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Remembering the War at Sea - Part 1

Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue 

The Background

1939 Aboukir

One hundred years ago today, on the morning of 22 September 1914, three rather aged cruisers patrolled the waters of the southern North Sea. The British vessels – the HMS Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue – were part of the Royal Navy’s 7th Cruiser Squadron and were on the lookout for enemy vessels that might be attempting to gain passage into the Channel. One gun on the side of each ship was manned and the crew, which comprised of men of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve many drawn from the ranks of the coastguard, were on guard for approaching threats. 

1940 Hogue

At 6.20 am an explosion ripped through the bow of the Aboukir, flooding the hull and disabling the steam pumps making it necessary to lower the lifeboats. The sudden attack and complete absence of visible threat, combined with his knowledge of naval warfare, led the ship’s Captain John Drummond to the conclusion that the vessel had struck a mine. Perceiving no further threat he signalled to the Cressy and the Hogue to close and rescue men from the rapidly sinking ship. The crew of the Hogue threw anything buoyant over the side of their vessel to provide refuge for men falling into the water when they spotted the real cause of the Aboukir’s fate. German submarine U-9 had surfaced on the water nearby. The Hogue opened fire though it was already too late. The U-9 had fired two further torpedoes at the Hogue, and it was the loss of their weight that had caused the submarine to surface briefly before adjusting its buoyancy to return once more beneath the waves. 

1941 Cressy

The Hogue was lost, sinking at 7.15, just thirty minutes after the Aboukir. The Cressy, the only vessel still afloat, was now acutely aware of the danger that presented itself. Whilst attempting to assist those men in the water who had not yet perished, the Cressy opened fire on the submarine and attempted to ram it, though both endeavours failed. 
At 7.15 the first torpedo struck the Cressy, at 7.30 a second hit target, and by 7.45 the Cressy lay upside down, capsized in the water.
The attack took little over an hour but led to the deaths of nearly 1500 men, many of whom were cadets or reservists. 
The future
The vessels lay in an area of the Southern North Sea called the Broad Fourteens, closer to the Netherlands than to the UK. They were sold by the Ministry of Defence during a period of economic austerity in the 1950s to a German firm and in 2011 it was reported that Dutch salvage crews had moved in to recover the submerged remains, not with archaeological rigour, but with claws and cutters, removing valuable metals and leaving the rest to rot. One hundred years after their sinking, the vessels still remain in the public eye as the recovery of material from them constitutes the disturbance of the resting place of not only the three vessels, but also the 1500 men who perished with them. This has been met with international outcry amongst the archaeological and military communities. Today a commemoration service is taking place at Chatham Historic Dockyard. Let us hope that this raises public consciousness as to the fate of these vessels so that they and their crews can be treated appropriately in the future.
By Euan McNeill
All images in public domain, source

Sharing Maritime Experiences Across the Globe

Wessex Archaeology was pleased to host a visit from colleagues from Japan this week.


Prof. Yoshio KIKUCHI (Professor in Archaeology, Fukushima University); Mr. KATAGIRI Chiaki (Senior Curator in Archaeology, Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum); Mr. OKAMURA Katsuyuki (Senior Archaeologist, Osaka City Cultural Properties Association); and Ms. NAKANISHI Yumiko (Archaeologist, Osaka Prefectural Board of Education) were over on a fact finding mission. Euan McNeill, Director Coastal and Marine and Andy Manning, Senior Manager in the terrestrial archaeology team gave them a tour and a series of presentations on what we do and how we do it in the UK. Thank-you to Yumiko Nakanishi for providing translation where needed. Thanks very much for the gifts guys, the tea has gone down very well. Have a great rest of your trip.
By Euan McNeill

CPD the Wessex Way

Infrastructure and construction engineers from Laing O’Rourke gathered together at the Wessex Archaeology South office today to learn about all things archaeological.
The one-day CPD seminar focused on the role of archaeology within the planning process and featured presentations from WA specialists on a range of topics including geophysical surveys and historic building recording as well as a concise dash through time, from the Palaeolithic to modern day! A highlight was the session on community engagement for construction schemes delivered by our Chief Executive Chris Brayne, which used our Longforth Farm outreach project as a case study.
The day was rounded off by an interesting presentation on identifying and managing ecological constraints from Phil Lomax, Principal Ecologist with our partner organisation Thomson Ecology
This course was specifically designed to suit the CPD needs of the Laing O’Rourke team. To discuss the ways in which we can support your organisation please contact us
By Laura Joyner

Kingsmead Quarry – Roman Burial Discovered with Bronze Rings


One of the discoveries from this year’s excavation at the CEMEX Kingsmead Quarry is a human burial with bronze ear or hair rings. As with other skeletons at the Quarry, the bone is poorly preserved. In this case some of the bone, including the skull was block lifted for excavation in the lab by WA staff  – osteoarchaeologist Kirsten Dinwiddy and conservator Lynn Wootten. X-rays of the soil block discovered objects of bronze on either side of what remained of the skull including a set of three fine bronze rings and a single ring made from a twisted strip of probable bronze.
The soil blocks will now be carefully excavated to record the position of the rings relative to the remains of the skull to try and determine whether they are hair or ear rings. Provisional examination of the form and style of the rings suggest that the burial could be of Late Iron Age or Roman date and may well be an inhabitant of the nearby settlement that was found during previous work.     
By Alistair Barclay
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Submerged Seascapes at our Salisbury HQ

On 11 September English Heritage’s Dave Hooley came to visit our Coastal & Marine team to talk about the historic seascapes around our coast and how we should describe various seabed uses when considering offshore archaeology.
The waters around the UK represent vast seascapes. Just like a landscape, these have been shaped by human activity and understanding them can be key to unlocking our submerged past.
The meeting is an important step for understanding the most current research into historic seascapes. Equipped with Dave’s advice, our staff will continue to use Historic Seascape Characterisation (HSC) to understand submerged archaeology in context and as a tool for assessing the historical impacts of offshore development.
Read about one of our earliest HSC projects here
1935 An example of Historic Seascape Characterisation copyright English Heritage
By Gemma Ingason

Datchet Village Society Visit Kingsmead Quarry, Horton


Yesterday members of the Datchet Village Society visited Kingsmead Quarry, Horton and were taken on a tour of the working quarry and the current archaeological excavations. Liz Young (CEMEX) and Adrian Havercroft (The Guildhouse Consultancy) were on hand to explain aspects of the quarry and how archaeology fits within the planning process. Andrew Manning and Alistair Barclay (Wessex Archaeology) provided a brief introduction to the excavations and an overview of the archaeological discoveries that have been made over the last 10 years.
The visitors were then taken on a tour of the current archaeological excavations by site director John Powell. They saw first-hand the excavation of a human burial, another feature full of prehistoric worked flint and the remains of field and enclosure ditches of probable Bronze Age and later date. The tour provided the opportunity to examine some freshly excavated finds and to engage in many lively discussions about geese, gravel and archaeology.

Massage Made to Measure!


From my recent stint in the field (more to follow on that and my other adventures later), I realised just how much an archaeologist’s hands go through when digging out a trench or gully – after just one week digging my muscles ached in areas I never knew existed and I envied the protective calluses on my colleagues hands. I bet that even the best weight lifters and body builders would shrink away in awe of the superior musculature of a weathered archaeologists troweling hand and then of course there’s the mighty ‘Trowel Claw’ which sounds mythically impressive. It’s fair to say that the hands get a beating (or a mattocking?) so imagine the chorus of delight and cheer when the lovely Dr Sarah Bryan of SB Holistic called us to arrange a free hand massage session at our Sheffield office next Friday!


Sarah got in touch with us when she saw our new member status tweet for the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. We were excited to hear about her fantastic work which combines “made-to-measure, integrated holistic therapeutic massage and aromatherapy” with a person-centred approach. You can find out more about her company SB Holistic here. Feeling envious? Then why not book yourself in and see the other therapies she has to offer! 
By Emma Carter

Sheffield - Property and Construction


We are pleased to announce that Wessex Archaeology has joined the Property and Construction sector group for the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (SCR LEP). The move allows us to be part of the regeneration of Sheffield at ground level, and work with other local businesses on innovative new projects in the local region. 
Andrew Norton (Regional Manager, North) attended the September SCR LEP Property and Construction sector group meeting and gave a well-received presentation on commercial archaeology and the unrivalled range of services that Wessex Archaeology provides. Also presenting were Michael Edgar, Director of DLP Planning Consultants and Maria Duffy, Interim Head of Planning at Sheffield City Council. Michael spoke on Sheffield futures, relating to housing, employment and planning and Maria discussed the new local plan for Sheffield – both Maria and Michael discussed the challenges in meeting the increased housing and employment targets for the region.  
It is clearly an exciting time to be in Sheffield and we are very grateful to Martin McKervey of Nabarro LLP for inviting Wessex Archaeology to join the sector group.

Protecting our heritage whilst protecting the environment


The Offshore Renewables Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (ORPAD) has been given a boost by The Crown Estate after four years of operation.
ORPAD has proved successful with nearly 200 reports raised since 2010.  Building on this foundation The Crown Estate, which actively supports responsible development, has launched a new Protocol document. Wessex Archaeology and The Crown Estate are also putting energy into promoting the updated Protocol by raising understanding of it through awareness training. This begins with a launch event to members of Renewable UK at The Crown Estate’s New Burlington Place offices on September 29th, and is an example of how the Protocol is being promoted to the industry.
The Protocol is funded by The Crown Estate on behalf of all wind farm developers in the UK and protects archaeological discoveries made during work offshore and where cables cross the inter-tidal zone onto the land. Unlike on land, where archaeological remains can be fully identified, investigated and potentially recorded and removed before developers arrive on site, the offshore story is more complicated. The logistical difficulties of working at sea mean that despite record searches, geophysical surveys and deploying divers or sub-surface vehicles to areas within a development area, there is still high potential for discrete finds and unknown or deeply buried sites to be revealed during construction.
The Protocol helps protect these discoveries by establishing a framework through which any unexpected archaeological remains, which to date have ranged from anchors and aircraft to peat deposits, shipwrecks and even a scrubbing brush, can be rapidly investigated before any damage is done to a potential site.
Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team drafted the Protocol and implement it on behalf of The Crown Estate, and is actively supporting the launch.

The Vols are Back in Town

The hum of chattering can be heard from the finds department once more as our dedicated team of volunteers returns from their summer break.
Volunteers meet regularly on Wednesdays to process artefacts from Operation Nightingale projects and other community excavations. Post-excavation processing is an important task and usually involves washing, marking and packaging the artefacts ready for specialist analysis. The team is currently working on the finds from this year’s excavation at Barrow Clump.
Find out more about our volunteering opportunities here
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