As a part of the preparations for the building of service family accommodation for the Army Basing Programme on Salisbury Plain, Wessex Archaeology has been carrying out archaeological investigations for over a year at Larkhill. During this work a large array of WWI practice trenches came to light. Under the guidance of our client (Martin Brown of WYG) we have recovered many finds from these trenches. There are many objects still to examine, but what we have looked at has already provided a fascinating insight into life on the base at that time.
The diet of the soldiers included tinned sardines and corned beef, jam, marmalade and golden syrup, condensed milk, Bovril and meat paste, with condiments such as HP Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce to make things more palatable.
Many examples of the standard-issue eating and drinking equipment have been found – plates, bowls and cups in enameled tin or plain white pottery, mess tins and drinking canteens, plus the occasional surprise item such as a nest of jelly moulds.
Life was not all about iron rations though, as we have found many whisky, beer and wine bottles, plus containers for soft drinks such as ginger beer, lemonade and mineral water. There are wine glasses, beer tankards and shot glasses and even a tray for carrying the above!
Besides the obvious activities of eating and drinking we have found plenty of evidence for smoking – pipes, cigarettes, tobacco and cigar tins. Some of these have survived in remarkably good condition enabling brand names to be distinguished. One of the clay pipes is of particular interest as it is Irish.
The most poignant finds have been the personal items and the little touches of luxury that found their way into the harsh reality of training for war.
It is well documented that there were Australian troops at the training camp and one recent discovery has been a tin of toffees from Melbourne, alongside the well-known British makes of Mackintosh and Pascall’s.