The use of the term heritage—when applied to past military works, equipment or even spaces where past military events have occurred—has a number of immediate, important implications, and it should not be used, as it frequently is, as a synonym for conservation. While conservation draws its justification from the qualities of the conserved object itself, the concept of heritage implies both a legacy and a legatee. The first necessitates selection of what is to be treated as heritage from the existing stock of preserved artefacts, while the second needs a defined and targeted market. Both of these implications require deliberate decisions on the part of those selecting, packaging, presenting and marketing artefacts and associations. Heritage, therefore, does not just occur as a fortuitous survival from the past: it is created in the present, to satisfy the current needs of contemporary consumers, using objects and associations from the past as its basic raw materials (Ashworth 1988). A consequence of these implications is that questions about the product (‘what is to be selected, on what criteria and for what purposes?’) and about the market (‘whose heritage?’) assume a central importance in the shaping of what is to be regarded as heritage.
This is the case for all uses of the past and its surviving objects, but it is arguable that defence history in particular is a provider of an especially large, if not dominant, proportion of all such historic legacies, and thus defence heritage assumes a particular importance.
This may be explained in part by the tendency of defence artefacts to survive better than most the ravages of time (as discussed earlier), which has resulted in a more than proportional presence of defence-related objects among the visible relics of the past. However, much defence heritage relies not only on such visible objects but upon a miasma of invisible associations with military events with which such objects are, or can be, endowed. Indeed, there are many examples of places (such as the sites of battles) where there are no visible relics, yet such sites are indisputably part of the defence heritage. A more satisfactory explanation of the importance of defence to heritage as a whole is quite simply that organized physical conflict between