100 Days Centenary Countdown: Stonehenge
No, we haven’t made a mistake! As this week marks the moment Stonehenge was given as ‘a gift to the nation’, this 100 days centenary countdown case study will take a closer look at Stonehenge, and its environs, during the First World War. Cecil and Mary Chubb became the last private owners of the monument, signing it over to the people at an official ceremony held on the site on 26 October 1918. This occasion could itself be classed as a major Home Front event.
Stonehenge sits within a wider military training landscape today, and this was no different during the First World War. As the site is located within Salisbury Plain the surrounding area still retains many archaeological features relating to the First World War.
RFC Stone Henge
You wouldn’t think so looking at the landscape today, but a First World War airfield sat almost on top of Stonehenge during the war. RFC Stone Henge airfield was constructed in 1917 and used by the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps as a training base. The airfield allowed bombing training to take place within the nearby Salisbury Plain training area.
Larkhill Military Railway
The Larkhill Military Railway served the nearby camps of Larkhill and Rollestone, as well as RFC Stone Henge. This railway was originally built to facilitate the construction of the camps and to bring in supplies. The railway eventually closed in 1924.
Training Camps and practice trenches
Stonehenge was surrounded by several training camps.
The Bustard Trenches
The Bustard Trenches are a series of practice trenches dug and utilised by the Australian 3rd Division as part of training in readiness for the Battle of Messines in 1917. This set of trenches included craters caused by the detonation of mines. Trenches and mine crater were blown during Anzac exercises on 5 November 1916. (information courtesy of Richard Osgood, MOD). The infilled crater can be seen in the aerial photograph below.
The Bulford Kiwi
One of the most fascinating reminders of this period is the Bulford Kiwi. This emblem was cut into the hill above Sling camp by New Zealand troops in 1919 to commemorate their time in the area during the war.
Over to you
Our project data will soon be available through the Archaeology Data Service once we have finished processing the nearly 6,000 records. If you do spot any sites that haven’t been recorded please be sure to contact your local Historic Environment Record to ensure they are recorded.