Mini conference: Aviation Archaeology

This year we will be running our first course at Imperial War Museum, Duxford. In the morning there will be four talks from expert speakers. This will be followed by lunch and in the afternoon delegates will be given a ticket to explore the Imperial War Museum. Delegates will have the option to explore the museum themselves or to walk around some of the older buildings at Duxford with one the expert speakers, Wayne Cocroft.

The talks include:

From string bags to birdcages – the evolution of military airfields 1914-1989

This presentation will explore the development of 20th century military airfields in England, from the early grass flying fields to the hardened landscapes of the Cold War. It will discuss the distinctive characteristics of the main eras of airfield construction and some of the conservation challenges of this legacy.

This talk will be provided by Wayne Cocroft, FSA. Wayne is an archaeologist and Manager of Historic England’s Investigation East team and Research Lead for ‘Military and Defence’.  For over 20 years he has specialised in the archaeological recording and assessment of redundant military sites.  He is the author of Dangerous Energy the archaeology of gunpowder and military explosives manufacture, co-author of Cold War building for nuclear confrontation 1946-1989; War Art murals and graffiti – military life, power and subversion, and Der Teufelsberg in Berlin Eine archäologische Bestandsaufnahme des westlichen Horchpostens im Kalten Krieg, and co-editor of A Fearsome Heritage diverse legacies of the Cold War, The Home Front in Britain 1914-18, and Legacies of the First World War.

Approaches to the management and investigation of aircraft crash sites

The Protection of Military Remains Act (1986) provides protection for the wreckage of military aircraft and designated military vessels.  There is much interest in crashed military aircraft and interested groups may recover the remains under a licence issued by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC).  This talk will cover the legislative context and the JCCC licencing process, which usually requires a project design and report to be submitted to the local Historic Environment Record.  This talk will also explore the varying range of curatorial responses to licence applications, and methodological approaches to crash sites themselves. 

This talk will be provided by Guy Salkeld. Guy is one of the Ministry of Defence’s four archaeologists and covers Wales, central, eastern and southern England, Gibraltar and Kenya.  His work is very diverse but generally comprises the management of heritage at risk on the training areas, and development control advice to infrastructure projects on military stations, installations and firing ranges.  Guy also leads on the Protection of Military Remains Act and the issue of licences to recover crashed military aircraft. 

The intangible history of World War Two airfields

The airfield construction programme during World War Two made a huge impact upon the countryside. Aside from the obvious changes to the landscape, the introduction of novelties such as electricity and flushing toilets, but most of all the inundation of small peaceful communities by thousands of service personnel led to impacts that in many cases continued long after the war had ended. Gradually fading now from living memory, this talk looks at ways of researching and recording the intangible history of airfields for future generations.

This talk will be provided by Vince Holyoak. An archaeologist by profession, Vince worked on community and oral history projects before joining English Heritage (now Historic England) in 1996. His first book – An airfield history stemming from eight years interviewing veterans, their families and local communities – was published in 1995. 

The Archaeology of the Eighth in the East

The archaeological impact of the Eighth US Army Air Force can be seen in the landscape throughout East Anglia. Huge areas covering many hectares were used to construct the airfields, hospitals, headquarters and bomb stores where US personnel were based.

At first glance the surviving archaeology of these sites seems to have disappeared without trace, but under closer inspection many of the sites and buildings that were used as living quarters, cinemas, hangers, electric sub-stations, control towers still survive, along with the roads and drainage that serviced them.

With the help of members of the general public, local museums and airfield enthusiasts the Eighth in the East project has attempted to record the surviving archaeological remains, whilst inspiring those involved to learn more about the history and the archaeology of the Eighth.

This talk will look at the results of the project with regard to the buildings and fabric recorded. The talk will be provided by Martin Cuthbert, who was the community archaeologist for the Eighth in the East Project.

Book a place on this course