First World War Sites in north west Wales




Llangoed World War 1 Trenches Excavation

From 22nd to 26th September 2014, we dug two small trenches to investigate First World War practice trenches on Cichle Farm, Llangoed, Anglesey.

Planning Trench 2

We had previously carried out a geophysical survey of the field and a clear aerial photograph exists of the trenches when they were still open in 1945 so we have a fairly good understanding about their layout but needed to test how well they survive beneath the ground. One trench targeted the trenches around the command centre and another looked at the front-line trench.

The trenches were opened with the skilled mini-digger driving of Robyn Roberts of Cichle Farm and some heavy hand digging was carried out by a small team of experienced volunteers. However the difficulty of the work surprised us. It was very hard to see the difference between the backfill of the trenches and the natural boulder clay, so after the mini-digger had removed some backfill careful hand-digging was necessary to work out what was going on. In the front-line trench a soft clay containing limestone (not naturally present on the farm) caused a lot of confusion. In the end I decided to take it out by machine and only then did we prove that it was boulder clay (with pieces of limeand that we had unwittingly removed one side of the trench.

Frontline trench NE facing section

Frontline trench SW facing section

However we had done enough recording to show that the trench was 0.7m wide at the base (though wider at the top) and about 1.5m deep. It took quite a lot of hand-digging to find the base of the command centre trench, which proved to be a similar width and depth to the front-line trench.

Command Centre Trench

Neither trenches had firing steps, which would have been expected especially on the front-line trench where a step would have been needed for soldiers to stand on to see out of the trench to fire at the enemy. However the command centre trench had what appeared to be small steps cut in one side, possibly for access while the trench was being dug. Both trenches had hints of timber or wattle being used to revet the sides of the trench but none of this survived very well.

Nothing was found apart from a few sherds of pottery in the backfill and small nails from the revetment.

The work showed that the trenches survive well under the soil but that they are not easy to reveal by excavation and in the areas inspected revetments and other features do not survive very well.

It had been hoped to also investigate another group of practice trenches not far away in Tan y Coed wood, but the time it took to sort out the excavated trenches meant that there wasn't enough time left. We will be surveying these trenches, which have not been backfilled and are much clearer to see on the surface than the Cichle Farm trenches, but the survey will have to wait until winter when all the leaves are off the trees and we can see what we are doing.

On Thursday evening people were invited to come and have a look at the excavations and we had 9 visitors, who managed to find us in this rarely frequented corner of Anglesey.

Site visit

Thanks very much to Beaver, Jeff, Brian and Sam for all their help and to Robyn Roberts for allowing us to work on his land and for the machine driving and other assistance.

Jane Kenney


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