Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Archaeology at Yatesbury WW1 airfield

With the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One approaching there is a rising tide of interest in the archaeology of the period. Research by WANHS members Dan Miles and Richard Broadhead (with MoD archaeologists) has identified Yatesbury as a very important site. It was the training base for aircrews from UK, NZ, Australia, Canada, South Africa and even included some pre-revolution Russian crews and later some US crews. It was a vast operation with 2 airfields next to each other.

Two specific areas have been identified for an initial weekend of work. One, based on aerial photos seems to have the only known straight line trenches left in Britain. These were training trenches probably dug just before the outbreak of hostilities. They were quickly found to be death traps when attacked and zigzag trenches very quickly superseded them in the field. Our plan is to geophys the area to identify these trenches, one of which will then be excavated.

The second area is the site of a large POW camp. As we only have the one weekend this area will be geophysed, fieldwalked and metal detected all
in the same grids. If you have a metal detector bring it along.

There is some speculation that the straight trenches were backfilled in 1918 with material from the POW camp, which make fir plenty of finds.

It is planned that the AFG will take the lead on this site but (hopefully) involvement by the Yatesbury History Group and the RAF Society. Based on this one weekend’s results it should be possible to plan a much bigger project for 2012 (and beyond).

The exploratory work will be over the weekend of 17/18 September 2011. If you are interested in taking part please contact us.

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