Sunday, 15 September 2013

Soggy Sunday

With the weather forecast predicting rain, rain, wind and more rain, members of No Man's Land and a small number of volunteers arrived on site at 9am, under grey skies we all expected the worst. However, the tarpaulins had remained in placeover night and after a session of bailing and careful water management, we were able to uncover part of our working area and cautiously begin work.

Archaeology and wet weather are not a good mix, as it is all too easy to make a mess and potentially miss small features in the mud. The model of Messines was constructed using fragments of brick, pebbles and poor quality mortar, 40 plus years of exposure to the elements and almost another half century burried beneath a thin layer of top soil, has left the model in a fragile condition. When wet, the crumbling structures of the model are soft and even more easily damaged, so extra care had to be taken.

Despite the conditions we managed to extend our excavation by a few meters and just to the south of the town of Messines we began to uncover an area of the model which depicts the scene of one of the most famous incidents of the attack on the 7th of June 1917. Pte Samuel Frickleton of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade took out two enemy machine gun posts, allowing the men of his company to advance and capture part of the town, for this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

After much discussion, consulting of historic documents, trench maps and additional information provided by our contacts in New Zealand, including a copy of Sam Frickleton's own hand drawn map, our team narrowed down the possible points of this action and discovered a small feature in the model, which may pinpoint the location of one of the two machine gun posts.

The plaque next to Messines Church commemorating Frickleton's VC, it states
his action was  "Close to this place" have we now pinpointed the exact spot?

As we paused for lunch the clouds began to close in and the advancing waves of rain brought an end to our site work in mid afternoon, we retreated to the shelter of the tea room and continued to follow the paper trail of maps and documents to confirm our theories on the location of Frickleton's heroic action and chased tales of other individuals on the 7th of June 1917 and the landscape we hope to reveal tomorrow.

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