Revisiting WWII at Longhedge
Archaeologists are often thought only to be interested in very old remains – and those are very important to us – but we are also interested in more modern finds and features too. Too often we think we already know everything about events that have happened within living memory, but it’s surprising how often things turn up that have been forgotten, at least within the public record.
Longehedge is an area of land to the north of the Old Sarum Airfield. Old Sarum airfield has a long and illustrious military history. Our original interest in Longhedge was sparked by an Iron Age settlement that appears on aerial photographs. Initial geophysical survey showed the enclosed Iron Age settlement, but also lots of other interesting and unusual features that appeared to be military in origin.
So, in order to get some more information about all of these interesting features, a trenched evaluation was undertaken. The results from the geophysical surveys and trial trenches were mapped (below) and show the iron age and modern features.
The zig-zag pattern of some of the trenches looked a lot like practice trenches and originally the square feature was thought to be practicing a type of emplacement. However, excavation of parts of the features at the evaluation stage showed that they were very narrow.
This led to the suggestion that they were latrine trenches, backed up by finding some that were edged with corrugated iron.
Also found in the trenches were these cans that had contained sliced bacon, identified as coming from the USA.
During World War 2, Old Sarum airfield had been very important for aircraft, including for servicing. However, by early 1944, plans for the D-Day landing were well advanced and all the facilities at Old Sarum had been requisitioned to form part of the 2nd TAF Concentration Area. This was a hinterland and supply location for the invasion forces. Thousands of ground personnel and virtually all RAF motor transport vehicles destined for Normandy passed through Old Sarum in this period. There are records that seven large, tented camps were set up in the countryside around Old Sarum and a force of over 100 fitters was established to undertake the waterproofing of the 25,000 invasion vehicles!
It seems likely that Longhedge was one of the sites for these fitters, although whether the bacon tins were due to US personnel being there, or a donation from Allied forces is a question that hasn’t yet been answered! There is likely to be more archaeological work on this site which has been occupied on at least two separate occasions around 2000 years apart – even though nothing shows on the surface today!
Assistant County Archaeologist