29/3/15: Day 3 of the excavation of Lager Wick. Replacing questions with more questions.

Toothpaste tube

Toothpaste tube

Lumps of green stuff (lumps of copper?) found by Claudia in the shower room. Are these heavily corroded shower fittings?

Lumps of green stuff (lumps of copper?) found by Claudia in the shower room. Are these heavily corroded shower fittings?

Today a big storm hit the Channel Islands. This meant that our geophysicist, Peter, was still stuck in Guernsey since the brand new ferry got damaged coming into harbour in its maiden voyage yesterday. We hope that he will arrive later tonight, but when I took Claudia to Noirmont Point to see the bunkers this afternoon, the wind was so strong that it made the rain sting our cheeks, and we could hardly stand up without being blown away (see photo below of the wild sea around the Corbiere Lighthouse earlier today).

Before the storm hit, Claudia and I decided to dig a few very small test pits of 50 x 50cm in the area of the burnt barrack blocks to see if we could detect the area of burning archaeologically. Without Peter, we had neither an auger nor the magnetic susceptibility geophysics equipment to find the area of burning. However, our test pits revealed nothing except the gritty and compacted ground surface of the camp. No burnt layer. Does this mean that (a) the area of burning was very thoroughly cleaned up; (b) our test pits were all in the wrong place; or (c) the estimate of the location of the burnt barrack blocks, taken from the aerial photo, is wrong? Perhaps all of the above? We need Peter to work his magic as time is passing quickly.

Claudia and I poked around the latrine block a little longer and I cleaned some more soil from the area which we think was the doorway of the latrine. I found an old toothpaste tube. This means that almost all of the finds from this building (toothpaste tube, toothbrush, comb, hairbrush, soap dish, medicines) seem to fit the identification of the structure as a latrine (but what about those pesky jam jars, wine bottles and Shippam’s fish paste bottles? Are they all post-war?). However, I was bothered by the location of the building: rather than lying as a single small stand-alone structure near the burnt barrack block, as we had thought, our environmentalist and the planning officers relocated it to next to another barrack block. Claudia and I stared hard at the aerial photos for half an hour and realised that the latrine area was actually part of a much larger structure. This means that (a) we have to see if we can find any evidence of another building through digging another test pit or two, and (b) what on earth was the function of the rest of the building? Was it a regular barrack block (and did all barrack blocks end with a toilet and shower area?) or was the whole barrack block a wash room? Or did it have some other structure, such as a hospital wing? Time is running out and – if truth be told – I now need a third season at Lager Wick.

The rough seas around the Corbiere Lighthouse which have stranded my geophysicist in Guernsey!

The rough seas around the Corbiere Lighthouse which have stranded my geophysicist in Guernsey!

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About Gilly Carr

I am a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Continuing Education. I work in the field of conflict archaeology and POW archaeology, and my fieldwork is based in the Channel Islands.

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