Wednesday, 20 May 2009


We are now just a month away from the start of Digging Dad's Army proper so this seems like a good opportunity to send the DDA Project Blog rolling and to bring you up to date with a short "Situation Report," on the Digging Dad's Army Project and the Summer Fieldwork Programme which we have planned.

The idea is that we will produce a full DDA SITREP on the Blog from time to time, to keep you up to date with the development of the big picture, while adding other peoples thoughts and comments on anything and everything to do with DDA as and when...


We now have enough bookings for the Introduction to Conflict Archaeology, the Eaglesfield Dig, and Standing Buildings Course to make them financially viable, but we can continue to take bookings so please continue to publicise this through your contacts and if you are thinking of taking the plunge why not go for it?

It is really gratifying that people are interested both interested in the subject of Conflict Archaeology and willing to trust us to show them the way into it. The hope is that, in due course, the people signing up as students this Summer will come to be colleagues developing their own research as part of the DDA Project.

My only disappointment so far is, as might be expected I suppose, the ratio of men to women favours the men...we currently only have two women enrolled. This is a shame, but perhaps in the wider world, Conflict Arch is still seen as a "boys toys," sort of subject in spite of the work of many colleagues like Sarah Newsome at English Heritage, Renata Peters' forensic conservation at UCL and the women involved in our sister project, the Great War Archaeology Group, not to mention the vast contribution of women to the war effort and Home Front. Any ideas for broadening the up take are welcome.

Several people have taken advantage of the multiple booking discount we are offering so in marketing terms that seems to be working.

How we got here - Martin Roseveare of Archeophysica and students from Birkbeck College and the Negus Sixth Form Centre, Plumstead, survey at Eaglesfield Park in November 2008. Copyright Andy Brockman


We have outline permission to dig from the London Borough of Greenwich [LBG] and I am in the process of completing a Desktop and Project Design/Method Statement. We will be liaising with Mark Stevenson from English Heritage on this. Mark is the Archaeological Adviser for the borough and EH both at a London and National level have been very interested and supportive on this project. It is important we do this properly as Eaglesfield Park is situated in one of LBG's areas of High Archaeological Importance under its development plan.

We have identified several targets at the northern end of the Park relating to a known WW2 Barrage Balloon site, a known but lost, WW1 AAA Site, and a number of crop marks including a Zig Zag crop mark and a major North South Linear of unknown age and function [and no from the Geophyics it doesn't look like a pipe or service trench....].

Neil Faulkner, David Thorpe and I will be meeting on June 2nd to plan the final dig strategy and we will post it ASAP afterwards.

We will also be meeting LB Greenwich Parks Department on June 2nd, to sort out the housekeeping issues such as making good, health and safety etc, all very important as this is not archaeology behind builder's hoardings, but will in full view in a public park.

Site HQ will be at Shrewsbury House where we will have Mess and washing facilities plus a room for teaching when we need it. Kathy Bagnall, the administrator there, is very helpful in giving us a good deal on rooms and I think it is good for a community based archaeology project like us to be seen supporting an important local community centre. The fact that Shrewsbury House was the ARP Control Centre for Woolwich in WW2 and has a very early Cold War hardened control bunker in the garden is a bonus.


I went back to Creekside in Barking last week and took some photographs of the area of the former Experimental Flying Ground and Airship Shed for the Website and our records. The flat open ground on both sides of the Thames saw a lot activity on the part of early aviation pioneers before the First World War and Creekside is one of the most interesting.

In October 1909, Frederick Handley Page, founder of the first public company in Britain to build aircraft, advertised flying lessons at Barking in "Flight ," magazine. The advert notes the site included "artificial hills for gliding."

Handley Page moved out to Cricklewood in 1912 but the connection between Creekside and aviation was established.

Thanks to Martin Kender's work we have identified the Airship Shed which was built at Creekside, as the location of a store for debris from crashed Zeppelins while it underwent technical analysis, during the First World War.

Quite by accident I also found a map of the area in an overpriced book dated 1924, in the South Bank book market. The map shows a large rectangular building which is almost certainly the airship shed. If the survey was close to the printing date that suggests the shed may have survived for a period after WW1. The factory buildings which now cover the bulk of the site are, as you will see from the pictures, rather Art Deco and probably date to c1930 and what is probably the first wave of redevelopment at the site.

I will post a picture of the map if I can ever get my phone to talk to my computer and we will continue to research the Creekside site to see if it is a viable DDA fieldwork Project. The story of early aviation at Creekside, not least the Airship angle, should certainly be told. For example...

In an interesting comment on official secrecy and air power, that even before the outbreak of the First World War the British Government were very aware of the danger of reconnaissance by aircraft. In 1913 M Julien Lavasseur was arraigned in front of Bow Street Police Court under the provisions of the Aerial Navigation Acts 1911 and 1913, because he had...

"broken nearly every regulation made by the Home Secretary, and seemed to have done everything he ought not to have done."

Flight Magazine July 12 1913.

His crime was to have flown from near Paris to London without having informed the British Authorities in good time, passing over six or seven "Prohibited Areas," in the process. These prohibited areas including Barking Creek and the Experimental Flying Ground and Airship Shed, sensitive on account of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich which is just across the river. Lavasseur was bound over for F1000 and paid £5 5s costs. He apologised profusely and agreed to publicise the English Regulations in France and, if he did see any Weapons, of Mass Destruction or otherwise, he kept quiet about it.


It is a core principle of DDA that everything we do is open, accessible and accountable with an accent on education and outreach. In this case we will be having an "Open Day," at Eaglesfield Park on Saturday June 20th to tie in with a community consultation about the Park. We hope to run a tour of the Park, an overview of what we have done and have some attractions such as a public hands on trench and some living history work.


Dig policy on volunteering is the same which Neil has applied elsewhere such as Sedgeford. The only volunteers we are taking between 15 and 19 June at Eaglesfield are those with enough fieldwork experience to work unsupervised [including work with GWAG/GARP] and/or who can bring particular skills to the project i.e. Finds Management, human/animal bones analysis etc. We think that is fairest as we cannot have some people paying for training and others who are not.

We will need volunteers from GWAG and our colleagues at Bexley Archaeological Group [BAG] to help open the site up on Saturday/Sunday 13/14 June and also to work on the Open Day on 20 June. Exact times and numbers TBC by Andy, David and Neil.

Metal Detecting: We expect to use a controlled MD survey as part of the Eaglesfield Evaluation and we will be liaising with GWAG and the Portable Antiquities Scheme on this.

I aim to have the speakers for the Introductory Course booked by the end of this week coming, we have several already and I will post the running order as soon as it is fixed.


Coming soon - the DDA Web Site

Martin Roseveare and Roger Ward have handled the technical side of setting up the website and we have a domain registered and dummy front page in place. We are not live yet mostly on account of me not providing them with content- that I am about to remedy, so we should have things going by the beginning of June and be fully up and running by the time of the excavation so that people can follow the action on a day to day basis.

Roger will act as Web Master.

The website will be DDA's shop window, full of goodies to tempt you in. Everything from information about the latest fieldwork or documentary research to technical and popular reports, sound and video files and, of course, this Blog.

The intention is to also use the site for project admin and place the bulk of DDA's documentation on line to save trees and postage costs- i.e. People can download what they want and we will have a reference hard copy of things like the Health and Safety documentation and Field Manuals and Desktops with the site archive on site. We will create archival hard copies of reports for places which need them like the LAARC.


One of the joys of working on this project is the chance to meet and work with other people in the field. A few weeks ago I met a Lady called Eli Sanchez, through the good offices of Natalia Benjamin of the excellent Basque Children of 37 organisation. Eli was one of the 4000, Spanish children, most Basques, who were brought to England on board the SS Habana in May 1937, in the teeth of opposition from His Majesties Government [this was at the height of "appeasement" and the shameful policy of Non-intervention which allowed the European Dictatorships a free run supporting in Franco's rebellion] and even some on the Left who favoured isolationism or did not want to be seen supporting a Left Wing Government supported by Anarchists, Communists and Stalin's Soviet Union. It is one of the great stories of grass roots humanitarian activism along with the later Kinder Transport of Jewish Children escaping Nazi Germany and annexed Austria.

Natalia and I interviewed Eli on Camera and she also showed us some terrific photographs of her time as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War as well as pulling us up short with some of her recollections- such as the Fascist Secret Police knocking on the door in the middle of the night searching for her father who was a Carpenter with the Republican Army. Eli and her siblings lived at the Co-Op owned Shornells House in Abbey Wood from 1937-1944 and she is the last survivor of the 20 children who lived in the Shornells "Colony" still living in England.

One thought growing out of this contact is to make Refugee and Evacuee Children a core element of the DDA study and outreach programme as this is a way we can tie historical study very much into the present day as a community and citizenship issue- the Boroughs DDA is focusing on have large populations of Refugee people and Asylum seekers.

One possibility we are currently exploring is a Training Day and Resource Pack for Teachers looking at Refugee and Evacuee Children Past and Present. It is often forgotten that the evacuations from the bombing by the Condor Legion and that bombing itself, pre-figured and informed the UK Government's planning for "Operation Pied Piper," at the outbreak of WW2 and that early 1939 also saw the Kinder Transport of Jewish Children escaping Nazi Germany and Austria.

We will be researching this over the next few months so watch this space.

We are also going to be working with Crown Woods School, a local State Comprehensive, who are conducting a project looking at Eltham in Wartime, as part of their Key Stage Three studies. We are really pleased to be able to support this kind of innovative cross curriculum work.


21 May: 8pm The Shooters Hill History Group: "Past and Future Archaeological Work at Eaglesfield Park"- Andy Brockman. Shrewsbury House Shooters Hill.

31 May Imperial War Museum, London, 2pm: Matt Richards' recent film 'The Brits Who Fought for Spain.'

13-14 June: Zeppelins, Andersons and Ack Ack: An introduction to Conflict Archaeology- Shrewsbury House, Shooters Hill.
Site Preparation at Eaglesfield Park TBC.

15-19 June: Eaglesfield Park Training Excavation. Visitors Welcome at anytime but please let us know in advance The main site mobile will be Andy Brockman's [07958 543518].

20 June: 09.30-18.00 Eaglesfield Park Open Day and Making Good [possibly continuing into 21 June].

20-21 June: Recording Standing Buildings Training Course: Oxleas Wood. Case Study: The Oxleas Wood Air Raid Shelter Group.

27 June: 13.00-16.00: Friends of Shrewsbury Park Open Day- including Geophy's Live with Archaeophysica, We are looking for the LCC Open Air School but the Park was also home to another of 901 County of London BB Squadron's Balloon sites and Andy B will be mounting an exhibition and leading a walk looking at the history of the Park.

4 July , Jubilee Gardens, London, 1pm: Annual commemoration of the International Brigades organised by the International Brigades Memorial Trust at the IB Memorial in Jubilee Gardens next to the London Eye and County Hall.
Our colleagues from the La Columna Living History Group will be there organising the Aid For Spain Effort at their "Picnic and Protest." This is a more than usually resonant event this year as one of the last British Brigaders, Jack Jones, died a few weeks ago reminding us as to why we need to include and record the human element of Conflict Archaeology before it is too late.

Thanks again to everyone for your interest, support and work on this and as always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome on the BLOG or elsewhere. DDA is a People Project about the People's War and I think DDA is turning into something very exciting indeed.


  1. Hi Roger.

    My english is poor, so sorry for my wrong expressions.

    I´m one of the 20 children at Shornell´s grandson. I´m looking for information about the stay of my grandfather in England.

    Probably next year, I´m going to visit Shornell´s and libraries searching newspapers articles and photos about that colony.

    I know that one of the children of that colony was Pirmin Trecu, that he joined the Royal Ballet at the House Covent Garden... There is no so much information.

    But I see you have had an interview with Eli Sanchez... there is any possibility to speak with her or give me some contact??

    It would be incredibly interesting, speaking with her, looking photos...

    Thank you so much in advance.
    Arkaitz Uribe

  2. Hi

    Many thanks for your comment and interest. I will pass it on to Andy Brockman who wrote the text for this blog entry and ask him to contact you.

    He is away for a couple of weeks but I'm sure he will be in touch on his return.

    Many thanks and best of luck with your research