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Military Archaeology

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Hi,
    Anyone else here into exploring old defences etc?
    I was involved in the Defence of Britain Project, which was run by the Council for British Archaeology and collected details on surviving anti-invasion sites from WW2. These are now on a database accessible on the web (just type "Defence of Britain").
    The project also collated records on other military sites in Britain from the 20th century, but as far as I know these are not online yet.
    I have several ww2 sites on the National Monuments Record for Scotland, and a friend and myself are now searching for Auxiliary Unit underground bases in Central Scotland to add them to the NMR.
    I'm a member of the UK Fortifications Club and usually get involved in surveying some site or other in the summer months.
    Never been to the continent to see any sites there, but one day!

    Anyone else do anything similar?

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 04. January 2004, 06:45 PM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
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  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I'm interested but nowhere as well organised as you are, Gordon !

    Some of the roots of my interest in military history go back to the '60s when as a schoolkid on holiday with my parents I'd drive them mad by insisting we stop at every old pillbox, coastal battery or derelict airfield in Wales, Scotland, the North West or wherever we happened to be....

    It's a fascination which has never left me and I still feel distraught whenever I return to find that some concrete relic has vanished forever :( [​IMG]
     
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  3. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    of course, aviation arch........what else ! ;) part of an English/French team already working on digging up the remains of 5-6 German night fighters in the Ardenne....... :eek: ssssssshhhhh don't tell anyone ;) no actrually we have the full documentation and thanks by the governments to do so.

    ~E
     
  4. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Martin,
    Snap! My family hate me pointing out every relic we pass too!
    I used to enjoy examining the interior of WW2 buildings, 'til the DoB gave us a handbook telling us they were riddled with asbestos-still get the heebie-jeebies!
    I used to be a member of the British Aviation Archaeological Council, which would probably be right up your street. Never made it to an a/c recovery myself, but one took place near my favourite hill.
    Don't know about organised though. Years ago, I went to photograph the local POW camp. Because the camera batteries died on me, I went home and didn't manage back for a full year. By that time, the local farmer had levelled the site and built himself a luxury villa. Depressed doesn't cover it [​IMG]
    Erich, good on you mate and best of luck.

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 05. January 2004, 10:05 AM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Very funny you should say that, Gordon. I've just had an exchange of e-mails with Dave Stubley, membership sec. of the BAAC and he's sending me an application pack which hopefully will arrive this week.


    Thanks in part to this Forum I've become much more deeply interested in the European airwar over this last year and am hoping to become more 'involved' still....
     
  6. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    you won't regret it Martin !

    thumbs up mate

    ~E
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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  8. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Martin,
    Cheers for that. I used to be in the FSG too, btw!
    Around the time you explored Beacon Hill, I was researching the first air-raid on the Firth of Forth in 1939 and had much to thank the guys at the FSG for.

    Erich's right about the BAAC-you won't regret joining them.I left because I was overstretching myself research-wise, but they have an AMAZING fund of knowledge.


    Regards,
    Gordon
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Another drive up the A1 today ( the miles I drive up and down that road for my hobby ! :rolleyes: ) and was accepted as a member by the BAAC. Had to give a 'personal resume' ( ooh-er ! :eek: ) but their eyes lit up when they heard I live near Hendon and the PRO.... :(

    ( I noticed on the 2001 members list a dodgy character - Gordon something-or-other from Bannockburn.... ;) )
     
  10. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Martin,
    Congratulations! Do they still start everyone off as a research member for the first year? I'd imagine the magic word "Hendon" will open a few doors now!
    Know the chap you mean, btw. Rough sort of cove, as I remember.... ;)

    Regards,
    Gordon
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Yes - a Scotsman by the sound of it ; obviously an unreliable type ! [​IMG]

    No - I don't represent a 'group' ( group/committee 'politics' drive me mad ) so applied as an individual. I have to say that the people there yesterday were very friendly and had a sense of humour, in stark contrast to one or two other organizations I've looked at over the years.
     
  12. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Martin,
    Know what you mean about cliques-it's put me off a few things over the years as well.
    I also applied to the BAAC as an individual, and was told I had to spend a year on "probation" as a research member. It wasn't a problem, and may just have been because no-one knew me. I certainly enjoyed my membership, and I only quit because I was overstretching myself on the research front and then decided to go to uni full-time! "Cake" and "eating it" springs to mind!
    I don't know if I mentioned, but I've got one of the Air-Britain publications of RAF aircraft serials-the "L" series I think. If you're looking for a 'plane, give me a shout and I'll see if it's mentioned in my (limited) archive.

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 01. February 2004, 05:57 AM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Thanks, Gordon - I appreciate that !

    Actually, I could understand the 'probation' thing ; this applies mainly to groups or individuals who dig up aircraft parts for purely commercial reasons ( ie flogging the bits ) or, even worse, photographing human remains found at crash sites and then offering the photos for publication etc. And then there are those who simply give aviation archaelogy a bad name by failing to obtain the proper authorisation from government &/or landowners before digging.
     
  14. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Martin,
    Ageed, they're the scum of the earth.
    Do you remember the case of the well-known aircraft recoverer who fell foul of the authorities a few years back? He got permission to dig, but started while the licence was actually in the post and not in his hand. To make things worse, a rival with whom he had fallen out told the authorities they had dug on a wreck with human remains, and all hell broke loose.
    Next thing the guy knew, he was in court on trumped-up charges. At least the judge used common sense and bound him over as a formality, but the guy could have ended up in jail with his reputation in ruins. Last I heard, he was bringing a private action against the guy who perjured himself in the first place.

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 01. February 2004, 06:19 AM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  15. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Yes...no names, no pack drill but the aircraft was a Typhoon and the guy in question is a well-known historian as well as being a 'digger'.

    I know we're all basically 'anoraks' but this sort of pettiness and spite is horrible to behold and , to me at least, is an insult to the memory of those who we are supposedly trying to commemorate. [​IMG]

    Anyhow, like you, I'm old enough to have been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it ! Don't get me wrong, I love like-minded Groups, but now I tend to take a long, hard look before rushing in ( a bit like I did with this Forum, actually .... ;) )
     
  16. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Agreed,
    I already left one forum due to it's cliquey nature! The only other one I still frequent is a mediaeval history forum (my area).
    It's American, but has a good sprinkling of worthwhile scholars who don't take themselves too seriously.
    In fact, that's one of the reasons I like this one so much. [​IMG]

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 01. February 2004, 03:05 PM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  17. Stevin

    Stevin Ace

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    I am not active in any group as such. I am a e-maillist-member of the atlantikwall group. These are generally a bunch of bunker affectionado's with a lot of combined knowledge. But my interest is not so much structures or buildings.

    I am a member of the Dutch Airwar Study Group (this is a research group - not a/c recovery). There are several aircraft archeology groups active in Holland. I have toyed with the idea of joining one and have been eyeing them for a while. However, in my years as a (amateur)researcher, I have found that some fellow researchers (also with some of these groups) tend to treat information as a commodity, seem to regard the plane they are digging up or researching as 'theirs' and not all of them are as willing to share info (always willing to receive of course...). Most fellow researchers I have approached were more than willing to help me out and I have a good many contacts all over the world now. But what has prevented me to join more (physically active) clubs, is the fear of 'politics' mentioned above.
     
  18. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Yes - the Dutch groups look very well-organised but seem to take themselves a little bit seriously ( as do one or two connected with Arnhem ). But there's absolutely no doubt that they do some fantastic research, and of course, they are located 'where it all happened'.
     
  19. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Stevin,
    Ah yes, the dreaded politics!
    I remember going to a seminar on 20th century defences, which was incredibly informative except for one thing. Most of the professional academics present made no secret of the fact they considered we amateurs to be lesser mortals in every sense.
    What made matters worse was the fact that one of them was a friend of mine, who had been a down to earth bloke before he finished uni and became one of the "Beautiful People" himself!
    The net result was that out of a meeting of 20 odd people, only around five of us stuck around to get involved in the surveying activities. And the same academics spent years complaining about how few volunteers they had managed to recruit in Scotland. :rolleyes:
    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 02. February 2004, 12:17 PM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     
  20. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The BBC2 programme Two Men in a Trench was on the other night, exploring the site of Hornchurch airfield in Essex.
    Not a very interesting programme, but neither was the one they did on the Firth of Forth's ww2 defences.
    Anyway, they excavated a likely looking site they saw on an old aerial oblique, and discovered it was an Ack-Ack emplacement. Then they excavated a Tett turret, and discovered another three which brought the total known to have survived up to nine.
    Then they did a stupid thing-having excavated the underground entrance to a pillbox-about seven feet down-they clambered in to explore it without shoring up the sides of the excavation. Now, I know we've all done it, but these guys are supposed to be professionals!You could actually see the water flowing out of the entrance (the site of the airfield is now a country park with lakes) while they were climbing in. Not the best example for the kids.
    Tonight's was better. They explored the 1689 battlefield of Killiekrankie in Perthshire. Not only did they establish the building from which the Covenanters sniped at the government lines, but by finding hordes of musket balls on a natural terrace just in front of the government line, they finally explained why the Covenanters were able to survive the hail of fire from government troops; there was only a limited field of fire (and time) to get a volley in from the time the highland charge suddenly appeared before it smashed into their line. Not only that, but the government troops wouldn't have had time to fix their new-style plug bayonets into their muzzles either.
    A much better programme, but I still prefer Time Team! Speaking of which, one of the landscape surveyors from that programme was carrying out a three week survey of Dunstanburgh head Castle in Northumbria recently for Historic England. As well as the visible mediaeval stuff, he also discovered the landscape terraces built by Italian pows in ww2, and rediscovered a CHL station whose exact location had been previously lost.
    I nearly forgot. For anyone interested, there is a website which collates all the daily archaeological news from newspapers world-wide. This isn't necessarily ww2 news, but there is the occasional snippet from that era. The site is usually updated by early evening each day.
    www.archaeologica.org/NewsPage.htm

    Regards,
    Gordon

    [ 18. March 2004, 06:13 PM: Message edited by: The_Historian ]
     

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