Monday 11 May 2015


It was a story which captivated the world’s media in 2012 and even attracted the support of British Prime Minister, David Cameron in talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein and members of the Digging Dad's Army Team were at the center of the story:

Did the Royal Air Force bury iconic Spitfire fighters in Burma on the orders of Lord Louis Mountbatten at the end of World War Two, as claimed by Lincolnshire Farmer and aviation enthusiast David Cundall?
In the Autumn of 2012, international computer gaming company engaged a world-class team of independent archaeologists and geophysicists, to travel to Yangon International Airport, the former RAF Mingaladon, to work with Mr Cundall and a local Myanmar company in an attempt to “ground-truth” the legend of the buried Spitfires of Burma and find a solution to the mystery.

Now you can read the official archaeological report on the archival research and fieldwork which investigated the buried Spitfires myth via "Heritage Daily"

You can read the report on-line or download your own copy.

The Report is free but the authors ask anyone downloading a copy to make a donation to the Royal British Legion.

Tuesday 27 May 2014


 [Photographs Copyright Andy Brockman/Operations Room Archaeology:  all rights reserved]

The former Gas Decontamination Station at Furze Lodge on Shooters Hill, one of the sites recorded in the original Digging Dad's Army survey of the defended landscape on Shooters Hill, south east London, has now been redeveloped as 12 flats. 

The north approach ramp has been removed, but unlike many developments which simply demolish wartime buildings, the core of the building was retained in the new scheme and an interpretation board was added as a planning condition by Greenwich Council.

The board, pictured above, was researched and written by Andy Brockman of the Digging Dad's Army Project.


Digging Dad's Army team members Andy Brockman and Rod Scott are in the process of setting up a new community based project to look at the development of the defensive landscape of East Kent.

This follows a pilot project funded by Kent County Council and the Art and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] which we undertook in the Summer of 2013 with Historian Sian Edwards of the University of Sussex.

More news as the new project develops.


You can see the entire "Warbirds into Woks" presentation exploring the story of the Burma Spitfires expedition and the use of Conflict Archaeology to explore this fascinating urban myth on You Tube

Monday 17 June 2013



Since we last blogged about Digging Dad's Army members of the Team have been involved in a number of Projects in Britain and abroad.

In January 2013 Andy Brockman and Rod Scott went to Myanmar/Burma as part of the Burma Spitfires Project, sponsored by the international online wargaming company, with Andy as Lead Archaeologist and Rod as Field Archaeologist and Historic Ammunition Specialist.
Defended Barracks on the main road into Yangon [Rangoon]
[Copyright:  Andy Brockman]

In a story which attracted worldwide attention the team, which also included Principal Field Archaeologist Martin Brown of the Plugstreet Project and Geophysicists, Dr Roger Clarke and Andy Merritt of Leeds University and Dr Adam Booth of Imperial College,  were able to use field archaeology on former RAF Mingaladon, now Yangon International Airport, to corroborate their conclusions based on detailed work in the archives, that the story that up to 36 Spitfire aircraft were buried in Burma [now Myanmar] at the end of World War Two is nothing more than a captivating urban myth.

                                    Andy Merritt and Dr Adam Booth at Yangon International Airport
                                                                                [Copyright:  Andy Brockman]

This expedition was the first time where the common myth of buried iconic objects, such as the Spitfires, has been examined scientifically.

If you want to hear the story from the team themselves there is a free presentation at the RAF Museum Hendon on Wednesday 19 June at 7.30pm

Sign up for tickets for the Hendon Presentation here

The presentation will also be made available on line the next day for people who cannot get to Hendon on the night.

A surviving Pill Box at Sarre 
[Copyright:  Andy Brockman]

Andy and Rod have also been working with Dr Paul Cuming of Kent County Council Heritage Group and Sian Edwards of Sussex University on a community history project centered on the village of Sarre in East Kent.

The village was identified of being of major importance by the Defence of Britain Project and Sian was given funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to undertake a pilot study to look at the feasibility of  undertaking a wider project in the Sarre area.

One immediate benefit of the programme is a self guide leaflet enabling visitors to explore for themselves the defences of Sarre starting and ending at the village pub!  The leaflet is being launched in September.

We also spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Years 5 and 6 at Monkton Primary School where we talked about how World War Two would have impacted on the lives of their predecessors and they shared with us the work they have already done on Monkton in WOrld War Two,  including showing us a Police report regarding an air raid on Manston Airfield on 14 August 1940 which killed two residents of Sarre and damaged the school.

The report was not available anywhere else and the school had a copy thanks to its place as a focus for local families over many years as it was donated by the family of the Police Sergeant who wrote it and who were connected to the school.  Yet more proof, as if it were needed, of the importance of looking not just in the formal documentary and media archives, but in those priceless archives which exist in the community.

The team are now making plans to take the work on and undertake a more detailed study.


Thanks to the discovery of a Foreign Office document in the National Archive at Kew by our friends at SE9 Magazine DDA are able to undertake a detailed community based study of the Prisoner of War Camp, Working Camp 1020 which took over the site of the disused ZAA Rocket Battery on Shooters Hill Golf Course in 1946.

In addition to details about "Denazification" the document give the names and places of origin of a number of the leading prisoners in the camp and, thanks to this,  it is hoped that we will be able to look at the lives and attitudes of some of the former prisoners alongside the study of the place of the camp and its guards and prisoners in the lives of the community of Shooters Hill and Welling.

The project is being undertaken in collaboration with post GCSE Students at Colfe's School in Lewisham and runs through the Summer.

Friday 25 May 2012

DDA MAY 2012


Since we last Blogged about Digging Dad's Army we have seen the passing of David Croft-  co-creator with Jimmy Perry of the iconic TV series which gave us our name.

Aside from noting the passing of someone who helped create a piece of TV History and in so doing rescued for the public and future generations a strand of important Social History; we also note that inevitably the number of people in our communities who have a first hand experience of the conflicts, the archaeology of which we try to record, is becoming smaller.

That should be a spur to us to hold and record those conversations and introduce those people whose generation experienced conflict in all its forms to the young people who will carry the memory of thier experience forward into their own sense of identity and history.

As a footnote to the death of Mr Croft, last Spring [2011] Andy Brockman of DDA was delighted to be able to help in the research for the episode of the BBC's "Reel History of Britain" about the Home Guard and as always for the public the starting point of the programme was the perception of the Home Guard created by "Dad's Army."


A number of Conflict Archaeologists, including members of the DDA Team, have been involved in supporting Operation Nightingale.  A brilliantly simple new project developed by archaeologist [and Medical Sgt] Diarmaid Walshe of 1 Rifles and Richard Osgood and Martin Brown at the Historic Environment Advisory Team at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and designed to use archaeology as a tool to help rehabilitate servicepeople with mental or physical injuries.

Since the first pilot excavation at East Chisenbury Midden on Salisbury Plain last September the project has taken off in a way no-one could have predicted, with one TV documentary in the can and another in the offing and with excavations and fieldwork taking place in Sussex, on Portland Bill, with the Town Unearthed Project at the Folkestone Villa and at Caerwent on an incredible Roman building first excavated by Antiquarians whose finds and notes have since been lost.

The project has seen  servicemen and women working in archaeology, often for the first time, alongside professional archaeologists and students delivering new data which would not have been obtained in any other way-  especially at East Chisenbury, but also pioneering new approaches to the excavation of air crash sites- and most importantly making life better for people who have often experienced life changing events.

The project has been supported by Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Wessex Archaeology and the University of Leicester and has seen effects ranging from soldiers who are now about to start degrees in archaeology having never considered it before last September and, perhaps most important of all, soldiers who have said the experience of doing archaeology was so positive they have had their first good nights sleep since returning from Theatre.

The success of Op Nightingale probaly also offers lessons in how archaeology can offer far more than just new knowledge about the past.


In addition to preparing reports, we are currently preparing two weekend projects under the DDA Banner for 2012, one for the Festival of British Archaeology in July and another for the Heritage Open Days in September.

Both are community based and focus on community responses to the threat and reality of Air Raids.

Details soon on this Blog.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Discovering Churchill's underground army

Join archaeologists and other volunteers as they search for evidence of the headquarters

and training grounds of Churchill's secret Auxiliary Units at Coleshill House in Wiltshire.

An earlier evaluation weekend has already located the remains of previously unknown

structures in the woodlands where the men would have trained, along with various finds

including a very well preserved bayonet. Come and be part of our first season and reveal

even more of the lives of the men who trained here.

For further information visit

To book a place contact Richard Alexander at

Minimum attendance for this first season of the Coleshill Uncovered project is 3 days, with

the induction day of Sunday 3rd July a must for all volunteers.

Dates: 3-7 July 2011
Cost: £75 flat fee. Day rate = £20 per day
Coleshill House, Wiltshire