Help find the forgotten history of the First World War

Thursday 13 March 2014

Local people across Wales are being urged to play their part in a vital campaign that will unlock the secrets of our First World War places and ensure their place in history is recorded for future generations.

Dan Snow © Council for British Archaeology

This week sees the start of Home Front Legacy 1914-18, a campaign on which the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Cadw, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, and partners across the UK are working together to record the physical remains of the war on home territory.

The First World War had widespread effects across Wales — no area was left untouched as the whole country geared up to contribute to the war effort. One hundred years on the generation that witnessed it has almost gone, and what we are left with are the physical remains — buildings, landscapes and artefacts. Archaeology has an important role to play in understanding and remembering this global conflict.

Now, Cadw, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and the Welsh Archaeological Trusts are calling on volunteers from across Wales to step forward to help research, identify and record landscapes, buildings and structures that played a key role during the conflict. Bringing together existing records and archives with people's local knowledge will fill in the gaps and for the first time properly record the remains of the war that are still all around us today.

Dan Snow, President of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), called for volunteers to join up for the Home Front Legacy campaign. He said: 'Our aim is to record and preserve vulnerable sites, buildings and structures —camps, drill halls, factories and observation posts for example, before they and the stories they bear witness to are lost forever. 

'Our volunteers will be scouring our towns, villages, countryside and beaches to track down local First World War places that are just not in the records. They'll upload observations on what they find to a specially designed app along with photographs and historic documents which will appear on an online map to open up the impact of the war on our landscape for everyone.'

John Griffiths, Culture Minster said: 'The Home Front Legacy 1914-18 is a really good and worthwhile project.  

'The First World War, and the part that Britain and the Commonwealth played in it, changed the course of history.  Discovering, preserving and identifying for the public, sites and buildings from that era will help bring that part of our national history alive for generations to come.

'So I hope lots of people, young and old and from all over the country, will get involved. Local and family history groups, parish and county-based centenary projects, schools, young people, those interested in the part played by women or Commonwealth communities — there will be buildings and sites to be discovered that mean something to everyone.'

Jon Berry, Senior Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology at Cadw, added: 'Archaeology is the study of past society through material culture. This includes landscapes, buildings, structures, earthworks, buried features, artefacts and documents. 

'Studying these remains can help us understand the impact of the war on the communities and landscapes of Wales. As we prepare to remember the events of 100 years ago there has never been a more appropriate time for communities across the country to get involved in this part of our history. We look forward to working with the other project partners in making Home Front Legacy a success.'

How to get involved

During the centenary years you can get involved with projects across Wales to discover, identify and understand sites that relate to either the military or civil response to war.

The Council for British Archaeology has developed an online recording toolkit and guidance to help you record First World War remains.  

Cadw, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and the Welsh Archaeological Trusts are all co-ordinating a range of activities and events relating to the First World War.  

If you would like to become involved or want to know what is happening in your area then contact your local Welsh Archaeological Trust to find out more.

Sign up on the Council for British Archaeology's Home Front Legacy website —  www.homefrontlegacy.org.uk  — to access the online recording toolkit, guidance and resources, including an app for recording sites in the field and a map and photo gallery of newly recorded sites. 

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