1 July 2016
As a part of the preparations for the building of service family accommodation for the Army Basing Programme on Salisbury Plain, Martin Brown, Principal Archaeologist at WYG, has been working on the investigation of the First War practice trenches at Larkhill (Wiltshire). He shares his experience of attending the very moving event that took place on this site today to commemorate the centenary of the Somme battle.
It has been my enormous privilege today to stand on the excavated remains of Great War practice trenches with serving members of the Royal Artillery, colleagues from our contractors Wessex Archaeology and members of the the local community.
We stood in silence; we heard the whistles and bugles blown, and an 18 pounder marking the moment of Remembrance; we joined Padre in commemoration and dedication. The site specific act of remembrance took place on trenches used in the training of British and Australian soldiers from 1914 to 1918, including in preparation for the Somme.
The gun fired and away to the west. The rumble of thunder replied and accompanied the service and, at the Blessing, a rainbow arced over the Plain. During the silence the birdsong swelled, reminding us that when the firing subsided a century ago, the skylarks did rise.
Archaeology is all about people, we look at the lives of the dead and bring them back to life through the traces they left behind. At the same time, we engage with people and tell them the ancestral tales. How remarkable this morning to meet the uniformed descendants of these men and to demonstrate how we recognise them and their forebears whilst also delivering new homes for them and, in turn, their successors in the British Army.
We will remember them.
Wreath cover photo courtesy of Si Cleggett; Soldier photo courtesy of Rosemary Meeke.