Churchill's British Resistance - The Auxiliary Units

 

This page is part of a site tour of the Coleshill estate during WW2. Click here to start the tour. 

Please Note: The Coleshill House site and grounds are owned by the National Trust. The woods and grounds of the house are all strictly private and access is limited to set days a year. See our events page for their official open days. Attempting to access the site outside of these times is not only trespassing but could damage the future of our work and relationship with the Trust and villagers. Please respect this.

Structure 3 - Suspected Ammo or General Dump

This page was last updated at 4:25pm on 13/2/12

Image of the ammo dump in 2099 

Picture of the structure taken by CART in June 2009.


The following information is an EXTRACT from an archaeological report produced in January 2012 following CART's Coleshill Uncovered project. A range of people contributed, including CART. The report was edited by John Winterburn and Anna Gow.

We have extracted the key info for this area but would suggest you read the full report here

STRUCTURE 3 - SUSPECTED GENERATOR ROOM


A risk assessment of this feature was carried out by Mike Dolamore (one of the project EOD officers). His report is as follows:

Photo 3: Structure 3 - general view

The feature known as the 'Ammo dump' is a large pit in the ground, approximately 2.5m wide by 3.5m long by 2.5m deep, with the long sides facing north and south. The pit has near vertical sides on Faces A, B and C, whilst Face D tapers up to ground level at an approximate angle of 45 degrees, permitting access (see photo above). Two large trees sit close to the corners of Faces A-B and A- C with their root systems protruding from the faces. The ground structure appears to consist of 0.5m of soil overlying weathered stone. Sheets of 'wriggly tin' are visible at the base of Face A, although it is unknown if those are contemporary with the construction of the pit or later additions. The bottom of the pit contains some soil infill, leaves, branches and other general detritus. Some rotten plywood boarding has also been noted laid horizontally at the bottom, perhaps in a previous attempt to prevent infill of features below this. The deteriorated remains of modern camouflage netting are visible in places on Face A.

The pit has been partially excavated at some point and items of Nissen Hut furniture (stove pipes etc.) have been recovered. This suggests that the pit has at some point been used as a convenient place to dispose of demolition debris from the site. It is likely therefore that other items found on the site (including munitions) that required quick disposal may have been thrown into the pit (indeed this may be the reason why the pit has become known as the 'Ammo Dump' as opposed to any actual original use as a place to store munitions).

The pit is currently in a stable condition with the root systems of the trees acting as a living framework to prevent significant collapse of Face A. The top lips of Faces B and C have already been slightly cut back by natural weathering. Surface clearance of the detritus from the pit floor to ascertain exactly what detailed excavation may or may not be necessary could be undertaken safely, without any risk of collapse, by a team consisting of two people (no more and two required for mutual safety) wearing safety helmets and lines. The tops of Faces B and C could be further cut back to prevent any risk of top collapse from these sides if required. The most dangerous side is Face A and whilst 'cutback' of the top lip is advisable in most cases it is not recommended here as this would interfere with the tree root systems that are currently helping to stabilize that side and would probably cause instability rather than helping to stop any possible collapse. An area 2m around the top of the pit would need to be marked off as an exclusion zone to prevent 'kick-in' of material onto the heads of those working in the pit. If any further excavation other than preliminary surface clearance is required then it is recommended that Face A be shored up with a sheet of heavy duty plywood, braced back into the slope of Face D. Any work within the pit would require a surface supervisor in addition to the two diggers and the presence of a qualified Explosive Ordnance Disposal person. The cutting of steps into Face D to aid entry and exit is recommended as a preliminary requirement to any other work taking place. Spoil from excavations would need to be deposited at least 3m from the pit and not close to the top of Face D, as has clearly happened in previous attempts to dig it.

Conclusion
It is recommended that some stabilisation work is undertaken on this structure and we would be happy to discuss this with the National Trust.

Read more about the house pre war here and during the war here.