Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

East Wretham Heath, former military site.

Brecks' Military History

The aim of this project was to identify and record the military history of the Brecks and it’s key sites from 1900-49. A volunteer group was set up by the Breckland Society and individuals have attended training events and conducted independent archaeological fieldwork, LiDAR analysis and archival research. The ‘Military History Research Group’ will continue beyond the end of Breaking New Ground, supported by the Breckland Society, continuing research in new areas of the Brecks.

The detailed project report was extended beyond it’s original scope to contain as much of the unearthed information and research material as possible, totalling 48 pages. Several archaeological features of importance have been identified by the research group. The most important (and internationally significant) of these are remnants of WW1 practice trenches and weapons pits, used in the training of the world’s first tanks, unearthed using the BNG LiDAR images. Also of national significance is the High Ash camp network which famously held the Desert Rats prior to D-Day. This camp network was apparently never mapped at the time for security reasons. Using LiDAR data and fieldwork, the group have identified 3 separate campsites. They identified the footprints of the Nissen huts that accommodated the troops, identified the sewage works that served the camps and correlated it with oral history accounts recorded by the volunteers, of a tank driver who took part in the Normandy landings.

There was significant interest in the findings from the project and so the report and associated leaflet were released just before Armistice Day 2016, generating a TV interview for the project manager Peter Goulding and coverage in local press. The report is available online (see below) , along with an archive of photos and other research material. A digital representation of geographical information has been created on Google Earth highlighting some of the main areas of interest. It is impressive and easily accessible for users. This has been a very successful project with a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers who have uncovered a whole host of forgotten stories in the Brecks.

The report is now available online here:

 

Visit the Breckland Society's website for more details.

 

Legacy

  • A passionate and dedicated research group established who continue to undertake more work in the Brecks.
  • Digital archive created, preserving military stories of the Brecks. 
  • Research articles published in the Journal of Breckland Studies.

This project has demonstrated that the Brecks played an important and diverse role in the military history of Britain, and indeed Europe, between 1900 and 1949. From the earliest twentieth-century post-Haldane maneuvers and tank trials to the tense stand-offs of the Cold War, the area has been defined by a military dimension. The heritage continues in the form of the USAF presence at Feltwell, Mildenhall and Lakenheath, defining communities that would otherwise be tiny villages. The children of American servicemen go to local schools, and it is not unusual to hear an American accent, see a left-hand drive Dodge Truck or notice someone in battledress in a village shop. Local news reports are often greatly concerned whether one or other of these bases might close, or announce the arrival of a new commanding officer, or a visit by the President in Air Force One.

James Parry. Breckland Society

The Military History of the Brecks 1900-1949 Report

Download your FREE copy here: