Surveying ‘lost’ WW1 tunnels on Salisbury Plain, Newcastle

7 November, 2017 | 17:45 - 20:00

Venue address:

Newcastle University
Cassie Building common room
Claremont Road
Newcastle NE1 7RU
United Kingdom
The survey comprised a set of complementary and integrated techniques
The survey comprised a set of complementary and integrated techniques

About this event

Within a few miles of Stonehenge and situated in the centre of the British Army's largest national training area, Larkhill Garrison is the home of the Royal School of Artillery. Work is underway across the Salisbury Plain training area to prepare for service personnel and their families returning from Germany in 2019, under the army basing programme (ABP). In accordance with the Salisbury Plain masterplan, an area of about 18Ha adjacent to Larkhill Garrison is being developed to provide over 400 homes.

In late 2016, Cundall's geotechnical and civil engineering teams were approached by Gable to provide advice to the Larkhill project team. As the site had been used for live fire training for many years, works had commenced with the stripping of the topsoil so the area could be checked for unexploded ordnance (UXO) and any UXO removed or made safe by controlled explosion on site. The topsoil strip uncovered a unique network of First World War front line trenches and tunnels that recreated the British and German front lines. They had been built for realistic training prior to sending troops to fight on the Western Front.

The soil strip operation led to an area of ground collapsing to reveal entrances to previously unknown tunnels. Their undetermined extent and nature, potential archaeological significance and risk of UXO all presented the project team with a set of seemingly insoluble problems and the potential for significant programme delays. Survey work previously carried out by others to locate the tunnels, including geophysics (gradiometry and ground penetrating radar) had not been successful and the lack of information regarding the tunnels was a concern. Progress on the project had effectively stalled.

Cundall developed a survey comprising a set of complementary and integrated techniques. These techniques would ultimately succeed in mapping the orientation, inclination, extent and volume of the historic tunnels with pinpoint accuracy, while still allowing the most thorough archaeological records possible along with effective management of the UXO risk.


Jim Allen, Partner - Cundall.

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Jim Allen, Partner – Cundall

Jim joined Cundall in September 2008 and is now the lead in Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental consultancy services. He oversees the management and development of the firm's geotechnical department, which provides an advisory and design service in all aspects of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering.