Friday, 12 June 2009

Digging Dad's Army begins

The first Digging Dad's Army Dig starts at Eaglesfield on Saturday and I went down there tonight to take some photographs to show you what the site looks like and also why Shooters Hill was so important during WW1 and WW2.

From the top of Eaglesfield looking east, you can not only see across into Kent, but also along the Thames Estuary as far as Dartford and into Essex. This was an exit route for Zeppelin Commanders heading back to the east coast after looping around the City and Westminster and it was Route One for the Luftwaffe's bomber force in 1940 and 41. Turn around and you see houses and trees and just a glimpse of The Gerkin and Nat West Tower in the City. The commercial heart of London and the British war effort.

Although the skyline in the first half of the twentieth century was very different, it is still scarily easy to imagine a dusk when, unlike last night, that fiery glow in the sky wasn't caused by a summer sunset.

In fact today, 12 June is the anniversary of the first V1 attack on London. The No 7 ZAA Battery on Shooters Hill had received intelligence about potential attacks by Pilotless Aircraft but when you read the war diary entry for that night there is a palpable sense of chaotic drama behind the clipped military prose.

The V1 anniversary won't receive the coverage of last weekends D-Day commemoration, but we should remember it because just as there seemed to be some hope of an end to the war in Europe, the civilian population of London suddenly found itself once again on its own front line while many of its fathers brothers and sons were fighting hedge to hedge in the Bocage.

We don't know yet what happened on the Barrage Balloon site at Eaglesfield that night, however, chances are in a few days it would be abandoned and the crews would be on the move, but that is a story for next week.

A team from Archaeophysica are going to lay out the trench array today [Friday]. I have just sent the method statement to English Heritage and we have our first booking from a school for the education programme, so it is all coming together. The next report will be from the excavation proper and that is quite a thought.

I can't help thinking of that old military adage though- "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." We have all done enough archaeology to know very few project designs survive first contact with what is actually under the ground either. But sorting that out is half the fun of it.

Andy B

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