Saturday, 13 November 2010

Aside - an essential tool..

... and some stop line/standing building references.

Anyone want to buy a hat?



Thursday, 21 October 2010

DDA After Action Report: Summer 2010

Eaglesfield Park EFP09

In June we were back at Eaglesfield Park to complete the evaluation of the World War One anti aircraft gun position.

The objective this year was to obtain the full dimensions of the gun platform and assess its state of preservation with a view to possibly getting it put on display, or at least getting it interpreted for the public at some point in the future.

We had a smaller student team than last year, perhaps that is down to the recession, which meant we were restricted to working on the gun platform itself, but the results were still impressive and useful.

It is now clear that the whole footprint of the gun platform remains in situ.  It looks as if attempts were made to remove it as the top of the slab has been broken up on the north east side, but it seems this was rapidly given up as a bad job and the site was abandoned.

In terms of phasing it still looks as if we probably have two WW1 phases with the second hold fast cut into the original platform.  There is currently no documentary evidence for the change, but there is a suspicion that the weapon fit was changed when responsibility for the Anti Aircraft Defences in London switched from the Navy to the Army under Field Marshall Lord French, in early 1916.

We also picked up telephone cables hinting at the command and control system in place at Eaglesfield and possibly also hinting where the Battery Office/Command Post might have been situated.  We still don't have the location of any of the ancillery elements of the site which actually enabled it to function, the CP, ready use ammunition storage location and the accomodition [and probably the Latrines] for the duty crew.
Eaglesfield AA Gun Site

We will be carrying out more research and producing the archive report of the excavation so far, this Autumn.

Thanks to the regular DDA team and particularly to our students and volunteers, Rachel, Naomi, William and Richard.  Also to our friends in the local community, particularly the Eaglesfield Neighbourhood Watch, the Friends of Eaglesfield Park and the Shooters Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team.

OSTERLEY PARK OSP10 Osterley Park wasn't strictly a DDA Project, the idea to mount a project at Osterley was around before DDA existed and Osterley is in west London rather than in DDA's more regular patch in south east London.  However I am including it here because, first and foremost it is a fascinating site, but also because it reflects my ideal way of working and a way of working which I hope DDA can develop.  That is working in a collegiate way with not just fellow archaeologists, but also groups interested in interpretation and education and being innovative in bringing the story to the public and giving it a future life.  So, when we are normally dealing with concrete and slit trenches, why were we at a Stately Home with Adam interiors and a wonderful Tudor Stable Block?

Home Guard School Number One at Osterley Park is one of those stories you couldn't make up.  Where else would your average patriotic middle class Briton, gather for a weekend course in guerrilla warfare taught by the former commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigades, "Basque Bombers," a Russian Spy, a Surrealist Painter who used images of his partner to demonstrate camouflage and the Boy Scout Movement's Head of Fieldcraft.

But not only is Osterley a fantastic story and one of the most remarkable to come out of that remarkable Summer of 1940.  It is right there at the heart of the debate about how to employ the Home Guard and how to counter the new mechanised warfare of Blitzkrieg.  However, perhaps surprisingly the site of the school, while an iconic one to researchers looking at the Home Guard and often appearing  in documentaries, most recently Andrew Marr's "History of Modern Britain," has not been looked at archaeologically before.  We set out to change that with a crack digging team drawn from both DDA and our colleagues from "No Man's Land," specialists in Great War archaeology who have vast experience in digging training areas and front line trenches in the UK, France and Belgium including Rob Jannaway of the University of Bradford and a leading forensic finds conservator.

Because it is DDA Policy not to excavate on a known military site where ammunition and explosives might be present we also included No Mans Land and DDA Archaeologist and EOD Operator Rod Scott, as our Safety cover.

That would have made for a rewarding weekend in its own right.  However what made Osterley so special was the fact we were able to tie the archaeology to real time Living History in a partnership which dates back to the origins of the Project.

For me the Osterley Park 70th Anniversary Project began life back in 2006 when I interviewed a Home Guard veteran, the late Geoff Pendergast, who recorded that his father had attended the Home Guard School at Osterley Park and had been taught explosives by a "Spaniard."

Geoff recalled his father saying "The Spaniard is a good explosives man but one day he will make a mistake."  Because of this, and because I was also researching the involvement of people from Greenwich and Woolwich with the Aid Spain  Movement and Basque refugee children in the period of the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, I had also begun working with "La Columna," an excellent Living History group who specialise in impressions of the Spanish Civil War and the Aid Spain Movement.  Veterans of the  Spanish Civil War were intimately associated with Osterley Park making developing a project there something of a a "no brainer."

La Columna have taken part in, and latterly organised, a living history event at Osterley Park every year on the anniversary of the opening of the Home Guard School Number One and this year, the 70th Anniversary fell on Saturday 10 July, the actual anniversary to the day of the first intake of students, so La Columna and the National Trust who own the site, planned a special anniversary re-creation of what went on at Osterley during that momentous Summer of 1940.

This represented a opportunity to tie commemoration of the HG School to the anniversary of the founding of the Home Guard and to look at something which had never been looked at before archaeologically.  We submitted a project design to the National Trust for an evaluation of the surviving archaeology of the Home Guard School and several drafts and site meetings later we were granted a licence and so the archaeology team gathered on site on Friday 9 July.

The weather over the anniversary weekend was baking hot, which was wonderful for the visitors, but less so for the diggers, particularly as one of our trenches turned out to be on top of a wasp nest, but even so we managed to stay in one piece, un-stung and to produce some archaeology.

With only a limited evaluation possible an area which was believed to contain practice trenches was selected and our colleagues from the Bexley Archaeology Group attempted an indicative resistivity survey to augment a close study of the topography and its relationship with 1940 photographs and newsreel and air photographs from 1942-1944.

However, in spite of heroic efforts in a limited space and on uneven ground, the resistivity survey failed to identify more than a possible area of disturbance.  When we put in the two evaluation trenches we found out why.

Having hacked through at least 30cm of hardcore probably left over from the construction of the M4 [Note to the Project Manager-  next time book a mini digger] we did come down on what may be the 1940 ground surface, and a possible 1940 cut feature in the second of our evaluation trenches.

The archaeology from such a short lived period in the site's history was always going to be ephemeral, but careful excavation by Cat', Martin, Bev and Brian suggests we may have picked up at least the base of one of Tom Wintringhams practice trenches and we have certainly identified the main practice area of HG School number one.

Like Eaglesfield there was little in the way of small finds although there were some fragments of brass, possibly shell case and Roger identified a possible artifact scatter in an area of interest for next time.

We are committed to producing the Desk Top Study and Report by Christmas and there will also be a video so watch this space.  It is also becoming clear that, HG School No 1 apart,  Osterley Park has a significant amount of additional surviving Conflict Archaeology and had a significant life in both World Wars encompassing the Army Service Corps, POW Camps and Army and Home Guard Training as well as the odd Luftwaffe bomb and anti invasion defences areas which will be addressed in the desktop study and which can hopefully could be developed as a long term study.

Thanks to Bev Bailey, Ali Baldry [who turned out on her birthday and above and beyond the call of duty on the morning after too!], Martin Brown, Cat Edwards, Mark Khan,  Brian Powell, Rod Scott [mention in dispatches for being on site on a week after major back surgery], and Roger Ward on the dig team; Rob Jannaway on finds; Pip, Martin, Clare and the Bexley Archaeology Group for attempting Geophysics under very difficult conditions; Martin,  Anne and the team from Archaeopysica Ltd and Angie Jobson and Derek Smith on the video; and not least all to the staff and volunteer team from the National Trust who let us come and play at such a remarkable site.  We could not have been made more welcome.


For the NT the whole thing was coordinated by Emily Toecher, Karina Swann of the Osterley Park management team and, on the archaeology side, by Gary Marshall of the Trust's regional archaeology team and the National Trust press office co-ordinated a number of TV and Radio spots which meant we were able to bring the weekend to a wider audience, including the viewers of British Forces TV, where ever in the world they are stationed.

4.43pm September 7 2010

September 7th was the 70th anniversary of "Black Saturday" the first day of the Blitz on London, an event which would leave a permanent mark on the City and by the time the last V2 fell in March 1945 would kill over 20,000 Londoners.

All Summer we have been running a partnership called "Digging The Blitz" with our colleagues at Firepower- the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich Arsenal combining our archaeology, shown in a video diary, with the collections of Firepower and Greenwich Heritage Centre. As part of DTB we decided that it was important to mark the anniversary as close to the time and place it started and in a way which allowed people of all ages to simply remember and reflect in the way they chose.

We decided that simplicity was the most appropriate way to approach the event and so we invited anyone who wanted to take part to join us for two minutes silence at 4.43pm, seventy years to the minute since the sirens sounded for that first deliberate raid on targets in London.

The afternoon was full of resonances.

The silence was begun by Steve Hookins of Firepower who sounded an original hand cranked air raid siren wearing his grandfathers ARP Overall and whistle and it was ended by members of the Royal Artillery recently returned from Afghanistan, firing a salute to all the victims of the Blitz where ever they were, from a WW2 vintage 25 pounder field gun from the Firepower collection.

The gathering included the deputy Mayor of Greenwich, Cllr Jim Gillman, himself a wartime evacuee from the Isle of Dogs and three generations of one family, the oldest an eye witness to the events of that Saturday afternoon whose mother had been a worker under the bombs at Woolwich Arsenal and the youngest who was studying the war and evacuees in Primary School.

You could not really have a better illustration of why the Archaeology of Modern Conflict and communicating it to the wider public, is so important.
Sheila Manix, five years old when the blitz started summed up the human response to such an awe inspiring exhibition of Total War and perhaps of the victims of war of every generation and nationality when she told the "Greenwich Time" reporter who covered the event...

"There was tremendous camaraderie, but it really was Hell and absolutely horrible."

DDA Sitrep

One of the best things about being involved in a Project like Digging Dad's Army is the possibility of making connections and letting the research take off in directions led by the evidence we are discovering and the enthusiasm of colleagues.

Aside from our first published reports we are currently looking forward to hearing about Stuart Dickson's research at Teddington and Richard and Theresa Emmett's work in the borough archive at Greenwich Heritage Center and I hope there will be more to come.

Of course research is useless if it is not published and made accessible.  That means publishing and this Autumn we have another avenue for publication in the new magazine MILITARY TIMES, edited by our own Dr Neil Faulkner.

"Military Times" is a joint venture between Current Publishing of "Current Archaeology" and "Current World Archaeology" and Chelsea Magazine Company who specialise in consumer magazines.  The new title is available in the high street [I picked up my copy in W H Smiths and another colleague found his in Sainsbury's] and by subscription with a not inconsiderable 35% saving at
DDA must remain impartial so, as the BBC always says, other magazines are available, but it is a brave venture to launch any magazine in the current financial climate and a plurality of voices is clearly important in an area as popular and growing as fast as the archaeology of modern conflict.  Particularly a voice which, like MT if the launch issue's discussion of the origins of irregular warfare, Lawrence of Arabia and the Taliban is anything to go by,  recognises that the events of the past also have resonance in the present, a factor that we as researchers and communicators forget that at our peril.

And on that note, David Cameron has just used the formula "Your Country Needs You!" in his speech to the Tory Party Conference.  Having already come a cropper over his less than accurate allusions to the Anglo US relationship in World War Two perhaps someone should have reminded him of what happened to the Kitchener volunteers who answered that call the first time it was made.  On 1 July 1916 they took part in a certain action in the Somme, the most disasterous day in the history of the British Army.


English Heritage is appealing for the return of a torpedo hatch stolen from the protected wreck HMS Holland V six miles off the Sussex coast.

You can find more details about the theft at...

...but here is an extract which gets to the core of why catching the thief and returning the torpedo hatch is important.

"Diver Jamie Smith, who holds a visit licence for the site, said that he was “saddened and shocked” at the removal by “the few that tend to spoil it for the many”.

“This is not a diving trophy from the deep but a historic piece of protected wreck,” he said. “Please return it.”

He added: “If you wish to dive the wreck you can apply for a visitor’s permit; this is not too complicated. You can then dive her and take your memories home with you.”

English Heritage is appealing to the “diving community for help in locating this important piece of theHolland 5”.

Those who think that they may have useful information are asked to contact Sussex Police or Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111."

MOVEMENT ORDERS DDA members and blog readers might be interested in these forthcoming events.
Our Colleagues from Osterley Park , La Columna have an event at Firepower on Saturday and Sunday 23 and 24 October.  If you have not met them yet please go along and discover where Living History meets Conflict Archaeology.

La Columna at Firepower- The Royal Artillery Museum

Britons in the Spanish Civil War

Saturday and Sunday 23-24 October- 10.30-17.00

Nearest public transport:  53 Bus to Woolwich from Central London, Woolwich Arsenal overground from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, via London Bridge and Woolwich Arsenal DLR

Free entry to the fully licenced cafe

Museum entry charges may apply

La Columna is one of the UK's most experienced living history groups.  They set out to celebrate and commemorate one of the most important, but little known stories of 20th century Europe, the Spanish Civil War and the thousands of volunteers who went to Spain to help the Spainish people confront Fascism between 1936 and 1939.

This weekends impression of the life of the volunteers will be set in 1938 around the time of the Battle of the Ebro and La Columna will demonstrate the clothing and equipment of the British Battalion of the International Brigades

 as well as the activities of the many thousands of ordinary Britons made financial or material donations as part of the Aid Spain movement.

Digger of La Columna explains how to deny your enemy the
 use of a bridge on a previous visit to Firepower in 2008

This weekend is part of the Firepower "Nine Days in History" programme-  see the Firepower Website for details

Monday, 13 September 2010

Modern Conflcit Archaeology Conference

The programme for the Modern Conflict Archaeology Conference to be held at Bristol University on October 23rd has just been published and can be seen by clicking HERE 
There is a link at the top of Blog page to enable you to sign up for receiving further details.

John Winterburn

Friday, 16 July 2010

Sutton Green Air Raid Shelters (re-)Discovered

An interesting snippet from the BBC. They report that council workers in Sutton have (quite literally) stumbled across the remains of communal air raid shelters on Sutton Green after a partial collapse of the buried roof.

See full story at:

This includes a nice AP showing the structure outlined in dry weather.

If anyone has any photos or recollections of this structure then they are asked to contact Kath Shawcross of Sutton's Archive Collection on 020 8770 4745.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy's poem marking the deaths of Henry Allingham and Harry Patch

Last Post by Carol Ann Duffy

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud ...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Segdeford Aerodrome places still available for 2010 season

Places are still available for this years field season at the Sedgeford Aerodrome in Norfolk.

We currently plan to investigate and record the visible remains of several areas of buildings identified as being related to the First World War use of the aerodrome. In addition we will be investigating an area that seems to have been used as a dump. This will involve the excavation and collection of a range of material culture. The plan is to set up a finds processing station within the building that housed the Officers Quarters during the First World War.

We will be running two volunteer weeks for experienced diggers and a one week course as an introduction to Modern Conflict Archaeology.  

Volunteer week 1 - Sun 11 July - Fri 16 July:

MCA course - Sun 18 July - Fri 23 July (more details can be found at here.

Volunteer week 2 - Sun 25 July - Fri 30 July:

An application form can be downloaded from the SHARP website by clicking here

See the GWAG bulletins for a quick round-up of what happened at the Aerodrome in 2009. Link here

Friday, 4 June 2010

"Teddington Lock in Wartime"

Research to reveal effect of enemy action on strategic Thames lock

As part of the Thames Discovery Programme’s “Thames at War” project I am researching the history and effects of bombing raids (including V1 and V2 rockets) directly on the River Thames upstream of the LCC area – particularly around Teddington Lock.

Teddington Lock is the highest point the tidal Thames reaches so the effect downstream of its breach or destruction would have been sizeable. There is no direct evidence that the lock itself was specifically targeted - unlike raids directed at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington - as it is believed that reports of attempts on this target would have been suppressed by the government.

Appeal for evidence

To aid my research I would welcome anyone who has (or knows someone who has) memories or information about when the raids were, what damage was done, what damage (or repairs) are still visible and what was the impact on and reactio of the local population getting in touch with me at


"The Thames at War"

TDP launches initiative to record wartime damage to London's artery

On Saturday 22 May the Thames Discovery Programme ( hosted a one day seminar at UCL on the subject of "The Thames at War" - a main theme of the group's Riverpedia research programme this year.

A keen and attentive audience - crossing all ages - were treated to a series of informative presentations in the morning and the choice of three workshops in the afternoon.

First up, Project Director Gustav Milne set the scene. He advised that the research was aimed at recording "London's war as seen from the Thames by those who worked by or on the river".

Interesting imagery and anecdotes gave a clear view of the importance of the Thames and the many threats it faced - and not only during wartime (I certainly wasn't aware of the 1928 flood and the damage caused). A result of this was the appointment of a new LCC Chief Engineer in 1930 - the remarkable Thomas Peirson Frank.

With war looming, Frank prepared the capital for protection against the effects of flooding - one of the four main threats envisaged (invasion, aerial bombing and gas attack were the others). After much preparatory research (done in secret so as not to alarm the populace or give 'the enemy' notice of weak points) one of the resultant actions was the setting up of four Thames Flood Depots at Battersea Park, Southwark Park, the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich. The depots' role was to provide personnel and materials for the swift repair of any damage caused to the Thames riverwall by enemy action. With 121 such strikes recorded between 1939 and 1945 (80 during the 1940-41 Blitz alone), they were kept busy. Despite their sterling work during the war they have been largely forgotten since.

However, the recent discovery in the Metropolitan Archives of a logbook recording each incident and description of the repairs undertaken (either Emergency, Temporary or Permanent) meant that their works could be researched and given the acknowledgement they rightfully deserve after so many years. This set the stage for one of the afternoon sessions.

TDP's Sue Harrington then described the work of the Museum of London archives - a valuable resource for the TDPs research. During her presentation she made a call for images and recollections of women at work on the Thames - a little explored area of research.

TDP Archaeology Outreach Officer Lorna Richardson then expanded on this theme by talking about women at work on the Thames during wartime. I'm sure it came as a surprise to many of those present to learn that - despite not being allowed to serve in combat roles - women did serve in the Home Guard (under the guise of the Womens' Home Guard Auxiliary) and an organisation called the Womens' Home Defence League.

If anyone can help unearth more about these remarkable women then please feel free to contact either Sue or Lorna at

Andy Brockman (Project Director of the Digging Dads Army (DDA) project) then gave an insight into the military related goings-on on the Thames around and just past Woolwich. The Woolwich Arsenal was a major munitions plant in WWII and at one point the largest factory in Europe, employing over 70,000 workers. It was therefore obviously a major target for the Luftwaffe.

One particular area of interest that Andy noted is around Tripcock Ness (also known as Margaret Ness). This is an area of interest due to its relationship to the Woolwich Arsenal. It was here that large armaments and munitions were loaded on to barges (most remarkably the 'Gog' and 'Magog') to be taken down the river for unloading and testing at Shoeburyness. The reason that this will be of interest to DDA members is that Andy is working hard to get a DDA event for late summer in place. News of progress will be posted on the DDA blog (

Another DDA stalwart, Guy Taylor, then took us on a mystery tour of the lower Thames in search of the "missing Great War bridge". Guy first stumbled across mention of this bridge whilst researching another project in the National Archives. Such is Guy's inquisitive nature that it didn't take him long before he was off on its trail.

He narrowed its possible location to around Tilbury / Gravesend. He then found out that it was a floating bridge made from 70 lighters and 14 inch timbers (the width dimensions being demonstrated during the presentation with the willing participation of various members of the audience!) and was originally envisaged as a 'short cut' for troop movement between Essex and Kent - circumventing the London metropolis.

Recent unearthing of photos of this temporary structure (it only remained in place for the duration of the war before being dismantled) has led Guy to accurately place its location. His next objective is a visit to Gravesend to see what, if any, evidence remains of its existence. In case you were wondering (as we all were on the day) - a 600 foot centre section of bridge could be moved to allow vessels through. Very helpful given the location!

Gabrial Moshenska (UCL) gave the day an academic view of the work we were there to understand. His overview introduced us to the different types of archaeology we were getting involved with - from battlefield to conflict to industrial to public to heritage & commemorative. Even rescue archaeology! It certainly opened my eyes to the sheer variety of disciplines that our research will touch upon.

He promoted the variety of resources we could call upon - citing Civil Defence infrastructure as one that has been little used. One real example he gave was the recent survey of flood doors on the tube network. Something else I had never considered but once mentioned was obvious. What else was out there?

With his academic viewpoint he made the supposition that the Thames at War theme would lend itself perfectly to a formal research programme. Even, at some point in the future, to some form of commemoration of the people and events it reveals.

After enjoying the beautiful weather outside of the lecture theatre during lunch, DDA's UXO (unexploded ordnance) specialist Rod Scott gave an overview of what to be aware of whilst on the foreshore. However, as an experienced archaeologist, Rod was keen not only to raise our awareness of the dangers of UXO but also to educate us as to why such collections (aka assemblage) can play a key role in dating a site and understanding its use. (He also kindly introduced us to the correct definition and usage of word ‘spalling’.)

Following Rod’s talk, three workshops were offered:

  • "Military litter - its place in the archaeological record" – lead by Guy Taylor
  • "Why bother with concrete when we've got the documents: What can Conflict Archaeology contribute to the TDP?"– lead by Andy Brockman
  • "Thames Flood Emergency Repair Units: what evidence still exists?" – lead by Gustav Milne
I attended Gustav’s session.

Following on from his presentation in the morning, the group set about determining a plan of action that would enable research on river wall incidents around each of the four Thames Flood Depots to be undertaken. After poring over bomb damage maps annotated with estimated locations of each incident, each attendee of the group volunteered to be a member of a depot (Battersea in my case). Each group will attempt to find and record what evidence still exists at each identified event site. I will keep you posted!

The event concluded with a Q&A session.
In summary, another great TDP day. Thanks to Nathalie, Lorna and Gustav for arranging it and continuing to advance the objectives of the project.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

GARP places still available for 2010 season

Quite a few DDA folk also work on the GARP project in Jordan - so here is a plug on their behalf!

Places still available on GARP 2010 dig - see main web site for info.

or click below for the prospectus

Monday, 19 April 2010

DDA SITREP - The Summer 2010 Programme

So now it can be told... this weeks episode of the BBC's "Doctor Who," showed, the Battle of Britain was actually a dastardly attempt by the Daleks to entrap the Doctor and create a new "Master Race," in colour coordinated Art Deco.

Personally, I think it is entirely appropriate that one of the first extended references in the media to this year's 70th Anniversary of that momentous Summer of 1940 is on, what is probably, Britain's best loved family drama. The knowing references to War Films from "Where Eagles Dare" to "Star Wars," the visual referencing of the raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima and the inclusion of that unmistakable piece of kinetic sculpture, the Spitfire, performing a victory roll as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere, only goes to show how World War Two still pervades our popular culture and consciousness and how, even when people don't necessarily consciously want to remember, they just do.

Our own work this Summer will be slightly less of a romp than this weekends adventure, but I hope in its way it will mark and inform our understanding of how the most intense, sometimes terrible, always remarkable, period in modern British History, is written in the memories of people and in the archaeological record, particularly here in south east London.

We are planning events and activities designed to explore all the principle events of the Summer and Autumn of 1940, from the return of the BEF from Dunkirk and the desperate attempts to put some form of defence together in the face of a probable invasion, through the formation of the LDV/Home Guard in June with its million and a half volunteers within six weeks, to the Battle of Britain and the start of the sustained terror which was the Blitz on London. The moment when the daily fear of invasion began to give way to the more long drawn out fear of bombing.

We will be researching more of London Anti Invasion Stop Line B; looking at Home Guard Training and at the Anti Aircraft and ARP Services. Neither will we be forgetting the personal response by individual families building their own air raid shelters, or heading for the public provision in shops, parks and streets.

As always with "The Digging Dad's Army Project," we will be making a concerted attempt to make the work accessible through Open Days, Living History and Educational Activities involving our colleagues in various local schools and we also want to provide a more direct way of getting involved in the research.

To do that, we are working on a new Project with our colleagues at the "Thames Discovery Programme" and looking forward to November we will once again he helping facilitate the Birkbeck College Archaeological Geophysics Course which is led by our "House" Geophysics Team, Archaeophysica.

We will publish details of these and other events here on the DDA Blog and on the Facebook Group "Digging Dad's Army Project," in due course, but here are this years confirmed courses where you can get down and digging...

Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 June 2010
Digging Dad’s Army- Zeppelin’s, Anderson’s and Ack Ack
- an introduction to the theory and techniques of the Conflict Archaeology of the 20th Century.
10.00am – 5.00pm

Based in Shooters Hill, this groundbreaking series of talks and practical sessions is designed to bring together Archaeologists, Historians, Teachers, Museum Curators, and Living History Practitioners, in fact, anyone who has an interest in researching the archaeology of 20th Century Conflicts in Britain and presenting that research to the public.

Day 1 is a series of talks and discussions designed as an introduction to Conflict Archaeology and the Digging Dads Army Project.
Subjects to be covered include-
  • Is Conflict Archaeology, Archaeology?
  • Why bother with a load of old Concrete? Conflict Archaeology, planning and preservation.
  • Landscapes of Memory and Living Memory- the role of the eye witness.
  • Living Archaeology, Living History- presenting Conflict Archaeology to the public.
Confirmed Speakers include Andy Brockman, Local Consultant on the Time Team programme, “Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill,” Dr Neil Faulkner of the “Great War Archaeology Group,” and Features Editor of Current Archaeology who excavated the crash site of Zeppelin L48 in Essex and Rod Scott of the No Mans Land Project.

Day 2 is designed to follow up the theory with practical examples of fieldwork and the presentation of data and artifacts to the public.
· The morning session consists of a guided field trip to look at the surviving military archaeology of the Shooters Hill area and Anti Invasion Stop Line Central, the subject of the Time Team programme, Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill.
· Day 2 concludes with a visit to Firepower- the Royal Artillery Museum, where there will be a chance to discuss how Conflict Archaeology is presented to the public.
This is a unique chance to see what is going on in the fascinating discipline of Conflict Archaeology, to discover where to find out more and how to get involved in research and presentation.
The workshop costs just £70 including Tea and Coffee and entry to Firepower.
[£40 concessions].
NB: If you wish you can book for Day 1 the Talks Programme only;
or Day 2 the visits to Shooters Hill and Firepower only, at a cost of £35 [£20 Concessions].

Monday 14 June 2009- Friday 18 June 2010
Digging Dad’s Army-
An Archaeological Fieldwork School at Shooters Hill.

The Shooters Hill Field School will be a chance to learn or practice the skills required in archaeological fieldwork, while applying them on sites known to have features dating from World Wars One and Two which we are studying as part of the Digging Dad’s Army Research Programme.
This course is suitable for both beginners and those with some excavation experience who might wish to practice their skills or learn new ones.

The week will consist of an introduction to the site and the story behind the excavation,
followed by the survey and excavation of specifically targeted areas of Shooters Hill.
In particular we hope to un-cover sites connected with the Invasion Threat and Blitz of 1940.
This area is known to be rich in archaeology and there may also be features from other periods.
The Field Course is designed to be “Hands On,” and skills you will have the chance to learn or practice include…
  • Excavation Planning and Project Designs.
  • Health and Safety on Archaeological Sites.
  • Basic Levelling and Surveying.
  • Excavation Techniques.
  • Archaeological Recording- Plans, Sections, photography and Specialised Recording for Masonry etc.
  • Finds Identification, analysis and basic conservation.
The excavation is being directed by Neil Faulkner and Andy Brockman, but all participants will be encouraged to discuss the excavation and finds and contribute their own thoughts and interpretations.

The Fieldwork Course costs just £160 including Tea and Coffee.
[£100 concessions].

Saturday 19 June 2009-Sunday 20 June 2010

Digging Dad’s Army- Blast Shelters and the The Bagnold Bunker
An Introduction to Standing Buildings Recording.

Tutor: Kirsty Nicol of Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit and “No Mans Land.”

Many World War Two Pill Boxes and similar sites have their location recorded but relatively few have been subject to full photographic and three dimensional recording.
This weekend workshop is designed to study a series of apparent Air Raid Shelters in the Oxleas Wood area of Shooters Hill and record them for publication and inclusion on the local Historic Environment Record.
Participants will have the opportunity to plan and record the sites using standard recording techniques which are applicable to standing buildings of any period.
These include…
Recording Standards- how much detail do you need to record?
Setting up a grid.
Locating structures using Ordnance Survey Bench Marks and GPS.
What to photograph and how.
On Site and Off Site Drawing.
Paper based recording systems.
Electronic recording using a Total Station Theodolite.
The workshop costs just £70 including Tea and Coffee
[£40 concessions].

Details of all three courses and a booking form are available from me, Andy Brockman, at DDA Admin
Telephone: 07958 543518

Also you can download a prospectus here.

As we say on DDA, "See you on site" and in the meantime, as Churchill said KBO...

And there it is, in what must be a record this week- a blog and not one word about the UK Election.
Perhaps one thought though. However imperfect the UK system is, one of the reasons for confronting Nazi Germany in 1940 was to retain the right to vote for whichever party you favour to form a government, or to the right to keep on complaining about the one you do get without fear of the 2am knock on the door. To that end people, including many who would have been too young to vote in 1940 when the voting age was 21, willingly or not, gave up their lives.
Whoever you choose to vote for, perhaps going out to vote on May 6th is another way of remembering what might have been had things taken a different turn seventy years ago, particularly when we have political parties on the Ballot whose Leadership think the wrong side won.
Andy B

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Hi to all on this Blog. Just to introduce myself to unfamiliar members Im called Jules. My principal interests are metal detecting, and historical research. I am a published author of several books in the War Torn Skies series mainly about aviation archaeology. I contribute to other works such as Steve Darlow`s "Fighting High" Volumes 1 and 2 and also to the most recent "Spitfire Hunters" book by Simon Parry all about the televised archaeological excavations of aircraft in the last decade. In addition I write for several American magazines and two in Britain "Treasure Hunting" and "the brilliant "Britain at War". For those interested in aviation archaeology please keep an eye out in the latter as several epic excavations are due to appear in there very shortly. Im always keen to assist or be part of any primarily Second World War research and fully support all those involved in such projects...such as The Great War Archaeology Group and The Great Arab Revolt Project of which I am a member.
Cheers all Jules

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Modern Conflict Archaeology

Foll0wing the success of the 2009 event a Modern Conflict Archaeology conference is being held at Bristol University on Saturday October 23rd 2010.

Further details can be found here

To subscribe to the conference email list click here to generate an email for you to send that will add you to the list.
You will receive a welcome message when this has been carried out. Unsubscibe information is included in all messages.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Mighty FROGs from little tadpoles grow

Last Saturday saw a healthy turnout of DDA members at the first day of the latest Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) Foreshore Recording and Observation Group (FROG) training course at UCL in central London. A second, practical day will follow in late March.

TDP aims to utilise the FROG to observe and record archaeological remains on the Thames foreshore from Teddington to Bexley. The result will be a longitudinal study that it is hoped will survive the funded TDP (due to end in September 2011).

Saturday saw the eager attendees given a sound grounding in the work of the TDP and the practical aspects of FROG's activities.

After Nathalie Cohen gave an overview of the TDP and FROG, she explained the health and safety aspects of the work we were volunteering to be involved in. From rat-borne Weil's disease to blister inducing Giant Hog Weed to discarded syringes, the list felt endless. On a lighter note, the topic of debate suggested by Elliot Wragg was "Wellies or Boots?". Both having pros and cons when working on a muddy foreshore, it was easy to see why the considered opinion is evenly divided.

Lorna Richardson explained the role and importance of digital media in the project. From the usual social network suspects (Facebook, Twitter) through to imagery (Flickr, Vimeo) on to contributor based 'pedia (Riverpedia) and finally interactive spatial information database systems. All have a role to play. All the talk of citizen involvement in this session was of key interest to our technical guru, Roger. One of the results is this very blog entry!

In the final session of the morning, TDP Project Director Gus Milne gave an overview of the key zones and sites that will form the basis of 2010 season activity. Plenty of lively anecdotes and examples of the destruction caused by tidal wear and tear made this a fascinating session that many a lay person would have appreciated.

The afternoon saw attendees form four groups each of which attended three practical sessions:

1. timber analysis and recording (timber being defined as 'worked wood', I am now able to differentiate between work done by an axe and an adze - I even now know what an adze is!)

2. site recording (Chris, Roger and I - together with interloper Glenn Calderwood - cornered Guy in to being our leader for this session as we explored in fine detail the floor of the UCL south cloisters)

3. finds recognition (this helped attendees to make sense of all the priceless artefacts found when wandering the foreshore; a bonus was that the session's findings are equally applicable on dry land!)

A key point is that the aim of the FROG is to observe and record structures over time - certainly not to dig up and remove them so losing context and possible further discovery as the tide does its work. The finds recognition session explained how understanding what (and where) objects are found on the foreshore can help understand where structures may lie and what they may have been used for.

Aside from a full and informative TDP folder, we were each presented with a free, promotional TDP mug. A practical freebie that is different from the usual pen (although Chris would have appreciated the latter on Saturday!).

The session spawned (sorry!) a raft of educated and enthused tadpoles that after the practical day will become fully certified FROGs.

Richard, Theresa, Roger, Chris, Odette and I would like to thank Nathalie and her team (including our own Guy) for an extremely informative and interesting day.

More information of the activities of the TDP and FROG can be found at:

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

DDA Blog embraces web 2.0

Have you something to contribute?

Over the next few days and weeks this blog will take on a new shape, with contributions expanded to include other members of the team and interested folk who are working in related fields. If you have been involved in any of the activities of DDA, or are doing something that is in a similar field and would like to use this blog to publicise it, please let me know and I will invite yo to be a contributing author.

These are exciting times for the web and for the free, public dissemination of academic, research and historical material. Please do let me know if you would like to be involved.



Tuesday, 9 February 2010

9 February 2010 Canterbury Museums in Danger from Canterbury Council

A few days ago we blogged an example of how broad based community activism on the part of people who cared about their environment and the heritage of their community, saved the Steeton Pill Boxes.  Now there is another aspect of our Heritage which is in danger from what might be seen as cultural ignorance and political short termism which you might be able to help save.
In addition to its main site Canterbury City Council operates two unique small museums, The Roman Museum, a third century Roman Town House, complete with tessellated pavements, discovered as part of Sheppard Freere's pioneering campaign of urban archaeology in the late 1940's and the West Gate Towers, Canterbury's last remaining City Gate and containing a small museum of the defence of Canterbury and one of the earliest examples of ports for firearms in the UK dating to around 1380.  Both are much loved by the local people and the "Roman Pavement," in particular has operated as a terrific educational resource allowing children, including mine, hands on contact with genuine Roman artifacts and the sense of actually walking around a real Roman House and street.
Now Canterbury City Council, who are, lets remember, custodians of a UNESCO Listed World Heritage Site [WHS],
are showing how much respect they have for that privileged status by threatening to close both museums with no prospect or guarantee they will ever re-open; as well as making the Herne Bay Museum only available for Educational Groups [presumably because people only want to visit museums when they are taken along on organised trips, so tough on Mum and Dad when the kids want to show them what they did at school].

Here is what Paul Bennett of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust has to say about the proposal...

"We are justifiably proud of the Canterbury World Heritage sites. The city and its archaeological assets, most specifically its museums, form part of the WHS ‘buffer’ zone and therefore the loss or erosion of such assets, close to the Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church, will reflect badly on Canterbury.
It is the very combination of museums in different locations that with greater engagement ought to provide added value to the Canterbury experience. We should be exploiting Canterbury’s heritage assets more fully at this difficult time, not considering closure of the best of them for potential re-use as a retail outlet. Canterbury is not just a provincial town, its name is known all over the World for its heritage and it is therefore irrational, even in difficult times, to chip away at what is the main basis upon which visitors come to the city in the numbers they do."
Paul Bennett
Director, Canterbury Archaeological Trust

Not surpisingly, there is a growing campaign to protest at this proposal.  An on line petition already has nearly 2500 e-signatures, but more support is needed to show the Council that this move will be both a huge PR Blunder and cost them votes. 

You can find information about the campaign at...

...and on the SAVE CANTERBURY'S MUSEUMS own campaign website...

The on line petition plan is at...

...and there is a public protest on Saturday 13 February meeting at Noon outside the Roman Museum in Butchery Lane, Canterbury.  If you are within striking distance of Canterbury do try to go.  Details here...

On a personal note I cannot believe I am having to write this.  I grew up just outside of Canterbury and I was bitten by the archaeology bug in Canterbury, in part because I was able to visit a real Roman House and hold a real musket in the West Gate Towers.  This is a City which sells itself on its 2000 years of Heritage and to threaten to wilfully toss aside two of what should be its prize assets and deny today's young people and visitors those experiences beggars belief.

Unfortunately, although most museums could be kept open for the price of a small percentage of Fred the Shred's pension, they are often seen as a soft target when Councils are under political or ideological pressure to make cuts, particularly as they do not form a statutory provision and most are under promoted.  This appears to be what is going on in Canterbury. 

In the end if these Museums are lost to visitors and more importantly the future generation of young archaeologists and historians, it will be that much easier for the next short sighted Council looking to save a few quid and the Museum to close might be yours. 

As for Canterbury there is much time left to try and turn this around.  The decision to close has already been made by the Council Executive and goes to a  Full Council Meeting on February 18th. 

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Seventy years ago the Phoney War was about to turn into what is probably the most momentous period in modern British history and Digging Dad's Army will be marking the anniversary with a programme of research work and events themed to commemorate the events of 1940, the people who lived through them and the archaeology it has left.   We hope to include more surveys and excavations in the Shooters Hill area as well as some exciting new sites in Woolwich and elsewhere.

In a new departure we also hope to be starting some work in the archives looking at the often forgotten but absolutely vital issue of Civil Defence during the Blitz.  In the Dad's Army TV Series Warden Hodges is an officious nuisance who often gets humiliated by Captain Mainwaring and the Platoon, but we must never forget that the real ARP Service, not to mention all the other uniformed support services not only risked their own lives just as much as members of the military, they also saved thousands of lives.  We will report on that in the near future.

In addition and as always, there will be opportunities to get involved in DDA's work on the excavations and surveys, as well as at open days and other events aimed to bring the archaeology to as wide an audience as possible.

As we say, "A People's Archaeology for a People's War."

More details on all of this soon so watch out on the blog and our Facebook Group...

Community Action Saves a Nationally Important Group of Pill Boxes

It is wonderful to be able to begin this year of research and commemoration by being able to say congratulations to Andy Wade and a group of local community based historians, archaeologists and living history reenactors in Steeton, near Keighley in West Yorkshire.

Just before Christmas they succeeded in getting three WW2 Pill Boxes, which had been threatened by a housing development, listed Grade 2 by English Heritage.  The Pill boxes form a group and were designed to defend Royal Ordnance Factory No 22 Steeton in West Yorkshire.


ROF STEETON Type 24 Variant Copyright Andy Wade

Steeton was a satellite site to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich and incidentally, was used as a location in John Schlesinger's 1979 film "Yanks."

During WW2 the factory made 20mm and .5 calibre brass cartridge cases and projectiles which would then be filled in specialised filling factories.  The output from Steeton mostly went to the Oerlikon Light Anti Aircraft Gun used by the Royal Navy and its close relative the Hispano Suiza Canon used by aircraft in the RAF including later Marks of both the Spitfire and Hurricane.

The factory also carried out research and development work, in particular metallurgical analysis and you can read a comprehensive and fascinating account of the life of a scientific worker at Steeton, including an account of the Factory Home Guard who manned the Pill Boxes, in Alec Lovell's reminiscences on the BBC People's War Website

I found out about the Steeton campaign thanks to our DDA colleague Tim Lynch and it is great to be able to report on what is a classic example of local people recognising the potential worth of some visible WW2 Heritage to themselves and their community and then campaigning constructively to ensure it is preserved in its proper context. 

Now the community in and around the site will have the chance to view a visible link with the past of WW2 and use the Pill Boxes as a resource for education and a focus for community events.

If you want to find out more the Pillboxes have been discussed in this thread on the Keighley and District Local History Society Forum:
There are pictures of them here, on Photobucket:
There are also three videos on YouTube which Andy took during the campaign:

You can read the English Heritage Inspectors Advice report here...

Now the Pill Boxes have been saved, why not go and see them if you are in the area?


Archaeology 2010 Conference- 26-28 February
Winter and Spring is the Season for Archaeological Conferences and one of the most wide ranging and inclusive is Archaeology 2010 promoted by CurrentPublishing, publishers of Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology and held this year at the British Museum

What makes Archaeology 2010 so compelling is that it is comprehensively multi period and draws its audience equally from Archaeological Professionals and the thousands of people who have a vocational interest in the subject.

This ability to talk to the widest of audiences means the conference can attract some of the most senior academic and field archaeologists working today and address some of the most interesting and contentious topics.

Sessions this year include, Clive Gamble and Chris Stringer on Human Origins, Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues from the Stonehenge Riverside Project and Mary Beard and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on Pompeii and Herculanium

The conference does not shy away from controversy with sessions on Archaeology and Climate Change including Brian Fagan and doyen of tree rings Michael Baillie and, one I am particularly looking forward to, Commercial Salvage versus Marine Archaeology with the rare chance to hear Greg Stemm the CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Florida based company which the British Government has commissioned to salvage the probable wreck of HMS Sussex.  A project currently on hold because of legal objections from the Spanish Government.

Significant anniversaries also supply the theme of two of the sessions.  The meaning of AD410 will be explored by, among others, our own Neil Faulkner and Andrew Birley of the Vindolanda Trust.  Does AD410 represent the end of Roman Britain, the Fall of the Roman Empire and therefore the end of civilisation and a new dark age?  As part of the session one Terry Jones will suggest that, nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more; there might be an alternative "Barbarian" view of the period. 

Truely a case of  "Romani ite domum!"...or perhaps not?

The other significant anniversary marked by a session is AD1940  The Battle of Britain, the Blitz and Operation Sealion, the invasion that never was, made the Summer of 1940 the most momentous period in recent British history and had things turned out differently the world we live in today would be unrecognisable to us.  I will be kicking off the session with an overview of the archaeology of 1940 and why we think it is so important to study and where possible preserve it.  Completing the picture Gabriel Moshenska of UCL will be describing the Archaeology of the Blitz and George Nash of Bristol University will describe an aspect of keeping the war effort going, at Royal Ordnance Factory Featherstone in Staffordshire.

You can see the session plan and book tickets here...

...but be quick as a number of the sessions are already sold out, or overflow room only.

Later on in March there is a chance to debate one of the most important and contentious issues in modern archaeological practice.

The Council for British Archaeology and Newcastle University are promoting a conference on the future of Metal Detecting in archaeology and the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

'Portable Antiquities: Archaeology,
Collecting, Metal Detecting' conference on 13th and 14th March 2010.

This event is co-organised by the CBA and Newcastle University's
International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, and takes place
at Newcastle University and the Great North Museum: Hancock.

The papers at this conference offer perspectives from a range of
different interest groups, look at recent research, present case studies
from around the UK and beyond, and ultimately offer views about what the
future may hold for portable antiquities management. Much debate is
anticipated at this timely event.

All details, including the conference outline and booking information
are available via the

For further information please contact Suzie Thomas at the CBA
( or Catherine Todd at Newcastle University

Where ever you stand on the spectrum of views about Portable Antiquities and Metal Detecting, if you have a view do go along and make that view heard, because, as the conference notice says, this event is timely and necessary.  The cooperation of ethical metal detectorists on archaeological projects, particularly on Battlefield and Conflict sites, is increasingly important.  While the issue of Nighthawking, illegal detecting, often on scheduled sites, was highlighted by the recent controversial report compiled on behalf of English Heritage by Oxford Archaeology. 

Views among both archaeologists and detectorists are, to say the least, varied and contrasting so it is really important we try to talk to each other and understand the various positions before we come to any decisions about the future direction of our relationship...

You can download the Oxford Archaeology Report and a summary here...

You can see the Code of Conduct and Constitution of the National Council for Metal Detectorists as well as more of their views and guidence notes here...

The views of the Federation of Independent Detectorists are here...

Once again, make up your mind then make your voice heard.

...And if you read this Blog and are visiting any of the above events do come and say hello and tell us what you think about Digging Dad's Army.