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Plugstreet Blog


This is the new blog of the Plugstreet Archaeological Project.


   A Great War themed project exploring sites around Comines-Warneton and Messines in Belgium.    The project is being led by members of No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War    Archaeology and the Comines-Warneton Historical Society.


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Christmas Listening

Thursday, December 20th, 2007
 
       

Art in The Trenches
BBC Radio 4
Boxing Day (26th December 2007)
11.02 UK time
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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.
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If you are unable to hear it then go to:
www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/listenagain
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Happy listening and if you do listen to it why not post a comment about it?

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Match of the Day

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
 
       

Christmas draweth nigh…as if we didn’t know it.
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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!
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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?
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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.
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Happy Christmas
Frohe Weinachts
Joyeux Noel
Goioe Kerstmis (I think that’s right for Flemish)

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An early Christmas present

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
 
       

The results from the Magnetometer survey are now delivered as an early Christmas present by the Colonel, and pretty special they are!
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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 running 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….

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Back to the Bustard

Thursday, December 6th, 2007
 
       

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.
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As soon 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.
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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.
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Watch this space!

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The Serre Memorial

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
 
       

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 commemorates 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.
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This picture shows the memorial on the day of its unveiling.

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Of Things Past

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
 
       

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.
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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.
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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.

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The Spreading Word

Friday, November 2nd, 2007
 
       

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.
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Lo and Behold! Some kind soul has scanned it and put it on the web here:
http://www.leinster-regiment-association.org.uk/download/plustreetproject.pdf
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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 Sheets) during the Battle of Messines while the Anzacs were busy around, or possibly creating, our dig site.
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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.

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The Sincerest Form…

Thursday, November 1st, 2007
 
       

We broke new ground with the Plugstreet Project blog, 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.
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If you want to read about the Great Arab Revolt Project in Jordan go here:
http://garp2007.blogspot.com/2007/11/day-3-wadi-rutm.html
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It’s the archaeology of the Arab insurgency against the Turks (Lawrence of Arabia stuff). How topical!
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It’s led by friends of ours and members of our team (Nick Saunders mostly) are out there._

Good Luck Guys!

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Some site record shots

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
 
       

As you will sense, Ian has been very busy. These three photos are some of his record shots of the trenches excavated in 2007.
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Steve L’s team trench with Australian recut of demolished German trench.
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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.

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Dan’s team’s 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.

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Ian’s Images

Monday, October 8th, 2007
 
       

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.
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‘Spoils of Archaeology’: detritus of war emerging from the excavated trenches
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‘Front Line dirt’: part of the (enormous) spoil heap from the bunker trench
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‘Life in no-man’s land’: Mr Delrue’s crop emerges in no-man’s land.

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Entitled ‘Anzacs’ – Michael in the Australian Lewis Gun sap

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Entitled ‘Fallen Remembered’ – Tori and Ralph laying the wreath at the Ploegsteert Memorial

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Entitled ‘Sap Team’ Danny and his team (with Martin and Richard) at the Lewis sap
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‘Generations’: Tori and Kirsty by the German bunker with the church of Messines in the distance
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‘Peace Dig’ – Jo and Becki looking on as the Australian recut of the German front line is dug
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‘Messines Ridge’ taken from no-man’s land

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‘Shell burst’ – Tangled iron work from Jon’s excavation of the shell crater
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Archaeological Limber – Ian’s take on the famous Hurley photo of the gun team (below)

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