Dan Mackay, a so-called "relic hunter" from Britain, discovered more than 14,000 dog tags from World War II buried in a field next to an anti-aircraft battery near London.
He told The Telegraph the tags were found near a factory where they were once manufactured, and they belonged to military medal winners, prisoners of war and soldiers who had been written about in military journals.
“The excitement was almost unbearable, it was as if someone had lifted the lid on a treasure chest full of silver coins,” he said.
Mackay is now trying to return the tags to relatives of the men, who served in nearly every regiment of the British Army. Some of the men even fought and died in the Normandy landings. He has reunited eight of the tags with soldiers' families and has launched a nationwide campaign to find information on the rest.
"It's starting to feel like a full-time job — and certainly not one that normal people do. But now we're desperate to return the dog-tags we've found and I will travel nationwide, if that's what it takes," he told The Telegraph.
Mackay reportedly has met some resistance from the British Legion and various historic groups during his attempts to find records of the men, but he told the Telegraph he had some success through an online military community called War Forces Records, which connected him with a surviving veteran.
So far, he told History, he has connected eight of the tags to their original owners with more waiting to be shipped out.
“It’s as if [the dog tags] are being finally put in place after 70-odd years of being lost. The joy and excitement people have when we tell them about the tags is amazing. People say it doesn’t seem real, until then, all of a sudden, they get a tag in their hands.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in April 2017.