“This is the first time anywhere in the world that archaeologists have had the chance to examine, excavate and record such an enormous expanse of first world war training ground,” said Si Cleggett, of Wessex Archaeology. “These men were being trained for the real thing, using live grenades – we know that because we found over 200 grenades in the tunnel and 50% of them proved to be still live. We had to work side by side with experts in dealing with live ordnance, or it could have got very tricky.”
The site is full of evidence of the soldiers who trained there. Graffiti still covers many of the tunnel walls, and some of it has been matched to service records, including those of Yorkshire coalminers, two brothers who signed their name “Halls” with the motto “Semper Fidelis”, and one man who later deserted.
Story: Maev Kennedy, The Guardian | Photo: Adam Stanford/Cundall and Aerial-Cam Ltd