Friday, 22 August 2008

A couple more images

We shall aim to post some images of the other main excavation trenches at Plugstreet 2008 at some point over the weekend, but in the meantime, a couple more images of items found with the Australian.

An image of one of the pockets of ammunition with chargers of .303 rounds and webbing attached to the pocket.

This is the interior of the brodie helmet note the buckles of the straps at the edge - with the mineralised strap thus up over the outer rim of the helmet

The components of the PH hood following initial conservation work

The entrenchment tool found at the back of the man, below his pack

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Some of the finds

In the following days we will aim to post some of the images from other important parts of the excavations of 2008. Today perhaps it would be worthwhile to show some of the finds with the man that was excavated

Proof of nationality (Collar badge and shoulder title)

Box respirator and iodine under conservation

Button and Boot

We have posted these images as only a TINY portion of the kit found with the man to illustrate the quality of the surviving elements. Other parts of his panoply of arms are as well preserved and his remains too tell a story. We shall post more over the coming weeks

Ministerial Announcement in Australia

THE HON. WARREN SNOWDON MP Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

Wednesday, 20 August 2008117/2008

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, today announced the remains of an unidentified Australian World War I soldier have been unearthed in Belgium.The human remains were discovered along with pieces of Australian equipment and clothing during an authorised excavation by a British archaeology team at Ploegsteert; the site where the Battle of Messines took place in June 1917.“I can confirm the remains of one of our courageous World War I soldiers have been uncovered in Belgium,” Mr Snowdon said.“Two British archaeologists undertaking an official excavation unearthed the remains, along with evidence they are of a fallen Australian Digger who fought in the Battle of Messines.”The bones, which are reported to be in reasonably good condition, were exhumed under the supervision of the Belgian Police and Army, who are housing the remains at a Belgian Army Barracks until further notice from Australian authorities.“The Australian Government is firm in our commitment to honour our war dead, and is already undertaking historical research to establish any initial identification links,” Mr Snowdon said.“We are also hopeful that some of the equipment located with the remains, such as badges and buttons, may assist with identification of the soldier and will consider the possibility of DNA testing if there is reasonable chance of a match.”It is likely the remains will be re-interred at one of the existing Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Belgium later this year.

An Announcement

Ladies and Gentlemen it is with some pride that I am able to now make this announcement...

No Longer Missing in Action:

No-Man’s-Land Archaeology recovers the body of an Australian soldier of the Great War

On 6th August 2008, No-Man’s-Land Archaeology, a multi-national archaeology group who specialise in the First World War, found the body of an Australian soldier of the Great War whilst excavating German trenches near St Yves in Wallonia, Belgium. The soldier was in full battle order with all his well-preserved equipment, medical kit, weaponry and parts of his uniform. His shoulder and collar titles identified him as an Australian. The area was attacked by the Australian 3rd Division on the morning of 7th June 1917 as part of the Battle of Messines, a prelude to the better known battle of 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele). Unlike recent discoveries at Fromelles, this was a battlefield casualty in full kit buried where he fell rather than a burial in a grave behind the lines.

The work is part of a wider landscape project to examine the effectiveness of the training of the Australian 3rd Division on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire with the actuality of battle through archaeological excavation of trench systems, historical studies, aerial photography, map work, geophysical survey and other techniques. The project has run for four years so far, with this being the second season of fieldwork in Belgium and the first time that significant human remains were recovered. The work has been accomplished by a multinational team in collaboration with a number of academic departments and local partners.

The remains of the soldier tell a significant story of one man’s involvement in a major piece of world history through his personal kit and effects including the evidence for the taking of trophies in the form of a German pickelhaube. The body was recovered with scientific techniques; geophysical survey, forensic archaeology (techniques familiar to viewers of CSI), and on-site conservation from our mobile lab.

The group is very proud to have recovered a previously missing soldier with the highest scientific skill and appropriate levels of respect; this was a man who endured unimaginable hardship and met a violent end.

Over the years, there has been strong Australian involvement in the project with assistance from the Australian War Memorial, fieldworkers from Australia, and the presence of the Australian Army at commemorative events.

All of the artefacts, along with the remains of the soldier have been taken by the Belgian Army to be given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission prior to attempts to identify the man.

Contacts: Richard Osgood and Martin Brown Co-Directors, the Plugstreet Project.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Ploegsteert Blog

A link from the website which has some details in French on some of this year's results...including hints on the announcement which will soon follow.
Martin (back row in middle), Glen (back row, second from right), Henry (front row, on left) and Kirsty (front row on right) from the dig team are all present.

Monday Announcement???

Dear readers,
well the best laid plans of mice and men...sadly no press release by Australian Defence today and thus our team has to hold back its press release. Fingers crossed that the coverage of the Olympics in Australia isn't keeping the story from the news - perhaps the powers that be are waiting for Australia to once again climb above GB in the medals table before issuing their statement. Thus, Plugstreet Project blog announcement will follow that made in Canberra.

On another note, it was heartening to see this blog linked into 'Bonekickers' when Prof Mark Horton was discussing real Great War archaeology on BAJR!!!...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Setting the scene

Two images that may or may not seem pertinent. The first is something I took in Canberra - the battle order of an infantryman of the Australian 3rd Division from France in 1918. This was given to the Australian historian of the Great War, Charles Bean - mud and all. You will note the ammo pockets, webbing , water bottle, collar dogs etc.

The second image is of the Menin Gate and depicts the names of all those missing men of the 33rd Btn, 9th Brgd, 3rd Div. Some 20 of these men fell in the attacks of the Battle of Messines in 1917 in and around the fields in which we worked. A sobering thought.

Remember, there will be a major announcement on the findings of our project tomorrow.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Major announcement on Monday

Dear readers,
on Monday there will be a major announcement on one of the findings from this summer's excavations for those of you that weren't on site. The excavation team has been waiting for the Australian Army to reveal the news to the press in Australia before we issued our press release. Those of you on site will know what this discovery was and I hope that Monday's announcement will prove to be the first on many revelations on the subject. Apologies for being so cryptic but you will appreciate the sensibilities on next announcment.

Damn Bonekickers/ Ploegstreet 2008 thoughts

After having left the UK for 10 days, I return and discover that my local bowling team has given me the nickname "Bonekicker", at which point I ranted for 10 minutes at my disgust of the final, terrible episode. Who was the grey haired man at the end? Who knows? Who cares?

Onto more relevant business:-

This year's dig was, once again, extremely enjoyable and a great success. My highlight of the week has to be (rather strangely) being up from 4am - 7am on Thursday morning. I woke up at 3:15 to frequent flashing blue lights which I assumed to be an alarm going off in the main building, only to discover that it was infact a deadly silent thunderstorm. Only once before have I seen weather of such awe and beauty. Those thoughts evaporated soon after when myself, Peter C. and Henry arrived at the site, when the heavens began to open, and continued to do so for the next hour. Enduring the weather was worth it though for the spectacle of a sunrise surrounded by more silent lightning all around.

Being in that field, in that severe weather, and at that time of the day (not long after what would have been the beginning of the pivotal attack at 3:10am June 7th 1917) gave me a small glimpse of what conditions and life would have been like in that area during the days of the Great War. I remember exiting the tent at around 5am and seeing Kirsty's trench in front me, which had become muddy with many puddles, not unlike models of landscapes ravaged by warfare that I had seen in the Ypres museum a couple of days before. The experience has certainly changed my perceptions of the Great War, and left me feeling emotional at the Last Post at the Menin Gate later that day and also at Toronto Avenue Cemetery in Ploegstreet Wood on Friday.

I was pleased to be given the pleasure of working with Jon and Team Nosferatu again this year. I am happy to say upon discovering a 4 and a half inch Howitzer shell in the ground I didn't smack it with a mattock this time! I am also pleased that after 5 days of hard work they discovered the remains of a collapsed dugout. All other trenches produced fine work also: Team Slither proved again their capabilities of conducting excellent archaeological excavation. Team Steve R. worked tirelessly despite digging the wrong side of the tin(!), and Team Avril refused to be disheartened by the discovery of THAT danmed hand shovel! Team Concrete succeded in discovering a new species- Archibould Titch will be sorely missed. My work for Team Colonel has been valuable experience and thoroughly enjoyable, my thanks go out the rope monkies who helped later on in the week.

I look forward to next year and seeing you all again.

P.S- The World Premiere of 'Daisy Gets Duked' will be taking place shortly on YouTube and Facebook.

Coops £:)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Artwork and Landscape at Ploegsteert, Messines, Wytschaete

Photo: copyright Peter Chasseaud 2008

Landscape and phenomenology

After a week on site (there or thereabouts) with the No Man's Land group at Plugstreet, I've started to post some drawings, photographs and writing on my blog:

Some of my work is a continuation of my Willows project, which resulted in an exhibition in Lewes, Sussex, last year, and also in a book: Willow/Wilg/Weide/Saule (Ypres Willows), which I produced under the imprint Altazimuth Press, which I use for my artist's books and poetic photobooks.

There's also a link from my main blog to one I've set up for landscape, maps and air photos, and this will include some images and interpreatation of the St Yvon (Factory Farm/Reebrouck/Ultra Trench, and also Ultimo Trench/Ultimo Crater.

Peter Chasseaud (The Wanderer).

Sunday, 10 August 2008

On reflection...

Back in Blighty (Where the internet works and the keyboard isn't confusingly Belgian)...

It's been a roller coaster of a week. Great teamwork, unforgettable experiences and lots of working hard and playing hard (working behind the bar until 2.45 am on the last night resulted in almost falling asleep standing up on the ferry home!).

Top experiences? Well, lying on my top bunk with my head out of the roof light, at 4am on Thursday morning, watching the bolts of lightning and listening to the thunder crashing all around, gave me a taster of what being under shell fire must have been like. Being periodically baked alive and then soaked wet through in the flax field was a test of true grit and determination (not least when doing the YMCA as part of "Team Colonel" when we couldn't Geophys due to the rain and lightning).

Again the last post ceremony at the Menin gate saw us without a dry eye in the house, especially when we realised we had chosen a spot standing in front of the Australian panel - spooky.

The finds too have been fascinating and I fear I am going to become a sad expert in "bits of rusty crap". The "show and tell" on our second evening brought everything to life and really helped us identify finds in the field. The boot studs found on day 2 in Trench 12 were amazing and the area of fire step I unearthed in the same trench, with what appeared to be the remnant of a cape lying on the top were a special find (until the rain came in and created a lovely pool).

All of the trenches have had finds which start to piece together a story, adding to the discoveries of 2007. We've had glass bottles, tins, ammunition, bits of clothing and personal kit as well as wriggly tin and timbers from a dugout which may have collapsed as a result of the shock wave from the mine which created Ultimo crater.

Of course the final part requires literally digging deep to backfill the trenches, but the team spirit and singing helped!

I am already looking forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Jo x

Team Nosferatu gets serious

With five days to concentrate on one trench Team Nosferatu finally found serious solid Great War artefacts in the deepest hole on the site. Despite having to dig out two metres of fill we uncovered the solid timbers (preserved because previously berlow the water table) of a trench mortar emplacement, with an exciting live improvised demolition charge for Rod and Gontrand to work their magic on.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Lehen Mundu Gerra Ikerketa

Aste honetan gure nazioarteko arkeolojia taldea ikerketa bat egiten ari da Messinesen, Belgikar hiri bat Ypreseren ingurumenan.

Plugstreet, herrialdeko herri txiki bat (Belgikaren hiri txikiena!), oso ospetua da Erresuma Batuan. 1917'ko Ekainaren 7etan bataila haundia piztu zeren. Bataila honetan oso interesgarria da Lehen Mundu Gerran. Ingalaterra eta bere Inperio Koloniala Alemaniaren kontra.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


In the command bunker we are still smiling... It is all going very well and the team are mostly well-behaved!!!!!

The local TV came out today to interview Martin and Paola about the site - Paola is the better looking and speaks French! Look out for us on a Walloon television set near you!

More news tomorrow.

Day 2 - confusion reigns

Well what a day - mystery and mayhem have ensued!

The `back to front trenchers´ aka Steve R´s crew, found that they´d spent two days digging their trench in the wrong place. Av´s team discovered an amazingly well preserved hand shovel circa 2007! Cheers for that Dan!

The bunker team found some remnants of trench board, while Chris the gravedigger found an 1898 bayonet. Team Nosferatu spent all day digging the deepest trench in the world and found nothing until the amazing discovery of "the bottle of Messines" at 5.30pm!

Meanwhile, Team Slither strike again. Bags and bags of finds including webbing, mauser rounds galore, 4 18lb shells, various tins, leather mush with rivets still attached, angle irons and finally a full wine bottle until Gontrand used his chink, chink, smunch excavation techniques resulting in eau de sulphur.

All in all a good day!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Day 1 - the beasting begins

Well, the rest of the Plugstreet crew have spent the first day on site, after much drinking the night before!

We now have 7 trenches open and even on day 1 we have had some interesting finds. Of course Team Slither have come up trumps, as we did last year, and despite only starting `Trench 12´ after our usual large baguette lunch we´ve already found parts of a German pickelhaub!! Just the rest of the untouched German frontline to find in a baking hot flax field! No pressure!

As for the rest of the group, well we have discovered a few interesting facts about Coops´ biological makeup which reacts unusually to a metal detector (see Facebook for those on it) and we´re all waiting to see Daisy Duke in his hotpants.

The beer supplies are disappearing fast but we haven´t yet had to resort to the pink stuff! And for those absent friends who couldn´t make it back this year we are all enjoying wedding style buffet dinners of smoked salmon, but we are thinking of you and drinking to your health!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Plugstreet 2008

Well 'The Colonel' has been deployed. Bar takings last night totalled 66 euros but only 6 team members were present!. We are expecting to drink the bar dry yet again!. The Colonel this year is going to concentrate on surveying around the Ultimo Crater in order to locate the other lewis gun emplacements and Company Headquarters.

The advance party is now esconced in the Peace Village at Messines. Last evening we hooked up with the excellent Claude at the Auberge and said hello before going off to eat in Ploegsteert. Sadly Claude had just come back from holidays so his kitchen wasn't open so no moules yet!

And now it's time to hit the landscape and get out, meet some of our other key players like the farmer and the Historical Society ready to start laying out trenches tomorrow and digging on Monday. Meanwhile there are tools to collect, geophysical surveys to do and a supermarket run to chase.

Meanwhile... we say CONGRATULATIONS to Louise from the Peace Village who is a new mum to Dylan, two weeks old!

We also wish Caroline the PV Manager a good weekend at the Dranouter Folk Festival! Top Brit folk acts Billy Bragg and the Men They Couldn't Hang are on. Enjoy!