jack Lang, called in the national archaeological service to conduct the excavation, in spite of their initial reluctance.

The intervention of these archaeologists, highly trained in the techniques of field anthropology, ensured that the dig had every chance of identifying the bodies and obtaining as much as information as possible. The remains of Alain-Fournier were thus identified, along with those of 18 of the 20 soldiers present in this mass grave, all of whom fell in battle on 22nd September 1914. They were all transferred to the national military cemetery at Saint-Rémy-la-Calonne.