Tuesday, 3 June 2008


It was raining all night and it is still raining now.

At 8 we decided to stay off site for the morning and see what the weather did...at 12.30 "rain stopped play" and the day was binned.

Tomorrow everyone will work harder to make up for lost time ;-)

There will be a cake though, as your correspondent had occassion to go the the excellent bakery on the A303 near Yeovilton.

More news as it happens!

Back to the Bustard

Monday 2nd June and we were joined on Salisbury Plain by a team of Bristol University students, ably led by Nick Saunders. They have joined us to spend a week digging on the site of the Anzac 3rd Division training trenches at The Bustrad on Salisbury Plain. The site takes it's name from the large bird and from the nearby pub named after it.

In 1916 the Australian soldiers took over, adapted amd trained in a series of trenches dug on Salisbury Plain to instruct and inform soldiers in the practice of trench diggin, maintenance, routine and life. The Australians are known to have spent days and nights in the trenches familiarising themselves with trench life. They are known to have been involved in exercises with live fire and the blowing of a small mine, which they seem then to have "captured" and fortified, just as they were to do at Ultimo crater, during the Battle of Messines.

The dig is designed to do a number of things. It will see what can be discerned in the archaeological record of the activities of these and other soldiers. The dig will also assess the survivial and condition of the remains. Information gained here will add to the picture of preparation for War in 1916/17.

Richard and Martin led an NML team here in 2005 but since then there has been neither opportunity nor resources to return so the help given by Bristol is invaluable.


Steve L is a key member of the No Mans Land team at Plugstreet. Steve is one of the core team excavating the mass grave at Fromelles. The grave was dug in July 1916 by the Germans to bury bodies of British and Australian troops killed in an attack on the Aubers Ridge. For 90 years the bodies have lain undisturbed as they seem to have been overlooked during clearance in the 1920s.

Excavations are now underway to confirm that there are bodies in the large holes identified from aerial photos and geophysical survey. News reports suggest that bodies have been found. However the project is heavily political, as its impetus comes from campaigners in Australia who wanted to find their fallen. This pressure means that the focus is biased one way! The connections felt by descendants in these situations is not like that with any other relative who died in 1916 and who may feek rather remote. Rather the war dead still hold a mysterious power and in connection with them individuals (and not only at this site) develop attitudes more akin to first nation groups than 21st century westerners. This is not to criticise anyone's opinion but is worh remarking upon. In a culture which does not deal well with death and in which the dead are usually not accorded stature the war dead are fetishized to an unusual extent. However, as I have written here before the emotional dynamics are complex and strange.

Two Pints of Leffe and a Packet of Frites...

Your intrepid correspondents were in Belgium at the weekend. The intention of our trip was to meet once more with M. Delrue, whose land we are investigating, Claude, chef-patron of the Auberge and all round good chap, and our friends from the Warneton Historical Society.

We are pleased to report that all the signatures are in place and that we have now formally applied for the permit to dig again. We hope the Wllon authorities will look kindly on us again!

While we were out there we stayed at the Messines Peace Village again and look set to use them as Dig HQ again this year. As ever we got a very warm welcome and we salute Louise, who is customer-service personified. Good luck with the pregnancy!

We are several steps closer to another season at Plugstreet.