Where heroes were made
ANETWORK of tunnels used to train British soldiers to fight in the trenches has been discovered under Salisbury Plain. The fascinating site was uncovered by archaeologists working with the Ministry of Defence, which is building hundreds of military homes at Larkhill, Wiltshire. The tunnels were meant to emulate conditions in France and Belgium during the First World War. Some of the men who trained there were local to the West Country, others were coal miners from West Yorkshire.
More than 100 pieces of graffiti have been found on the chalk walls of the tunnels, some by decorated heroes and one by a known deserter, as well as a plaque inscribed with the names of Australian bombers who trained there in 1916. Among other Latin messages, two brothers wrote ‘Semper Fidelis’ (‘Ever Faithful’) beneath their signatures and Prostate Cancer UK—MR Porter is a survivor of the disease himself. ‘The XKS led Britain’s “Export or Die” campaign to earn vital dollars in the dark days after the Second World War. Now, they are leading the fight against this cancer that affects one in eight men,’ he says. Launched in 1948, the race-winning XK 120 was named for its top speed; devotees included Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. XK 140s and XK 150s followed in 1954 and 1957. Octavia Pollock grenades, ammunition and food tins were also found.
‘It’s been a humbling experience to stand and read the names of young soldiers in the very spaces they occupied before leaving for war,’ says archaeologist Si Cleggett. ‘Having stood in their footprints a century after their time at Larkhill, we really will remember them.’