The story of our excavations

Local volunteers are working in Golden Hill Country Park to identify, clear and record some of the remains of military buildings within GHCP.

Our volunteers clearing two of the building bases

 

 

Volunteers clearing one of the buildings now covered by trees and shrubs

Built between 1863 and 1871 as a fortified defensible barracks for the soldiers who manned the coastal defences of the West Wight against a threatened French invasion, the fort was used to train over 30,000 soldiers during World War 1. During the first year of the war the soldiers were housed in a tented village in what is now Golden Hill Country Park around the fort, but the tents were washed away during the winter and so concrete buildings were built. The buildings were also used during the 2nd World War when the fort was re-used.

Our volunteers discovered a 1938 plan of the Fort held in the National Archives which shows in detail the fort and buildings to the north.

1938 plan of the fort Copyright National Archives

Image 3  The 1938 plan of the Fort (You already have the high res scan of it sent by National Archives and will need to add whatever copyright blurb the National Archives wanted on it)

The bases of the First and Second World War buildings still survive within the Country park but have been covered and hidden by shrubs for many years. Our local volunteers have been clearing the scrub away to reveal substantial bases for buildings and had cleared seven structures before the lockdown hit. Some of the buildings are the huts in which the soldiers slept.

 

Artist impression of soldiers hut – Illustration – Alan Rowe

 

The volunteers have found a plan dating to 1919 which was sent out by the War Office to local companies to build military buildings and one of our structures has been identified as a bath house with shower cubicles and plug holes still surviving exactly as is shown in the 1919 plan.

Armstrong’s Type Plan for a Standing Camp for one Battalion or Infantry at War Strength. Working plans such as these were sent to local contractors throughout England by the War Office. (Suffolk Record Office, archive of R G Hogg).

We currently think that 2 other structures were mess (eating hall) buildings for officers and one for the men.

Our next task will be to do detailed photographs, drawings and written records of the structures which will be the first time that these important buildings will have been recorded.

The Vectis Searchers, a local metal detecting group from Freshwater have been assisting our volunteer team by finding and recording many metal objects left behind by

These steps lead down to what we believe was one of the 2nd World War Mess Halls where the soldiers ate their meals

 

 

the soldiers. These include buttons and cap badges from the Royal Artillery, Royal Ulster Rifles and Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry amongst others. We have also found more personal items like part of a pocket watch, part of a harmonica, Brylcream jars and even a size 9 army issue boot with the date 1945 stamped on it.

Military Button Slide so polish doesn’t go on garment Crossed through numbers indicate who was issued to. Large numbers are Hut and Bed Number WW1

 

 

 

We will be producing a full excavation report which will be put on the website along with details and pictures of everything that we have discovered on this important site spanning the century of military activity in the West Wight.


Social History research

The volunteers are also researching the many people associated with Golden Hill Fort and the later Country Park around it. We are trying to identify soldiers who

Internal parts from a Hand Grenade WW2

were stationed there and about local people whose grandfathers met local girls and married them and stayed on the Island, we have even found many children of soldiers stationed at the Fort who attended All Saints School.

We have found information about 2 murders amongst the soldiers stationed at the Fort as well as a soldier who was killed by a lightning strike whilst on his way to the toilet block one night.

 

More information will be put on this webpage when we are able to continue the project.

Harmonica Reed WW1 or WW2

If you have any information about soldiers or local people associated with Golden Hill Fort, them please CONTACT US