Saturday, 28 July 2007

Bulletin 6 (July 2007)

First Blitz Project/GARP website launched

A proposed ‘First Blitz’ project based around the One Tree Hill gun emplacement in South London

During the First World War, London was the target of the first strategic bombing campaign in history. Raids by German airships and aeroplanes were met by the development of a comprehensive home-defence system based on wireless direction-finding stations, observation posts, searchlights, anti-aircraft guns, and dedicated fighter squadrons. The conflict has been relatively little studied. Many archive sources have not been researched. Little oral history work has been done. Most material remains are unrecorded. Of the 20,469 sites recorded in the Defence of Britain Project, for example, only 322 are of First World War date, only 44 relate to the air war, and of these, half are airfields, with only one searchlight and six anti-aircraft gun emplacements recorded for the whole country.

The Great War Archaeology Group’s pilot ‘First Blitz Project’ in June 2006, carried out in association with BBC Timewatch, demonstrated the potential. Our outer study area, centred on the Lea Valley, extended 40km east-west across West Essex and East Hertfordshire, and 40km northwards from the Thames. In this area alone, our desktop research identified 33 former anti-aircraft gun emplacements and 19 searchlight emplacements. Detailed survey, clearance and excavation at the Monkhams Hall gun emplacement north of Waltham Abbey revealed an observation post and an ammunition store as well as the gun platform itself. The project also demonstrated how archaeological fieldwork can act as a focus for oral history. TheBBC recorded interviews with several people who remembered the air-raids as children, including one who had been present at the bombing of Upper North Street School in Poplar on 13 June 1917, when 18 five-year-olds were killed in the infant classroom.

In relation to these events, we are close to the centenary and on the cusp of living memory. There is a strong and urgent case for investigating, recording, preserving and presenting the material remains of the First World War in Britain. A community project centred on the surviving anti-aircraft gun platform at One Tree Hill would make a valuable contribution to this.

We are planning a preliminary survey, on the weekend of 25-26 August, using field reconnaissance, geophysics, metal-detecting, and limited surface clearance toidentify and record obvious features. We will link this with archive research, especially of old maps, and an oral history project, where we will use the focus of archaeological activity, advertised in advance, to encourage local people with memories of the site to come forward. We will welcome visitors and would be set up to explain what we were doing and why.

This will be a preliminary and evaluative investigation with a view: a) to furtherwork on the site, possibly, if appropriate, including small excavation trenches; and b) to developing a wider project using archives, memories and material remains to explore the character and impact of the air-raids in the area. If such a project developed, we would be keen to facilitate maximum community involvement, including local schools.

GARP dedicated website launched

The Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP) now has it’s own dedicated website. Originally it was part of this website, but has proved to be so popular it has had to move! On the GARP website you can find out about this pioneering project which is now into it’s second season of fieldwork in Jordan (November 2007). There is also information about T.E Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) and other related articles and links.
Visit the website at:

The First Tank Project

Work is continuing on the First Tank Project at a steady pace. August 2007 will see a geophysical survey carried out at one of the early testing grounds to the north-west of Lincoln, to see if any ditches or other features remain. A desk-based study of early maps and original architects drawings of William Foster’s Wellington Factory in Lincoln (where the first tanks were built) is proving interesting. Other related buildings in and around Lincoln are also being studied.

Dr Neil Faulkner and David Hibbitt PIFA - Great War Archaeology Group