The next meeting on Feb 9th will be a talk from Andrew Watson who is completing a Phd in Archaeology on Phenomonology. All welcome to an interesting talk.
The meeting in December was a talk from Philippe Planel, an archaeologist with East Devon AONB on the excavations at a cottage close to Honiton. Searching through the tithe maps of Devon that are now available in digital format one finds that most buildings listed have been developed. However one, Lees Cottage, was in exactly the same condition as it was left during the farming recession at the middle of the 19th century. Now surrounded by woodland the plot was cleared by local archaeologists to show the remains of the walls and the floor of the kitchen which was found still to be as hard as concrete and was analysed to show that it had been made of ash and lime. Research showed that the owner also worked as a tailor and various brass buttons plus other household items were found on the site. Philippe gave a fascinating talk on the world of archaeology in the area and the types of projects that would warrant further investigation. Members were asked to suggest sites that might justify applying for finance to fund excavation.
The January talk was by Brian Lane-Smith and Robin Gilbert of the SW Airfield Heritage Trust and was very well received by our group due to the detailed information they presented and knowledge evident from their answers to the many questions. Brian covered the activities at Dunkeswell where US Navy Liberators were used to patrol the Atlantic for U boats and Robin described the preparation, planning and executing of the aircraft at Upottery and Merryfield used for the D Day Invasion.
The airfields were built in the early years of the war by the construction companies working for the Ministry such as Geo Wimpey, Laings and Mowlem under Royal Engineers control. The local Hemyock company Redwoods Coaches started their business transporting personnel to and from the airfields during the construction and operation starting in February 1942. The runways at Dunkeswell were operational by September 1942 and the Nissan Huts assembled to provide accommodation and operational control by early 1943.
The US Navy set up complete facilities including machine shops, engine sheds, airframe, propeller and spark plug manufacturing plus tailors and cobblers to serve the personnel. The size and scope of the American planning towards D Day were a scale above anything seen before or since.