Mataeriel Culture: The Archaeology of 20th Century Conflict

By John Schofield; William Gray Johnson et al. | Go to book overview
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Monuments and the memories of war: motivations for preserving military sites in England


Over the past decade twentieth-century defences, fortifications and experimental and military production sites have become an accepted part of the cultural heritage (Dobinson et al. 1997; English Heritage 1998; Schofield 1999; Cocroft 2000). For heritage managers, planners, archaeologists and historians this has meant coming to terms with a new vocabulary, and intricate typologies for such things as anti-invasion defences of the Second World War, radar establishments and coastal artillery. It has also meant the need for some grounding in scientific principles, particularly relevant for studying radar and Cold War facilities, as well as in artillery and ballistics. It has meant new conservation challenges, such as the practical measures for prolonging the lives of concrete structures designed to last only 'for the duration'. It has meant developing an approach to interpretation that balances the various needs of cultural tourism with the emotions these sites often provoke. And - significantly - it has meant close cooperation between heritage professionals and those amateur archaeologists and historians who have been responsible for much valuable groundwork over the last thirty years or so (Wills 1985; Morris 1998). But why has this willingness to embrace recent military heritage been taken up with such enthusiasm and alacrity? What are the motivations for conserving what are often ugly, functional and unstable buildings? And why in particular is it important that some of the buildings and structures remain when publicly available records are known to exist, and where recording prior to demolition provides a lasting archaeological record for reference and research? These related issues form the subject of this chapter, with the emphasis here on some specific aspects of the Second World War in England: the Battle of Britain in late summer of 1940; the urban Blitz of 1940-1; and the embarkation for D-Day in 1944. It is argued that monuments relating to these episodes of the war have a particular role as 'living memorials', and this reason for their retention will form the basis of discussion.


In England, as elsewhere, work has been underway for some years with the aim of understanding recent military remains sufficiently to provide a credible assessment of their importance and to inform options for their future management


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