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

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Jon's Archaeographic Record

While NML were out in Belgium Michael Shanks was busy post processing the home territory of three of the team: the Hadrian’s Wall zone. So I have no problem in mis-appropriating his terminology by making this an ARCHAEOGRAPHY of Factory Farm 07 as seen from the T4,6,7 team. I have a bad memory for names, so not everyone is name-checked.

T4 opening on day 1. Idyllic pool (moorhens, dragon flies, willows) masquerading as ecofact was actually artefact of major calorific and kinetic event in 1917. Diggers accompanied by in house film crew member.

Keith Madisson, third longest serving Trench Team member on site, demonstrates approved methodology by digging faster than can be captured digitally.

But methodology follows intent and position. Metre grid excavation looking for fragmentary residue. Rare evidence of Conflict Arch/Anth theory-father Nick Saunders with trowel. Coops, Paula and Swantje adopt correct reverential stance.

Belgian (Flemish) team member Berger talks to Flemish archaeology capo Mark De Wilde as they observe primitive Wallonian agricultural techniques at T7.

Imperial archaeology in T7 as Keith (UK), Swantje (DR), Avril (UK), Coops (UK), and Paula (IT), impose their foreign technical interpretation on head of local history/archaeology org Gontrand (Wallon) who is forced into subordinate role of bucket carrier.

Friday, 3 August 2007

The end....or is it...?

so its 2.20 am and we're all doing our best to help the funds of the Peace Village by spending euros in the bar...again.

What a day though. We got to the end, all finds off site, records written and drawn and one happy famer saying "anné prochaine"... which seems to mean we have to come back.

Seriously, after work we attended the Last Post at the Ploegsteert memorial and Tori and Ralph laid a wreath for the team. Tori's great uncle is on the memorial and Ralph, from the US is the historian of the German Army 1914 to 19. Very moving.

Claude did us proud with dinner after and we presented him with a decorative shell case, trench art.

Enough from me...

Good night, we did it...we win...great team, great weather, great results.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Lebende Geschichte

Aufgrund der Funde am Montag verblieb das Team auch am Dienstag nahe der Factory Farm. Weitere Vermessungen wurden vorgenommen, um das Suchgebiet zu spezifizieren. Nachdem nochmals wenige Funde gemacht wurden, konnte die Suche ausgeweitet werden. Mithilfe der Geophysik wurde das nächste Gebiet bestimmt: ein Granattrichter. Im Anschluss an den arbeitsreichen Dienstag bestand die Möglichkeit an einer Zeremonie in Ypern teilzunehmen, zum Gedenken an die gefallenen Soldaten. Eine sehr bewegende Zeremonie.

Auch am Mittwoch konnten wieder vielversprechende Funde gemacht werden. Die Arbeit ging gut voran und die ersten Kleidungsstücke wurden gefunden (z.B. Beinbandagen). In der Mitte des Tages wurde die Ausgrabungsstelle von Soldaten in verschiedenen Uniformen (britische, australische und deutsche) besucht, um dem Team einen Eindruck über die damalige Kleidung zu vermitteln. Dabei konnte das Basiswissen erweitert werden, so dass in Zukunft weitere Fundstücke besser identifiziert und zugeordnet werden können. Durch die lokale Presse wird auch das Interesse der ansässigen Bevölkerung erweckt; so gibt es immer mal wieder Zaungäste, die auch ihr Wissen durch Überlieferungen mit ins Team einbringen. Dadurch entsteht ein kultureller Austausch, den man auch in den umliegenden Museen miterleben kann.

Die Woche neigt sich leider bereits dem Ende. Die Zeit verfliegt bei den vielen verschiedenen Eindrücken, so dass es einem vorkommt als habe man gerade erst begonnen. Nur die Schwielen an den Händen erinnern an die arbeitsreichen Tage - doch diese sind aufgrund der interessanten Funde schnell wieder vergessen.

Break of Day in the Trenches...

Friday morning, 08:10 local time. I was disciplined enough to go to bed last night but then kept waking up worrying about the last day, particularly the thought that we might find a body without time in hand.

Anyway. The last day for the digging season 2007. We are very pleased: not only have we uncovered a previously unknown concrete bunker and explored both German and Allied trenches we can also see Belgian life before the war and its utter dislocation; this from the remains of Factory Farm. Then we have the period of reconstruction seen in the demolition of the bunker. Finally we can contextualise everything through the geophysics and the map, air photo and phenomenological work that Peter, Peter and Birger are doing.

Visitors yesterday included Captain Owen (not the poet) and 3 colleagues from the Royal Logisitics Corps who had a site tour and then pitched in to help for the afternoon: Rod you have a good captain coming, look after him!

So, to work and over to Swantje for her update...

Digging the civilian stuff

What I have found most exciting in this excavation is stuff we have excavated that speaks of the civilian experience of the Great War in this area, before and after the war. In one of the trenches we have remains of a farm blown up by a mine during the war, part of the battlefield but with soil full of brick, tiles, china, curtain cloth, parts of a cattle byre, a horse harness and so on - very ordinary remains, that really speak of what the war did to very ordinary places and people. These are losses not often commemorate or remembered (I was struck by the comment of a local woman visiting the trench, who said that while in her household they collect military stuff they come across in fields, tiles, bricks etc... 'mean nothing at all for us'). The other thing we have found is evidence of post-war recuperation, when local people and possibly some enterprises smashed up bunkers to retrieve metals that they could resell and perhaps hardcore for repairing local roads. I think it's great to have documented civilian activities archaeologically - and tomorrow I am going to meet some elderly locals to see if I can add some stories to flesh out the civilian picture of the wartime (no of course they are not THAT old - but I hope they will have stories from their parents and grandparents). To be continued tomorrow...
Paola (the dig's social anthropologist)

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Ghosts of the past

The final one today from the team. God; who invented European keyboards?
As an amateur in the trench I'm still trying to get my head around what we can possibly learn from excavation that accounts of the time don't already document. One other interesting element is the way that (as a geochemist by training) I have found the scientific method to be used. I thought that, in archaeology as elsewhere, the evidence would dictate the hypothesis; however so much of the evidence has to be liberally interpreted (such as vague colour change within a clay horizon) as to make the whole discipline appear to have more than a passing element of 'black art.' Certainly, the temptation to fit the evidence to the theory must be incredibly strong. As a result, I am in awe of those that can detect seemingly tiny changes in the profile of our trenches and can assess thier significance. I know I am still in bewilderment at it all... give me a stratigraphic sequence any time!

Bring it on tomorrow... more rusty metal (great war archaeology in a nutshell)

...By the way, I'd just like to say that was stumped after ball number 3 and didn't show any vicious tendencies!



Luke, I'm really missing your experience in this job! They keep bringing back bagfuls of rusty stuff and it's getting out of hand. Never mind, though, we learn by doing...

Some of the best stuff so far, at least in my book: a piece of domestic china from the Factory Farm crater lip with molten glass fused to it, the result of the incredible heat of the mine explosion; a bone-handled pocket knife in lovely condition; some black cloth almost certainly civilian and probably the farmer's wife's best Sunday dress!; a toothbrush; the bowl of a delicate liqueur glass, a large leather-covered horse collar (removal of which seemed to take away most of the section; bits of a gas mask; and finally, whatever they decide to bring me tomorrow!

I'm receiving vital assistance from Androuma, who can decipher stuff that's way beyond my eyesight and who brings me coffee on a regular basis. When I'm not glued to a comfortable table qnd chair in the sun, I'm acting as Adjutant, Commissary, Transport Corps and general dogsbody. The checkout girl at the local Carrefour is becoming a close personal friend.

Forgot to mention, some of us were mad enough to get up at 3am yesterday 31st July to fire the flares that started the Wipers March. A moving, if cold, experience.

Day Three, Trench Three!

Hi all,
Another fantastic day of finds. Our trench on the edge of Ultimo has been really productive, we've found some celluloid which may be from the front of a gasmask as well as a number of bullets, both german and allied, some of which we can date, and lots of stuff which looks rather like a modern art installation at the moment.

It was all put into perspective after our visit to the Menin gate yesterday evening and the WWI re-enactment guys came to site this afternoon!

This is my first dig and an amazing experience which I hope I'll be able to repeat!!!


Day three in the big brother trench

Well, day three over, sun still out and we have nearly finished the bunker site; great archaeology and super-human digging; find today include lots of wriggly tin and bits of gasmask, lots of rounds, shrapnel and an intact beer bottle. Also visited by those that did the Passchendaele march - both German and British. Dan has opened the site that will reveal the Australian Lewis gun position at the edge of the crater.

Hello to Rod if reading - only a stick grenade to entertain so far. Cranfield MSC have doubled the local demand for pink and yellow drinks.

Rob Janaway has arrived and is assisting Shirley and Androulla with finds conservation.

The Messines Test Match has taken place with Sue and Jo displaying hitherto unseen vicious streaks and Ant being shown up by the old-timer, his dad. Hello to Ruth and Katherine too.

Jacky Plateuw from the Menin Gate last post committee came over too, which was good and we had a visit from local TV so we will be all over the local news. We are also in the local paper, heaven help us!

We are both still on the anxiety dreams.

Johnny, hi! Still no Anzora...