Network of World War I training tunnels found in UK

Network of World War I training tunnels found in UK

Network of World War I training tunnels found in UK

Archaeologists have discovered tunnels and trenches - with live grenades, canned foods and other war paraphernalia - that were used to train troops for the First World War in the UK.

The site has graffiti covering many of the tunnel walls. Some of the etched names have been matched to service records, including those of two brothers who signed their name "Halls" with the motto "Semper Fidelis" (Ever Faithful).

The names also included Laurence Carthage Weathers, who in September 1918 bravely took 180 prisoners and died in an ambush a month later, without learning that he had earned a Victoria Cross for his efforts.

"This is the first time anywhere in the world that archaeologists have had the chance to examine, excavate and record such an enormous expanse of first world war training ground," said Si Cleggett from Wessex Archaeology, a UK-based company.

"These men were being trained for the real thing, using live grenades – we know that because we found over 200 grenades in the tunnel and 50 per cent of them proved to be still live," said Cleggett.

The recruits left mess tins, combs, toothbrushes, cigarette and tobacco tins and pipes, candlesticks and candle stubs, tins of condensed milk and meat paste, a jar of Canadian cheese and a tin of Australian toffees, as well as scorch marks from their cooking fires and candles.

A bucket was found that had been adapted into a brazier to help combat the cold at night, 'The Guardian' said. The archaeologists believe the training land began with the trenches, and then the tunnels were added from 1915. In places the tunnels are several levels deep, cut up to six metres below the surface.

The site is two miles from Stonehenge, and the excavation also uncovered a wealth of prehistoric material, concentrated around the dry valley through which the river Avon once flowed.

The discoveries included an enclosure older than Stonehenge, a small henge monument, Iron Age round huts lived in at the time of the Roman invasion, and a miniature pottery beaker found with the bones of three children buried 4,000 years ago.