Wessex Archaeology was privileged to be involved in honouring fallen soldiers of WWI through processing finds from Mametz Wood. Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation led an excavation at the site of Mametz Wood on the Somme, in the summer of 2015. Mametz Wood was the objective of the 38th (Welsh) Division during the First Battle of the Somme; the attack occurred between 7 July and 12 July 1916. The battle is remembered for the loss of Welsh lives and the words of those who served, which included the poets Robert Graves, David Jones and Siegfried Sassoon. Those who accompanied Richard on the excavation included veterans, serving soldiers, bomb disposal personnel, professional archaeologists and individuals who had a connection to the battle; all went to pay their respects to those who served on both the Welsh and German side of the battle.
Richard offered volunteers from Wessex Archaeology the opportunity to process finds from the excavation. The majority of finds bought in for cleaning and packing came from the German trenches and were associated with a fallen German soldier. There were items which were particularly poignant, such as his pipe and one of his boots; these focused thought onto the life of the individual and the lives of all those other men who fell alongside him. Human bone was not bought back; the remains that were recovered during the excavation were laid to rest in Fricourt German war cemetery. The finds included uniform, gas mask, entrenching tool, water bottle and food tins as well as ammunition and shrapnel, all of which were carefully processed. All the finds were fragile, however considering they had survived heavy weaponry attack and nearly 100 years under the earth they are in surprisingly good condition.
Richard Osgood will be using the finds from Mametz Wood to commemorate the centenary of the Somme, including having them on display at the Chalke Valley Festival.