WWI military practice tunnels at Salisbury Plain researched

Archaeologists working with the British Ministry of Defence unearthed a network of tunnels used to train soldiers to fight in World War I at Salisbury Plain, England.

Sample of found graffiti (by Ministry of Defence)

The discovery was made prior to construction works that will provide over 400 military homes at Larkhill. In the second half of the 1910s the site was used to simulate conditions soldiers would face in trenches in France and Belgium during the war. Among the troops that were trained within the network in 1916 was the Australian 3rd Division infantry,  West Yorkshire coal miners, and Wiltshire men. Archaeologists uncovered more than 100 pieces of graffiti in the chalk walls of the trenches and tunnels and training relics such as grenades, ammunition and food tins left between 1915-1918.

Entrance to the tunnel (by Ministry of Defence)

The graffiti mentions names of young soldiers who trained within the tunnels, such as the mentioned Australians. A significant find was a chalk plaque inscribed with the names of Australian bombers (soldiers trained to use hand grenades). One of them, Private Lawrence Carthage Weathers, won the Victoria Cross in September 1918 for attacking a machine gun post with grenades, capturing it and taking 180 prisoners. Another graffiti mentions two Halls brothers who signed their names and wrote “Semper Fidelis” (Ever Faithful) beneath.

Unearthed tunnels (by Ministry of Defence)

The archaeologists have cleared 8 kilometres of trenches, finding relics mentioned above and even a tin that once held an Australian brand of toffees, while a bucket had been turned into a brazier to keep men warm. In addition to the tunnels a wealth of prehistoric remains, including a Neolithic enclosure some 600 years older than Stonehenge and 4000 year old burials have also been discovered.

Unearthed trenches (by Ministry of Defence)

(after BBC News, British Ministry of Defence & Heritage Daily)

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