The Excavation

The excavation was conducted over only five days, but was a tremendous success, with more than 15 volunteers excavating every day, and many many more visiting and contributing in other ways. As stated by Dr. Shine ‘the excavation has helped clarify the form and morphology of the training trenches, and how this may have varied over the site. We may have only assessed a small portion of the trenches, but we have a much better idea as to how they were constructed, what size they were and how realistic they were intended to be’.

Stephen Callaghan adding ‘through excavation we were able to answer a number of research questions on the trenches in Birr, and it has helped us better understand the training methods that were put in place for new recruits or soldiers stationed in the barracks ’. The excavation showed that trenches had the classic zig-zag shape, which is perhaps iconic when thinking of the Great War. While our initial test trenches shows the training trenches were shallow they did get much deeper the further north they went, almost to 4 feet in depth. Small finds included shell casings from service rifles likely dropped around the 1870s, an eyelet from a bell tent like those used for annual militia camps and a silver 1918 3 pence coin, which conceivably was dropped by a soldier while practicing trench warfare’.