This is my first blog post!
I’m frequently asked how I got into archaeology and where my interest in Second World War defences came from. So, I thought a good subject for my first blog post would be to answer these questions.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
As a child my family and I would go on holiday to the Yorkshire coast, mainly at Reighton Sands near Filey and Whitby. We would go to the beach and hunt for fossils (Good old Palaeontology!) and often go for walks on the coastal paths and public footpaths.
When out on a walk along the cliff-top path at Reighton, I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time, I remember coming across a number of strange concrete buildings along the route. My Dad, who had been in the Army, was drawn to them instantly and set about climbing on them and investigating them further. He said they were ‘bunkers’ from the Second World War. One particular ‘bunker’ had a number of names and the date ‘1940’ written in the concrete (I was too small to climb up and as the ‘bunker’ was next to the cliff I was too scared to join him).
On a later holiday at Reighton my Dad pointed out a number of concrete blocks on the beach, which he was convinced were anti-landing craft obstacles, again from World War Two. We used to spend a lot of time on the beach playing in the sea, building sandcastles and picnicking.
One day we had decided to dig a sizable hole on the beach, I didn’t know at the time but this would an early introduction to hole digging that I would be doing later in my life. When digging the hole, with my Dad he said he had ‘found a bullet’. We had found plenty of belemnites on the beach and these always looked like bullets to me! He managed to lose the bullet in the hole but somehow found it again a short time later. Low and behold it was a silver looking metal bullet which had been fired and hit something and was definitely not a belemnite! We kept the bullet and it went in a display cabinet at home.
Many years later, and many holidays later, I found myself at Barnsley College. I was dead set on becoming a Forensic Scientist, probably after watching ‘Meet the ancestors’ on BBC and other popular Forensic Science based US dramas, and had enrolled on a number of Science courses at AS level and also took Modern History out of interest. After my first year at College I came to the conclusion that I was terrible at Science and my AS results confirmed this!
In a bit of a panic I decided to not bother pursuing a career in Forensic Sciences and decided to focus on History instead. A number of my mates had been doing something called ‘Archaeology’ which they really enjoyed. I wasn’t too sure what Archaeology was but had watched my fair share of Time Team and peer pressure was quite an influence. It turned out I really enjoyed the subject and the tutor of the course, Graham Roberts, was extremely enthusiastic and supportive.
As part of the AS-level archaeology course we had to conduct some field work and write a report. I wasn’t really interested in the Iron-Age or the Romans and couldn’t think a subject for the field work.
It was then that I remembered the supposed World War Two ‘bunkers’ that my Dad had found on the coast. I wasn’t convinced that any ‘bunkers’ had been built in the UK during the Second World War and primarily set out to investigate the ‘bunkers’ further, not to mention to try and prove my Dad wrong. Well, I went out did a lot of research and basic field work in the area and found out my Dad was right (except they weren’t ‘Bunkers’ they were ‘Pill-boxes’). What I didn’t expect was that I would find this work extremely interesting and felt compelled to learn more.
I ended up studying BSc Archaeology at the University of Bradford, where I continued my fascination with Second World War concrete. I developed skills such as aerial photograph interpretation, field recording techniques and a knowledge of 1940s defensive military strategy. In the end my dissertation, ” A survey and case study of remaining 2nd World War military fortifications at Reighton Sands in North Yorkshire”, saw me conduct a thorough field investigation of the defences at Reighton along with creating a 3D model of the original defences using Google Earth.
My love of archaeology continued to grow and the rest, they say, is history.