Jul 192020
 

Recent projects

For the final day of the Festival of Archaeology, we are looking at some of our most recent projects. As yet they these do not have full or final reports but there are still interesting findings we can share.

Nether Stowey

At Nether Stowey we had the opportunity to briefly investigate an Operational Base that was already partially collapsed. The site was on a farm, and had proved an ongoing issue for the sites owners, as their sheep regularly found a way through increasingly expensive fencing and into the OB. Once there they struggled to extract themselves and over the years, more than one had ended their days there. The plan was therefore to bury the OB and prevent this happening. CART were offered the opportunity to investigate the OB prior to the site being buried. In this situation there is no need undertake a total excavation. Parts of the structure will remain intact for future generations to study. The purpose was to learn what was not immediately obvious. There was limited time, with a day or preparation and a day for excavation.

A draft report on the excavation details the findings. Whilst the main chamber was the typical elephant shelter, both the entrance and escape exit are different. See our images of the dig for more details. Possibly the escape exit may represent a later addition, although no specific proof of this was found. The end chamber is built from bricks, unlike the concrete blocks of the main end walls, except around the route to the escape tunnel. We have a couple of basic plans to show the layout, though the more formal plan was drawn up prior to the excavation so does not show the entrance that was identified. Creating detailed plans and reports is a lengthy process and just recently our new website has taken priority. However, hopefully this will indicate how the new website will be developing as we have the chance to complete and add this material online. 

A final bonus from the excavation was the publicity in the local area regarding the excavation resulted in CART being given a copy of a photograph of the Nether Stowey Patrol.

Ferndown

Over a period of several weeks in 2019, CART, supported by Dorset Council and their wildlife volunteers with some technical support from the New Forest Community Archaeology team. From the first identification of the exact location by local resident Adam Dunn, to the extensive excavation and final interpretation board, has been quite a journey. Our initial report shows the difference from what we knew at the start of the year to now. The Ferndown Patrol report contains some of the images from this, another site which had an extensive ventilation system of glazed pipes, which was partially uncovered during the dig. Metal detecting and ground penetrating radar were both deployed in the initial stages to locate the buried structures. The former found the water tank with its concealed filler cap, whereas the latter was better for finding the shaft and the disturbed ground of the ventilation system. We are grateful to Gary Sterne of Maisey Battery for bringing his expensive kit and helping us out. Do check out his site in Normandy, for some very extensive digging and some remarkable associated historical research that is rewriting one of the central stories of D Day.

Our walkthrough video shows the site at the end of the excavation.

Our attempts to have a formal unveiling of the new interpretation board and the remains deliberately left extant were unfortunately foiled, first by severe storms this spring, then by the coronavirus pandemic! We would like to put on an event to show off the finds but perhaps that will have to wait for the 2021 Festival of Archaeology!

And as an extra bonus here is our colleague, John Wareham, instrumental in setting up the Ferndown excavations, with his video of the Auxiliary Units display built for a show season that won’t be happening. John is definitely our experimental archaeologist, learning how to remake items not built since the war.

Coleshill

Finally we bring you a short report from the Coleshill Estate. The team there have continued their investigation of the training structures at the site and have identified a new Operational Base there. This appears to be of a much earlier type than the previously known elephant shelter, being a box-like structure of corrugated iron on wooden beams. This may suggest that the design of OBs developed officially during the war, perhaps as more experienced Royal Engineer Officers became involved. 

We hope you have enjoyed our brief tour through the archaeology of Auxiliary Units. CART continue to research the Auxiliary Units and new information has been forthcoming even during this week. New material is now being regularly add to our website, so do keep coming back to see. We would be keen to hear from anyone investigating Auxiliary Units sites of all types, anywhere in the country, to share what we have found and to help learn from our mistakes. We are grateful to those archaeologists, both professional and amateur, who kindly shared their research with us to share with you. Please contact us if you have any information about Auxiliary Units that you don’t see on this website already. We think we have included everyone who was involved, but we know there must be missing names.

Best wishes from all at CART

Jul 182020
 

Operational Bases in 3D

When looking at an Operational Base, a plan can helpful to understand what can be seen in specific photos. It is often difficult to understand a structure from a single image or series of images. But a plan, or series of plans, can only show two dimensions at once.

Beaminster 2D plans of OB
A 2D plan series helps explain the layout of an Operational Base

The simplest way to address this is with a sketch, that adds the third dimension. Our Admiralty 4 (Prior Park) Patrol report contains an example of this. The sketch makes clearer how an underground structure is arranged, when that cannot be easily seen from the images alone.

Software has made it possible to build virtual 3D models from measurements of an Operational Base. Once the realm of specialists, there are now entry level software options to build a virtual 3D model and colour it to create an accurate reconstruction of an OB that may be collapsed or overgrown. An example of this can be seen with these images of a very overgrown OB at Portesham in Dorset, with a simple 3D model showing much more clearly than any of the image the layout of the operational base.

We have been fortunate enough to have a professional showing us how it should be done. Matt Brazier kindly produced a couple of models of Operational Bases for CART and has animated these into a walk through which further improves the understanding of design. We have seen his model of the Salisbury In-station already. He produced another of Operational Base of the Drellingore Patrol. The OB in this instance was collapsed, though the shaft and escape tunnel remain intact. The reconstruction video allowed the original structure to be visualised as it would have been. There is always a risk of introducing interpretation into a model and making assumptions. The initial model of the Binnegar OB seen in the report, assumed the shaft was a rectangle shape. However, once excavated it became clear it was narrower at one end than the other, as can be seen in the images. Experience has shown that you can’t take too many measurements and it is is also worth planning a follow up visit to repeat the measurements that were overlooked the first time!

More recently archaeological recording has advanced to incorporate 3D scanning technology. Issues of missed measurements are overcome as the laser scanner takes thousands of measurements to create a point map. This plots each measurement in three dimensions to create a virtual model of the structure. This model can be rendered with either illustrations or photographs mapped onto the images. Recently, AOC Archaeology were contracted by Forestry and Land Scotland to record an Operational Base that came to light during felling works. This was an OB in a relatively good state of preservation, belonging to the Beattock Patrol  in the Scottish Borders and ideal for this technique. Of particular interest was the linking of scans above and below ground to generate an illustration of the location of the structure in the landscape. As these structures are vulnerable to rust and other natural damage over time, this has to be the modality of choice to record these structures where possible.  We are grateful to AOC for sharing the final report and the images. These images are very effective and certainly captured the imagination of the press, resulting in numerous articles including one in French!

Beattock article 1

Beattock article 2

Beattock article 3

Beattock article 4

Beattock article 5

Tomorrow, for the final day of the Festival of Archaeology, we bring you some of our latest projects.

Jul 152020
 

Small but sweet

After having presented some large scale projects, its time to recognise that not every archaeological excavation needs to be on this scale. The two projects described here are on a smaller scale, but produced very useful findings.

Bromyard Downs

In Herefordshire, the Bromyard Downs Project undertook an investigation of two possible Auxiliary Units hides identified from oral accounts. One consisted of nothing more than a depression in the ground. The other was only approximately located. Metal detecting revealed  a possible locaiton for the latter and the presence of some concrete blocks.

The project online portal hosts the report.

The findings confirmed the oral history of the area. In this project we saw that even the history of the site from the 1970s and 1980s had been lost. One OB had been intentionally destroyed. However, with only the entrance shaft excavated, it is not impossible that some significant part of the main structure remains. A number of sites have been found where the entrance shaft was lowered and filled in, while leaving the main chamber of the structure intact.

It also featured in the local newspaper

Puddletown

CART undertook a small excavation on private land near Puddletown Forest, near Dorchester in Dorset. The location of the Operational Base had been identified by the landowner, who invited CART to investigate, though there were few visible remnants to see at the start. This excavation identified a section of brick wall, at the entrance to the OB. In other areas there was little apparent, but careful excavation revealed the remains of corrugated iron sheeting placed vertically. Groups of nails were found in clusters with occasional fragments of wood preserved where the iron had leached into the wood from the nails, slowing its decay. The original wooden framework had rotted away, as had the majority of the corrugated iron. Changes in colour and texture were all that identified the edges of the structure and where the corrugated iron walls had been.

Nearby in a large hollow, a number of .45 calibre cartridge cases and bullets were found. Possibly from a Thompson Sub-Machine gun, these might have been the result of practice by the Auxiliary Units men. However, the US Army also trained in the area and used the same weapon, so could also have fired this weapon here. The presence of 1942 dated .300 rifle rounds supported the latter interpretation.

Excavations are not complete at this site, but current findings suggest that the structure was a box like underground hide built with a wooden frame. When the area was planted as forest, after the war, the weight of the trees above the OB appear to have caused it to collapse.

We have a small gallery of this excavation for you to view.

Tomorrow we look at Sussex and the work of Chichester and District Archaeology Society there.

Jul 142020
 

Recording an OB when no access is possible;

And when Scheduling sometimes may not be the best approach

Normally when we find out about a site it is because someone is inviting us to take a look, or because hunting for a location we have come across the owners. Almost all of the time they are keen for us to come and visit, take a look around the remains and record what is left, and explain how it was it used. The Salisbury In-station site has been a bit different.

We first became aware the site in 2001 from letters from the late Bert Davis, a member of the Royals Signals team who helped fit it out, shortly after the OB was built. He provided an approximate location but the Foot and Mouth epidemic rather limited countryside access at the rime. An initial reconnaissance in 2003 revealed it was in publicly accessible woodland managed by the Forestry Commission. Contact with them revealed that they were very much aware of the site, not least as a contractor had previously put the wheel of their tractor through the roof and damaged it. Subsequently they had fitted bat grills to the entrances and reportedly bats were in residence. Since disturbing bats, for example by flash photography, flood lighting or indeed simply a noisy presence is illegal, they were understandably reluctant to allow access.

In 2013 CART was approached by a local resident who had found the site simply through walking in the area. We visited the site and did not enter, but recorded what could be seen above ground. At around the same time, a group of “urban explorers” visited the site, reportedly broke the locks off of the bat grills and entered, taking photos and video of the site. These were posted online, making the existence of the site public knowledge. With a lot of images it was clear this was a site in remarkably good condition, with a large part of the original fittings in situ. It was also significantly larger than most other “Zero” In-stations, which tend to follow a similar design. The transcription of the Beatrice Temple Diary at about this time included reference to this site as a “Superzero” indicating it’s special nature. Attempts were renewed to see if officially sanctioned access would be possible but came to nothing.

urban exploration report

In 2014, independent of CART, a submission was made to have the site scheduled. There is no doubt that it is deserving, being in a good state of preservation and being unique even among other surviving Auxiliary Structures. The application was successful and the listing can be read online.

Scheduling report

When the Defence of Britain Project was compiling lists of wartime sites in 1995-2000, one intention was to use the results to schedule a selection. Discussions around that time reflected that scheduling provides little in the way of benefit to a site in secure ownership, but does allow prosecution in the event of deliberate damage. For Auxiliary Units OBs, their survival has often been the result of not being widely known about. Keeping a site secret cannot protect from a major road being built over it, or a housing development. However, they are rarely placed in locations where this is a real risk. One of the results of scheduling a site is that its location is revealed. In the case of the Salisbury In-station, this meant an 8 digit map reference was put online, making it easy for anyone with a GPS system to locate the site with no other knowledge. In addition a supplemental “Heritage Highlights” press release included images of the site, in case of any doubt

Press release

Subsequently the site has been revisited repeatedly by urban explorers, damaging locks and indeed breaking the grills beyond repair in order to gain access. Understandably for those tasked with the care of the site, this is a major problem. They know there are risks to entry, this is a confined space and parts of the structure have been damaged. Images from within show the presence of asbestos boards in use for internal dividers with some of these damaged. The law places the responsibility on the owners for the safety even of those who break in. Scheduling doesn’t appear to have helped this site, except to make it more more widely known.

How to record a site when you can’t get in? 

CART Researchers have visited the site on a number of occasions. We have surveyed and recorded those elements visible from the surface. This includes not only the entrance shafts, but the presence of ventilation pipes on the surface. Some items removed from the interior by visitors have also been recorded on the surface. The surrounding area was examined for the presence of aerial trees, but all the trees in the surrounding area appear too young. The site was felled in the past and it was during logging that a contractor vehicle damaged the roof of the entrance chamber. CART researchers also identified the location of the above ground hut, which does not feature in the scheduling. It has also been identified that the orientation of the structure on the scheduling report is incorrect.

In addition information has been collected from the illegal access recordings available online. Using these, Matt Brazier has produced an excellent 3D walk through. This can be seen on the Salisbury In-station page.

YouTube video , another , a rather loud and jerky one

And another and finally just 4 weeks ago

This is why we are happy to talk about this site at this point, as it is obviously already common knowledge, and presumably for every visitor that posts a video online there have been a number of others

It is clear at both this an other sites, that repeat visits can mean new findings come to light. As the vegetation differs with seasons or weather, different elements become more or less obvious. 

CART continue to work towards the goal of being permitted to safely document the interior of this site. We have engaged in a positive dialogue with the site managers and we hope our determination will pay off some time soon. We have worked to identify periods when entry would not result in bat disturbance and the requirements for safe access, both in terms of confined space working and asbestos risk management. We have explored the possibility of remote access with drones or remote controlled vehicles. If access ever is possible, we want to record it in as many ways as possible to make the most of the opportunity. Not just with photos or video, but detailed measurement or ideally 3D scanning to ensure the site is recorded comprehensively. We would be interested to hear from anyone with skills in those areas who might wish to cooperate either in providing the relevant schemes of work or risk assessments or later in any investigation. It would be a shame if this site if further damaged or decays without being properly recorded. At present the only records have resulted from illegal access which surely is not what was intended by those creating the relevant legislation. From CART’s perspective, doing the right thing may take longer but we hope that is of more benefit in the future in relations with other landowners than earlier access to a single site, no matter how interesting.

Following the most visit video, all the entrances have been welded shut to prevent access.

Tomorrow will be looking at some smaller scale projects with interesting findings.

Feb 122020
 

Sunday 1st March at 10 am

Meeting point:

Fitzpain Road, West Parley, Ferndown, Dorset. Between numbers 60 and 62.

Welcome speech, talk from CART, unveiling of memorial plaque and refreshments.

Please pass this on to anyone else who you may know who would like to attend.

The rediscovered Ferndown O.B. was excavated last year by CART. With support from the local council, part of the bunker will be permanently viewable.

Feb 052020
 

The rediscovered Ferndown O.B. (Dorset) was excavated last year by CART. As is quite common, the local kids used to play in it, but perhaps were unaware of the significance of the structure – definitely not an air-raid shelter.

With support form the local council, part of the bunker will be permanently viewable, complete with the unveiling of an information board.

It was hoped that this would take place this coming weekend, but due to the very bad weather forecast and expected storm Ciara, this had been postponed. We will update you when we know more. All are welcome at the unveiling.

Jan 252020
 

Some great coverage about the Ferndown bunker in Dorset. Many thanks to the Bournemouth Echo for their story (see here: https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/…/18184877.pictured-top-…/) and if any families of the members of the patrol are available for the official opening of the site, please get in touch.

The rediscovered Ferndown O.B. was excavated last year by CART. As is quite common, the local kids used to play in it, but perhaps were unaware of the significance of the structure – definitely not an air-raid shelter !

With support form the local council part of the bunker will be permanently viewable, complete with an information board.

Sep 302019
 

Firstly lots of big thanks to everyone who helped make the 75th Anniversary of Aux Units Stand Down at the National Trust’s Coleshill Estate such a resounding success. This year also marks the 10th Anniversary of CART.

The day went extremely well, even the weather didn’t put off the crowds who attended.

Jim Gasgoyne pointing out his mother who was in the SD Branch, The Scallywags & re-enactors
Radio workshop hut pads & Coleshill Estate
Original Operational Base
Special Duties Branch – chicken shed radio hide
The late Bob Millard, Scout Section / SAS, office, weapons & mock-up OB
Chris Pratt (B.R.O.M. / British Resistance Organisation Museum, Parham, Suffolk), the family of Capt. Tallents (1938 Countryman’s author)

Brilliant day – well done all !!

Sep 132019
 

Final preparations are gathering pace for the largest display of Auxiliary Units equipment ever put together, with many items never having been displayed before.

This is a large part of the National Trusts event on Sunday 22nd September marking the 75th anniversary of Auxiliary Units being stood down. Near Swindon, Wiltshire, SN6 7PT.

So much going on. See the Programme of Events and flyer below:

Come and learn about saboteurs, spies and secret messages hidden in tennis balls, designed to help thwart a German invasion…

C.A.R.T. will be set up in The Granary, so come and say hi.

Lots to explore all over the estate:

Sep 062019
 

Sunday September 22nd, 10am to 4pm. SN6 7PT

The grounds of Coleshill House are littered with Aux history. There’s the Guard House, replica SD hide, the remains of the huts where some of the men lived and worked. Grenade and rifle ranges, where they practiced on old tanks and lorries – even a piece of one of those tanks has been found.

We will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Auxiliers being stood down from service. These brave men and women volunteered to act as an underground resistance to the threatened German invasion in 1940.

What else ? Military vehicles, re-enactors, music & dancing, food and drink. For the kids there will be a special activity challenge trail, and code-breaking.

Replica bunker tours

Plus there are some special guests lined up too:

Malcolm Atkin: former archaeologist, military historian & professional author including these WW2 books –

Tony ‘Scallywag’ Salter: Living Historian and highly knowledgeable Aux Units enthusiast, Tony (and his lovely wife Julie) take their display all around the country educating as they go –

Auxiliary Unit talks from Chris Pratt (British Resistance Museum at Parham, Suffolk), and local historian Bill King who contributed to the book ‘With Britain in Mortal Danger’, as well as appearing in various television programmes.

Bill King & Chris Pratt

Of course C.A.R.T. will be there too, packing The Granary to the gunwales with displays of weapons, explosives and other equipment issued to the Auxiliers, a fully equipped bunker and re-creations of the wartime offices. There will be lots of items on display for first time in 75 years in this location, including numerous original documents and photographs.

This is a huge event and not to be missed.