Documenting the Physical Legacy of the Home Front 1914 – 18

Today the Council for British Archaeology, English Heritage and many other national organisations are launching an online project, Home Front Legacy 1914 – 18, which turns us all into archaeologists. It could not be more exciting or important. We are seeking to record as many as possible of the thousands of First World War related sites in the UK. With the help of members of the public armed with their mobile phones, tablets or just a pencil and paper, we are going to make a map of all the drill halls, munitions factories, training camps and places in Britain that were shaped by the unprecedented needs of total war.

Dan Snow and servicemen at Browndown Battlefield
Dan and servicemen from the British Armed Forces in the recently identified practice battlefield trench system.
Dan Snow and Wayne Cocroft, from English Heritage, note the coordinates of the practice battlefield
Dan and Stephen Fisher of CBA Wessex sketching front line trenches at Browndown Camp, Gosport, Hampshire

Using the internet to its full potential we are attempting to make sure that things are not forgotten and won’t fade away. Instead we hope that in every locality people will make a note of what they can see on the ground, what they have heard from older residents and what is unearthed during research in the archives. This means that the legacy of the war on the home front will be saved for everyone, for ever.

Dan Snow and Wayne Cocroft record the recently identified battlefield near Gosport.
Plotting the location of the centre of the site on the Home Front Legacy recording app

I was privileged to be the first person to make a recording for the project with an iPad on a recently identified practice battlefield near Gosport, complete with a lengthy set of trenches. It was easy to use. For starters you simply hit one button and it works out exactly where you are, so no worrying about grid references! Then you can complete each field on your phone or tablet and enter more information, you can even upload pictures that you have taken on the spot. The great thing is that as soon as you submit your observations, everyone else in the country will be able to see the site, add their own sites and find out more about what’s out there. The information will also be submitted to the local Historic Environment Record. Soon I hope that our map of the UK will be covered with little red map pins as people from Co. Fermanagh to Orkney and Cornwall to Cardiff  rush out to survey their local sites. This is archaeology for everyone.

I know everyone will enjoy it as much as I have. Good luck!

Dan Snow, Council for British Archaeology President  

Extra links:

Get involved and visit the new Home Front Legacy 1914 – 18 website

Follow @homefrontlegacy on twitter

Visit First World War Home Front on the English Heritage website.

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