Articles tagged with: trench

First World War Tunnels at Larkhill

on Tuesday, 25 April 2017. Posted in Archaeology, Military

I have written before about some of the amazing finds at the site that will become the Larkhill Service Family accommodation. Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology and White Young Green have been ensuring that the archaeology has been excavated, with archaeologists from the Wiltshire Council Archaeological Service (mostly me!) helping to ensure that anything affected by the development is properly excavated and recorded. We’ve had Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age finds, including a Neolithic causewayed enclosure, a new (probable) henge and an enclosed settlement (with associated roundhouses). I’ve also mentioned before that we have the remains of a First World War training battlefield, with what has turned out to be over 8km of trenches that have been excavated by the archaeologists and unexploded ordnance specialists that have been working on the site (an example of some of these trenches are shown in this picture – the trenches are white from the excavated chalk being backfilled into them. The second photo shows part of the trench system).

In addition to the trenches, we can now reveal that the practice battlefield also included tunnels and dugouts. On battlefields, dugouts were used for lots of reasons, including troop shelters, medical posts, headquarters and stores. Their position underground meant that they were less likely to be affected by bombs, shells or bullets. We have a number of these at Larkhill, along with a number of tunnels. Both sides dug tunnels into no-man’s-land in order to lay mines that could blow up the other side’s trenches. Counter trenches were also dug to try to stop this. Tunnels were also used as listening posts (listening for the sound of the other side’s digging).

(These pictures show the entrance to one of the dugouts, with steps leading down, and another with a cob wall and doorway forming a room inside.)

The presence of these tunnels and dugouts (along with the trenches, ammunition, grenade fragments and food containers – amongst other things!) show that the troops training here were learning to undertake all aspects of trench warfare. They may well have come from all over the Commonwealth, but we know for a fact that we have people from the Wiltshire Regiment, drafted West Yorkshire coal miners, Manchester Scouts and troops from Australia. We know this thanks to the over 100 pieces of graffiti that have been found written on and carved into the chalk of the defences. Sometimes the graffiti was written in soot from candles, but more often if was written in pencil on the chalk.

The English Civil War at Longhedge, near Old Sarum

on Monday, 15 February 2016. Posted in Archaeology, Military

I’ve written before about the military on this site, in that case the WW2 remains. This is a feature from a slightly different period.

This roughly square feature, with further squares on the corners, was first seen in the geophysical results when this housing site was first considered for development. At that point, no-one was quite sure what it was. Although a Civil War date was considered, it was also possible that this feature was associated with the WW2 features that surrounded it.

Greyscale of sconce

We had a look at it in the trenched evaluation, but didn’t get much more information, and so an excavation was required as part of the planning permission. This took place in 2015 and the initial post-excavation works are well under way. The excavation demonstrated that the  structure was indeed large and square with square ‘turrets’ on the corner. Its outline was made up of a ditch cut into the chalk.

View of site

There were also the remains of a small building with flint footings, which can be seen in the photo above in the centre of the group of archaeologists.

Researching the Home Front of the First World War in Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 02 September 2014. Posted in Archives, Events, Military

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the First World War the first thing which comes into my mind is barbed wire and mud – and all the associated horrors of trench warfare. This is probably the result of reading the War Poets at school, and watching the film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ at an impressionable age! As I have got older I’ve read more widely about the War and learned how it impacted on civilian life, as well as on the front line troops. I have been amazed by the scope of that impact, and by the way in which aspects of life on the Home Front (which I had previously assumed were introduced in the Second World War) such as rationing and evacuation, actually had their roots in the First World War. One blog cannot do justice to this topic so I’m just going to touch on a few aspects of the War’s impact on Wiltshire. We hope to uncover more stories of life on the Home Front through the Wiltshire at War: Community Stories project in collaboration with Wiltshire’s museums http://www.wshc.eu/blog/item/wiltshire-at-war-community-stories.html

Revisiting WWII at Longhedge

on Friday, 04 July 2014. Posted in Archaeology, Military

Archaeologists are often thought only to be interested in very old remains – and those are very important to us – but we are also interested in more modern finds and features too. Too often we think we already know everything about events that have happened within living memory, but it’s surprising how often things turn up that have been forgotten, at least within the public record.


Longehedge is an area of land to the north of the Old Sarum Airfield. Old Sarum airfield has a long and illustrious military history. Our original interest in Longhedge was sparked by an Iron Age settlement that appears on aerial photographs. Initial geophysical survey showed the enclosed Iron Age settlement, but also lots of other interesting and unusual features that appeared to be military in origin.


So, in order to get some more information about all of these interesting features, a trenched evaluation was undertaken. The results from the geophysical surveys and trial trenches were mapped (below) and show the iron age and modern features.

On the importance of socks…

on Thursday, 19 September 2013. Posted in Archives

Letters from soldiers, sailors and airmen of the First World War are often quite formal in their style and the things they say. But of all the hundreds of letters I have read from the archive over the past few weeks, most of the writers are united by one subject – the importance of socks.

To help you do your job, no matter how unpleasant, basic comforts are the priority. For the servicemen of the First World War, freezing a lot of the time in a trench, at sea or in the air, having warm dry feet was a daily challenge.

No unfairness intended, it just so happens that all of these letters are from the chaps. So far I have only found letters from service men.

Barrow Clump - more exciting finds in the second season!

on Friday, 02 August 2013. Posted in Archaeology

A couple of weeks ago, the archaeology team visited the Operation Nightingale excavations at Barrow Clump. This is the second season of excavations on this Scheduled Monument. I’m going to talk about our site visit, but if you would like to know more about Operation Nightingale generally or the Barrow Clump excavation specifically, there is more information here: http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/barrow-clump


This excavation is being undertaken because the barrow (which is one of a large cemetery of Bronze Age barrows) is being badly damaged by badgers. Previous excavations had revealed that, in addition to Bronze Age remains, the site had an Anglo-Saxon cemetery that included some high status burials. The excavations have Scheduled Monument Consent, which means that only the specifically agreed works can take place. The barrow is still scheduled and so unauthorised works, including metal detecting, is illegal.


The team visited on a beautiful, sunny day. The first thing we were shown was the earlier ring ditch that is inside (and covered by) the later Bronze Age barrow.

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