South Yorkshire archeologists invite adult learners to free taster sessions at WWI training camp

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Archaeologists at the University of Sheffield are inviting adult learners with an interest in exploring the past to join them as they study a First World War training camp at Redmires – an area in the Peak District that was used for training by the British army as they prepared for WWI.

The training camp, five miles west of the City centre, was established to train volunteers who had enlisted in the Sheffield City Battalion - the “Sheffield Pals” – a unit formed in September 1914 on the suggestion of two students from the University.

In addition to fighting skills, drill and general fitness, the men learned how to construct different types of trench systems, some stretching for hundreds of metres. These earthworks survive as slight humps and bumps visible to the naked eye, and the University has been carefully mapping them all. Not all are easy to interpret and more sophisticated techniques have therefore been used, including drones and geophysical survey.

Helen Ullathorne from the University’s Department of Lifelong Learning, who initiated the study, said: “This project is an ideal opportunity for someone who is new to archaeology to get a taste of the subject while exploring a fascinating part of Sheffield’s landscape. And without getting too dirty - there is no digging involved!

“Investigating and mapping the military landscape at Redmires has been one of the most poignant pieces of research I have conducted. This is where the Sheffield “pals” trained in the run-up to the infamous assault on the village of Serre in the Somme valley on July 1st 1916, where the battalion was tragically wiped out in 10 minutes.”

The Redmires archaeology sessions run from 10am-4pm each day from Monday 19 June 2017 until Friday 23 June 2017 and are open to anyone, particularly mature learners over 21 years old, interested in experiencing first-hand archaeological fieldwork in practice.

The sessions are free and participants can choose to come for one day or up to a week on site. A variety of survey techniques will be taught and no prior experience is necessary. The week also includes a visit to the University’s Department of Archaeology.

Helen added: “Mapping the long-forgotten training trenches with the Department of Lifelong Learning offers the people of Sheffield a chance to explore a unique landscape and to discover more about a profoundly historic aspect of our city’s heritage.”

The study by Sheffield archaeologists has already led Historic England to designate the site as a Scheduled Ancient Monument - a place of national historic importance. Many such camps sprung up all over Britain at the start of the First World War, but few are now so well preserved. Redmires offers an opportunity to understand aspects of the training that documents tell us nothing about.

Formally known as the 12th Battalion Yorks and Lancaster Regiment, the Sheffield Pals became local celebrities as crowds cheered them through the streets while they marched to Redmires to train through the winter.

For more information and to apply for a place on the Redmires project please visit: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/archaeology/dig , email alastair.oswald@hotmail.com or call 07749 308952.