The First World War was an overwhelming event which had widespread effects across Wales – no area was left untouched as the whole country geared up to contribute to the war effort
One hundred years on the generation that witnessed it has almost gone, and what we are left with are the physical remains – buildings, landscapes and artefacts. Archaeology has an important role to play in understanding and remembering this global conflict. The Welsh Archaeological Trusts, grant aided by Cadw, are focusing on the First World War over the next few years to coincide with the centenary of the war.
Over the subsequent years GGAT will be looking at the following five themes:
The Sinews of War – Industry/manufacturing
The Call to Arms – The militarised landscape
Casualties of War – Hospitals and welfare facilities
Defence of the Realm – Coastal defences and port facilities
Their Names Liveth for Evermore – Commemoration and remembrance
There will be opportunities to get involved, visit sites and help in the research and recording.
As part of GGAT’s First World War Project, our Senior Project Archaeologist, Johnny Crawford and Outreach Officer, Paul W Huckfield (wearing his Military Specialist hat) are visiting the site of the National Shipyard Number 1, at Chepstow this afternoon.
The National Shipyards were proposed, and partially completed, by the coalition government led by David Lloyd George during the latter years of the war and were built in order to counter the large losses of British merchant ships being destroyed by German U-boat attacks in the Atlantic Ocean.
The shipyards were to be built so as to construct large numbers of “standard” cargo ships as rapidly as possible. In accordance with the Protection of the Realm Act, all Chepstow shipbuilding companies therefore came under government control and were expanded to form National Shipyard Number 1 (Chepstow). Shipyard Number 1, was one of three great shipbuilding centres established in the area, the others being Beachly and Portbury. Eight slipways were laid down in order to build ships of up to 600 feet (180 m) in length and of up to 300 tons.
The construction however was not restricted to just the shipyard, as over 6,000 skilled workers came to the Chepstow area from other shipbuilding areas in Britain. New housing was provided at
three new Garden City sites at Hardwick, Bulwark and Pennsylvania (concrete blocks used to construct the houses and slipways being produced in part by German prisoners of war). Camps were also built for the workers, along with workshops, a power station and a new hospital in Chepstow.
In 1925 Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd bought and later dismantled the shipyard. In due course the company became Fairfield-Mabey Ltd who now specialise in steelwork for bridges and other structures.
GGAT have just started a project to try and record all the allied military aircraft crash sites within the Glamorgan and Gwent areas. The aim of this project is to highlight the importance of these sites archaeologically and to provide site management through providing this information to Heritage Management Offices, Cadw and the MoD.