Thursday, 20 December 2007

Christmas Listening

Art in The Trenches
BBC Radio 4
Boxing Day (26th December 2007)
11.02 UK time

The programme includes a major contribution from anthropologist Nick Saunders on the subject of Trench Art. Nick is a key member of the Plugstreet Project team. It also includes a number of No Man's Land members talking about the group's other major excavation at Thiepval Wood on the Somme.

If you are unable to hear it then go to:

Happy listening and if you do listen to it why not post a comment about it?

Match of the Day

Christmas draweth if we didn't know it.

Christmas moves the thoughts of many of us to that moment in 1914 when elements of the armies facing each other along the Western Front declared local, unofficial truces between them. Famously officers hosted their opponents for dinner, German barbers set up shop in no man's land and the world's strangest, most inspirational football international took place. I met someone who had interviewed a veteran who'd been involved in one of these matches and he said that the Germans won on penalties!

You know all this. What you may not know is that the truce didn't take place everywhere but it did take place at Ploegsteert, in fact Bruce Bairnsfather records it in trenches immediately north of our site. Is it possible that the fields we traversed during our work saw the Match of the Day 1914?

So may the Peace of 1914 be yours at Christmas, especially to readers in "hot spots", dear reader, and good things follow you through the year. This blog will be resting over the Festive Season but will be back shortly with exciting news, such as the 2008 season and our plans to dig more holes, as well as conferences, lectures and miniature battlefields that are connected with the project. The mini battlefield isn't a wargame by the way but I can say no more now.

Happy Christmas
Frohe Weinachts
Joyeux Noel
Goioe Kerstmis (I think that's right for Flemish)

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The results from the Magnetometer survey are now delivered as an early Christmas present by the Colonel, and pretty special they are! The front line runs from top left to lower right with a splodge representing the crater from the mine explosion (now home to a badger) being present in front (to the right) of the front line near the top of the main rectangle of the survey. Interestingly, there is clear evidence for a T-head runnning from this as part of practice of crater fortification. This equates well with Dan's excavation trench at Messines. All manner of Saps and Comms trenches are also visible. There is a clear need for a small, targeted excavation we think....

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Back to the Bustard

Last week Peter AKA The Colonel came down to Salisbury Plain to work some more of his geophysical magic. He undertook three days of magnetometer survey over part of the trench system dug and used by Anzac 3 Division during their training ahead of their deployment to France and, ultimately, to Messines. Among the exercise was the blowing, capture and refortification of a mine. Admittedly the mine was much smaller than the Ultimo Mine but they seem to have refortified it in just the same way as we saw in Dan's trench last summer.

As sson as Peter has sent me his results I will post them here! Interestingly they show again that this is the technique to use when looking for buried trenches. "Mag" certainly seems quicker and more productive than resistivity.

What this survey means is that we have an accurate plot of the remains and can target some more excavation to see if we can get more comparative data between Belgium and the training ground here in UK.

Watch this space!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

The Serre Memorial

I mentioned the Serre memorial to the chaps NML found in 2003. It was made by Keith Maddison from the group and stands by the road in front of the site of the German position known as the Heidenkopf. It comemmorates Jakob Hones and Albert Thielecke, both killed in 1915 during the Battle of Hebuterne and an unknown man from the King's Own killed on 1st July 1916.
This picture shows the memorial on the day of its unveiling.

Of Things Past

It's now almost a week since Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. Of late this has meant that the nation thinks of the Great War, probably more than anything else and the TV underlined this with programmes about Jack Kipling and Wilfred Owen.

The Owen programme was interesting as it included land at Serre where Martin and several other of the NML members were involved in a dig in 2003 that was seeking a dugout occupied by Owen. The story of the project is on the No Man's Land website and will shortly appear in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology. Sadly they didn't mention the archaeology, nor the rather nice memorial that NML member and Plugstreet digger made to commemorate the three men we discovered. This brings us back to 11/11, of course because of the emotions evoked by the knowledge that we have excavated these men and in two cases restored them to their families. We found no identifiable remains at Plugstreet this year but in Steve L's trench the absence of remains was probably a testament to the destructive power of the mine. Whatever the case we know that we are in a place where men fell and died and where there are still missing bodies across the landscape. I am also confident that when we do find our first skeleton we will be approaching the excavation in a professional and respectful manner.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Spreading Word

As you know Richard and Martin recently went to an event at the Belgian Embassy (thanks to Franky Bostyn). They took along a number of short interim reports on the project to leave for interested parties to take away.

Lo and Behold! Some kind soul has scanned it and put it on the web here:

We say thank you to the Leinster Regiment Association for giving us another outlet for the story. The Leinsters were part of 16 Division, who stormed Wytschaete (White Sheet) during the Battle of Messines while the Anzacs were busy around, or possibly creating, our dig site.

Also on the topic of spreading the word Martin has been out and about this week lecturing to post-grads at Liverpool University and to the lovely Forensic Archaeology students at Cranfield University. Both groups got an introduction to the Plug Street Project as part of wider discussions on Great War archaeology and some of them may join the team in 2008.

The Sincerest Form

We broke new ground with the project blog for this project, giving you up to date information on the planning and then offering news from the front line. It's nice to see another group following our lead in disseminating information about a Great War project.

If you want to read about the Great Arab Revolt Project in Jordan go here:

It's the archaeology of the Arab insurgency against the Turks (Lawrence of Arabia stuff). How topical!

It's led by friends of ours and members of our team (Nick Saunders mostly) are out there.

Good Luck Guys!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Some site record shots

As you will sense, Ian has been very busy. the three above photos are some of his record shots of the trenches excavated in 2007. Top is Steve L's team trench with Australian recut of demolished German trench. Middle is Steve R.'s team trench through the trench that presumably led to a punker which illustrates the 33rd Btns reuse of what was left of the German line. The bottom image is Dan's team excavation of the Lewis gun sap. The lighting for these sondages (in woodland and very sunny) was incredibly tricky and thus the results are really fantastic.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Ian's Images

Those of you on site in 2007 will remember the presence of Ian R. Cartwright, photographer with the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Ian brought his box camera with him and took plate photographs on site in much the same way as Frank Hurley did in following the Australian 3rd Division. His stunning results are presented below. We have also included the original Hurley image of the Australian 3rd Div artillery limber (Richard's grandfather's old mob!) to illustrate the motivation for Ian's studies. The images speak for themselves and we hope to be able to announce their exhibition alongside some of the Messines finds at some point.

'Spoils of Archaeology': detritus of war emerging from the excavated trenches

'Front Line dirt': part of the (enormous) spoil heap from the bunker trench

'Life in no-man's land': Mr Delrue's crop emerges in no-man's land.

Entitled 'Anzacs' - Michael in the Australian Lewis Gun sap

Entitled 'Fallen Remembered' - Tori and Ralph laying the wreath at the Ploegsteert Memorial

Entitled 'Sap Team' Danny and his team (with Martin and Richard) at the Lewis sap

'Generations': Tori and Kirsty by the German bunker with the church of Messines in the distance

'Peace Dig' - Jo and Becki looking on as the Australian recut of the German front line is dug

'Messines Ridge' taken from no-man's land

'Shell burst' - Tangled iron work from Jon's excavation of the shell crater

Archaeological Limber - Ian's take on the famous Hurley photo of the gun team (below)

More news on the re-burial...find Mat and Michael..

Many more images of the events surrounding the re-burial of the 5 Australian soldiers are present at this location:

The images are noteworthy not simply for their recording of this event, but also for capturing evidence of Mat and Michael in suits!!! (they appear in two or three images. I'll leave you to find them...) oh, and what appears to be a Belgian military outside urinal!

This site also includes images on the Anzac rugby match played as part of the commemmorations in Belgium (sadly not featuring either an Australian scrum that posesses a reverse gear, nor a ref that allows forward passes v the New Zealanders!), and of the launch of the Passchendaele Australian walk put together (I think) by Franky and his team with elements of the miltiary railway used by, amongst others, 'our' 33rd Btn.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Re-burial of Australian Soldiers

5 Australian soldiers killed at the battle of Passchendaele were yesterday re-buried at Buttes military cemetery. Their remains had been discovered by Belgian workers laying a pipeline and were recovered by a team lead by Franky Bostyn. DNA analysis has led to two of the individuals being identified. Our Australian film crew that covered the Messines dig filmed the event, hopefully for inclusion in the documentary of our work and Michael and Mat from the dig team were also in attendance. Some newslinks are present below:

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

New Exhibition on 3rd Ypres in London

Yesterday it was our privelege (as reps of No-Man's-Land archaeology and the Plugstreet Project) to attend the opening of an exhibition to commemorate the 90th anniversary of 3rd Ypres. This exhibition, in the residence of the Belgian ambassador in Belgrave Square, London, was asssembled by Franky (whom many on site will remember as being the chap that brought the crate of beer over on the last day!) and launched by the ambassador and HRH Duke of Kent. In addition to displays of kit in dioramas, and finds from the battlefield, there are some wonderful photographs and sculptures - the latter made from elements of the iron harvest. A link to the exhibition can be found here:

Free to enter and worth a visit!

Martin and Richard also met Ian Passingham, the author of the excellent 'Pillars of Fire' on the Battle of Messines. Ian was most enthusiastic about the team's work and will visit site next summer. Other archaeologists present were Tony Pollard (1/2 of 'Two men in a trench' amongst other things) and Col Philip Robinson from Durand. Another plus was to meet up with Tori and Carla to confirm that they had indeed survived the excavation!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Elsewhere on the web...

Three members of the project team work at Defence Estates, so the PR staff were interested in what we did in Belgium. Since running a piece on the project for the DE intranet they have expanded the article, added some new photos and had it accepted as a story for the main Ministry of Defence website.

You can access the story here:

Most soldiers will have been on a battlefield tour to the Western Front at some point and many are interested, as are MOD civil servants, for perhaps obvious reasons but it's great to see the project getting another boost.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Spirit of Radio

Don't all Rush at once but you can hear the interview Martin did for BBC Radio 5 Live programme Up All Night.

Under the heading for Tuesday you'll see at 03:30 Archaeology with Win Scutt and there is a feature marked listed again, so you can hear what was said. Martin says his key points were that we can still find things on pulversied battlefields, that this is a real archaeological story with physical evidence of the effects of war on people and landscape and that No Man's Land are an international team investigating a common European heritage. As you would expect he also mentioned smoking, food and the Battle of Messines. All in 13 minutes!

If you do listen let us know what you think via the comments.

Monday, 20 August 2007

On My Radio...

Not the Selector's Ska classic sadly, rather another media opportunity for the magnificent Plugstreet Project.

For the insomniac readers who are up at 03:30 UK time tomorrow (Tuesday) morning you can listen to Martin being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about the Plugstreet Project. Thankfully the interview will be done slightly earlier in the evening so Martin might make some sense, but I wouldn't count on it. Up all night is the umbrella show for the dead zone and there, at 03:30 is our mate Win Scutt and his Archaeology slot. Win is digging at Durrington Walls at the moment so listen out for an update on that exciting project too.

If you really wanted to hear what he has to say you can probably download it via the "listen Again" feature that many BBC programmes have. To do this you'll need to go to the BBC webpages at and follow the links to 5 Live.

Overseas fans of the project can listen on the internet via the BBC homepage.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Peter Chasseaud's panorama drawing looking east from Ultimo Crater

Photos of a 3-section panorama drawing I made from the north-east lip of Ultimo Crater, looking east. The coverage is approximately an arc from north-east to south-east. The photo below shows the whole panorama obliquely. The three above show the individual sections in the sequence: left - right - centre. All images Copyright Peter Chasseaud 2007.

Such panoramas were drawn during the First World War to show the views from observation posts for artillery and intelligence purposes. The drawing was often overlaid with a degree grid, sometimes showing bearings right and left of a centre-line, e.g. Warneton Church. The bearings given on my drawing are very approximate, and the whole thing needs to be recalibrated to give correct bearings.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Birger's images

Birger Stichelbaut, the project's aerial photographic expert from the University of Ghent, has already produced some aerial images of the excavation trenches. This in addition to his terrestrial photographic skills that his website amply illustrates:

Plugstreet images by Peter Chasseaud

Here are a couple of images I made while working at St Yvon, Ploegsteert, while on the dig. Does anyone have a photo of me at work drawing, which I can post on my blog? In addition to these two images, I produced, as part of my phenomenology/visibility/intervisibility project several panorama drawings, including one in three sections from the north-east rim of Ultimo Crater looking east towards Warneton, and some of the views from Hull's Burnt Farm and St Yvon looking towards Factory Farm, Ultra Trench and Ultimo Trench.

Another part of my work was locating the medieval moat of the old farm relative to the present crater and the pattern of roads, old property boundaries, drainage ditches, etc. Aerial photos from 1915 to 1918 were hugely useful here, and I found that the medieval and early modern boundaries and ditches are still significant features of the landscape today. These, of course, are fundamental for geo-referencing.

I'm also doing some writing (including poems), which I will post on my blog ( You can also see my blog by googling 'peter chasseaud artist'.

The image below is Pillars of Fire, and shows the Trench 122 mines being blown on 7 June 1917 under Ultimo Trench (left) and Ultra Trench (Factory Farm, right). The view is from the British front line at Trench 123, opposite Ultimo. [Willow charcoal and pastel on paper. Copyright Peter Chasseaud 2007].

The image below is Ancient Willow, Factory Farm. [Willow charcoal on paper. Copyright Peter Chasseaud 2007].

I'll post some more images, and some writing, in a few days' time. Images from my Ypres Willows project (2007) and my May 2007 exhibition (the book to accompany this include some of Ultimo and Factory Farm) can be seen on my blog.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Jean-Michel's Blog

Tori and Ralph laying the No-Man's-Land wreath at Ploegsteert, Friday 3rd Aug

Worth reminding everyone of the blog of Jean Michel Van Elslande. You may all have seen Jean-Michel on site as an important member of both the Comines-Warneton History Society and also the Ploegsteert Memorial Committee. His blog has pictures of the last post ceremony on Friday 3rd August, and also elements of the dig. I commend it to you:

Concrete Evidence

For anyone interested in the bunker excavated in Trench 1 by Kirsty and her magnificent team there is on-going discussion at the Great War Forum. Regulus and Jack Sheldon (author of some excellent works on German war experience) have been very generous with information and images, including a machine gun post that looks suspiciously like our position.

More at:

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Trench 3 exploits - on the edge!

What a great week! Here are some pics and my experience of Trench 3.

We made a good start with Dan and Sue hard at work but it's all too much for Bex who needs a sit down.

Felix and Joel do some filming for ABC while Steve encourages the boys digging with a song(?). Hang on - is that Mat actually working in the trench?! Surely not when he's just had his nails done! Our Belgian diggers look on from behind our mounting and long barrow like spoil heap...

Steve shows our trench finds to the WWI re-enactment guys when they visit the site. Very spooky!

More filming by the ABC guys with Martin and Richard (check out the uniform!), the Auzzie boys (Mat and Mike), our geophys whizz Peter aka"the Colonel" and Gantrand, our Belgian EOD guy, at hand to deal with any volatile divas!

Last but not least - the hard core of the team on Friday afternoon, still digging and still smiling! Steve is in the Auzzie recut of the German frontline trench. The Auzzie trench measurements matched the historic records exactly.

And finally...

Since the dig I have been enthused to find out more about my family in the Great War. My Grandad, born 1897, joined the Leicesters PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry as my dad calls it) in 1914 at the age of 17 and spent the entire war either in France or Belgium. He was one of the very lucky ones who came home, and went on to also "survive" WWII as part of the British Expeditionery Force. I now hope to do some more digging (of the research kind) to find out where the Leicesters went and therefore what he might have experienced. I may even have trodden in his footsteps last week!

Page 8 Lovely

As Featured in the Nord Eclair, Mr Litherland and the excavation team...

The Team

So here we are, the core of the team, including the field archaeologists, conservators, artist, geophysicist and anthropologist. Missing are Patrick and Nicolas, as well as a number of other locals, and Gontrand who was sorting out his Para-Commando veterans following their parade at the Last Post Ceremony. Also present with the group are our two Australian guests, Matt McLachlan (author) and Michael Molkentin (historian) who joined us on site with a film crew from ABC. We wait to see whether their recording of our work will make it to a final cut documentary.

We are standing in front of the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing, where we were honoured to take part and lay a wreath on behalf of the group. Our wreath party included Tori, who has a great uncle on the memorial and Ralph who is our expert on German military history. The Australian Defence Force also laid a wreath and were represented by Lt Col Paul Smith.

It is an odd thing to excavate a site and then to attend ceremonial at a monument to the Fallen, some of whom may lie in the fields where we had been working. This is one of the odd dynamics of working in contemporary archaeology, as is the possibility of idnetifying any skeletons. As it was, we didn't find any bodies.


So the next stage of the work is to ensure that the delicate finds that require conservation work are looked at. To this end, Rob Janaway of Bradford University was on site at the end of the dig. ob was able to advise on suitable methodologies (a new 'First Aid for Finds' needs to be written when it comes to the archaeology of the Great War). Objects such as leather, copper alloy, and the gasmasks found in trench 3 will be conserved prior to their being photographed and recorded. Ultimately they will be returned to Belgium to join the rest of the finds.

Objects below for Conservation - German gasmask filter (held rather lovingly by Jo it must be said..) and the Lyons bottle from the sap leading to the Lewis position (otherwise known as Dan's trench)

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Photos from the Front

Kirsty's German Bunker on the edge of the wood. This is about half of it excavated with the other half left in situ for future preservation.

en retour...

Hello again

We're back from the Front, feeling tired but happy...

Big thanks to all the team, to Patrick and his friends from the historical society, to the boys from the RLC who came for a site tour an ended up digging a big hole for us (with beautiful straight edges I might add), to Gontrand and to Tony the barman (who knows why). The lovely folk from Zonnebeke Museum also get thanked for their kind words and end of day gift.

More pictures as we go!


Monday, 6 August 2007

Projekt Plugstreet: Abschlussbericht

Der Donnerstag und Freitag wurde noch einmal ausgenutzt um einen weiteren ehemaligen Schützengraben auszuheben. Dieser wurde erneut mithilfe der Geophysik ausfindig gemacht und ließ vielversprechende Resultate erwarten. Es wurden hier neben jeder Menge Stacheldraht auch wieder einige andere Funde gemacht u.a. eine Mundharmonika, Glasflaschen, Ampullen und Hemdknöpfe. Gegen Nachmittag wurden dann die letzten Fotografien und Zeichnungen gemacht. Anschließend wurden die Schaufeln und Kellen niedergelegt und zum gemeinsamen Gruppenfoto aller Beteiligten aufgerufen. Am Abend ging es dann zu einem Kriegerdenkmal in Ploegsteert. Hier wurde unter der Begleitung von Dudelsackklängen ein Kranz niedergelegt und so den Soldaten gedacht.

Im Auberge, ein gemütliches kleines Restaurant, wurde gemeinsam gespeist und die Gedanken über die vergangenen Tage ausgetauscht. Am Samstag blieb dann für einige noch ein bisschen Zeit Museen und Soldatenfriedhöfe in der Nähe zu besuchen. Anschließend hieß es dann Abschied nehmen. Emailadressen und Telefonnummern wurden eifrig ausgetauscht und man freut sich schon auf ein gemeinsames Wiedersehen im nächsten Jahr. Das Projekt war somit ein Erfolg und stimmte die Projektleiter sehr zufrieden, so dass bereits an eine Fortsetzung des Projektes gedacht wird.

Projekt Plugstreet war eine sehr gute Erfahrung. Ich habe jede Menge gelernt, viele interessante Menschen kennen gelernt und viele neue kulturelle Eindrücke erlebt. Die Erinnerung an den Ersten Weltkrieg ist allgegenwärtig und bleibt besonders durch die vielen Museen und Denkmäler erhalten.

Special thanks to Martin and Richard who gave me the opportunity to participate in Project Plugstreet. I am glad I met all these great people and it was a pleasure being a part of this team. It has been a great time and I look forward to seeing you next year. Thank you.

Last images for the evening

Ok - last images for tonight.

1) the delectable Carla holding a Pipe stem found in the sap of the Australian Lewis gun pit. Especially poignant given the diary accounts of the Australian 3rd Div of their troops advancing with rifles slung and smoking their pipes....

2) Some Webbing buckles, again from Dan's Lewis gun sap.

images 2

Some more images of the site

1) German stick grenade - one of several examples found on site and dealt with by Gontrand, ex of DOVO

2) British Mills bomb (again, Gontranded)

3) German Bunker found in the German fire trench. If anyone questions the merits of archaeology and the great war, well this bunker was never mentioned in ANY diaries of the battle (Battalion or otherwise), is not visible in aerial photos or trench maps. Even the farmer did not know of its existence until Kirsty, Tori and the gang worked their concrete-maiden magic

4) Dan excavating the sap dug byt he Australians to provide a T-head for their Lewis gun as part of the refortifying of Ultimo Crater. This produced bottles, pipe stems, food tins and the contents of a brazier.

5) Lovely result as this trench is finished - note wriggly tin sides and iron strap holding them in place

Some images of the work

At an early stage yet, but thought we should add some images of the site and of finds. Look out for images of the team in action soon.

1) Remnants of Factory Farm in the Crater Upcast

2) British High Explosive shell fuse (dated 1915 but adapted in17) found in German fire trench

3) British (or Australian!) .303 clip

4) Great War re-enactors that took part in the Passchendale 90th aniversary march visit the site

5) Pocket knife from the German fire trench