MICHAEL J. ANDERTON
Following the end of the Second World War in Britain, military sites came under pressure from several directions. Some sites continued in use as military bases, while others became agricultural stores or light-industrial workshops; the majority were destroyed by human forces, while further sites were removed by natural processes such as coastal erosion (Anderton forthcoming). Those sites which were left to decay are now few in number when compared with their original populations, though a small proportion have survived in a reasonable enough condition that they can be recorded, and in some cases preserved, through current heritage legislation and planning controls (Anderton forthcoming; Schofield this volume). These remaining sites have taken on a new cultural significance in recent years extending beyond the realms of their previous, immediately post-war roles as subjects for research among dedicated enthusiasts (see for example Wills 1985) or as children's playgrounds. During and beyond the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day in 1994 and VE Day in 1995, military sites in Britain began to enter the national psyche as they took on a wider cultural and political significance as symbols of our past for the future. This is an element of the history of these monuments that is familiar to those who analyse similar sites in other parts of the world, and one widely and eloquently discussed elsewhere in this volume. However, what isn't considered to the same extent is how these sites operated as entities within a nation at war. How much did they reflect the nation's contemporary social, political and cultural attitudes and aspirations during the Second World War?
While being viewed as symbols of history and current philosophies in a wider, modern, realm, these sites are only likely to be seen as the shells of buildings - albeit of varying shape and form - when conducting a conventional archaeological recording survey. Is there more that can be done; can the contemporary nature of these sites be assessed using archaeological techniques? In this chapter, primarily using anti-aircraft batteries as examples, I will consider whether we can use theoretical techniques which have been successfully employed elsewhere in archaeology to analyse the contemporary use of space and social approaches at these sites.