Day 5, 2 April 2016: identifying the cookhouse
Today was our last chance to archaeologically explore Lager Wick within the limits of our original mission statement, which allowed for an extension to last year’s trench (trench 5, which I interpreted as being the overseers’ mess hut) and the opening of a new trench (trench 6). Both of the barrack blocks within this area burnt down in 1944, resulting in extensive and clear evidence of burning across the area examined. The function of the barrack explored in trench 6 has exercised us today. It seems that the mess hut was built upon a base of hoggin and compacted stone, with perhaps a pale brick path around the outside.. The next block, however, was built at least partially on concrete.
Local oral testimony says that the cookhouse was the barrack which started the fire in 1944, and so we must ask whether this concrete platform, which was almost 7m wide, had the purpose of supporting the stove(s) in a cookhouse. Beyond this area, the barrack rests again on hoggin. In terms of artefacts, this area was almost clean save for more traces of burning, a good number of nails, and a small handful of coal briquettes. However, this area lacked the molten fragments of glass and small finds of the overseers’ mess hut.
After recording the extent of the concrete platform so that we could later compare it to the aerial photograph, all too soon it was time to back-fill the team’s hard work of the last week.
The last job of the day was to give a lecture to the local Societe Jersiaise on the results of the dig, and to show the finds from the last couple of years to the audience. During the lecture, when discussing this year’s results, I compared the hut base types from the aerial photos with the results on the ground. It’s clear that huts were built on concrete, on stilts, and on compacted stone at Lager Wick. This hints at at least three different hut types, and we know that within the camp there must have been huts for sleeping; storage huts; a cookhouse / kitchen; and mess huts; and a latrine / wash block. Now that the third and final season is over, I must compare the artefacts, the aerial photos and the camp architecture to work out what was what. The third season of excavation has certainly helped with this and has given me a clearer idea of the layout of the camp, despite being able to access only part of it. And yet having partial access to the camp has also encouraged me to concentrate on the detail of the results available to me. The next step is to compare Lager Wick with other camps to see what comparisons can be made. And after that – who knows, perhaps there is another camp in the Channel Islands which needs excavation. If there is one on your land, please contact me!
Finally, a massive thank you to my 2016 team for all their hard work!