Sydney to Stratford sub Castle : The Australians and the Great War

Friday 15 November 2013 provided an evening to remember for the capacity audience who attended the Friends of St Lawrence talk given by Richard Osgood, the MOD’s Senior Archaeologist and Historian. Richard came to tell us about the Anzac burials in St Lawrence churchyard and how they fitted into the Great War picture. And what a great talk it was; the audience was spellbound. Talking without notes for over an hour (the time flew by!) he explained why so many Anzac soldiers had come to England to train on Salisbury Plain in the art of trench warfare before moving on to fight in France. Sadly, the soldiers buried in St Lawrence died before they could reach the conflict. Not, as has long been believed, from ‘flu, but mainly from meningitis.

Richard then described his archaeological work excavating the remains of soldiers in the WW1 trenches in France and the way the many artefacts found could be used to paint a clearer picture not only of how they lived but also what nationality they were. The use of ‘crime scene investigation’ techniques, e.g. DNA, resulted in the positive identification of a number of soldiers’ remains. This has enabled them to have a proper burial, attended by their descendants, nearly a century after they died.

Richard has published a book on the excavations in France entitled ‘Digging up Plugstreet : The Archaeology of a Great War Battlefield’. He has also written a paper in Conservation Bulletin published by English Heritage that covers the specific excavation he described to us and we have been given permission to reproduce it here, see below..

The talk was a very fitting ‘lead in’ to next year’s 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, which will be marked by numerous events, both nationally and here in Stratford sub Castle. Our events will be detailed in the Parish Magazine early in the New Year.

Our very grateful thanks to Richard for such a superb talk, which also raised almost £400 for the Friends’ funds. Thank you to all for your generous donations.

David James & Terry Ereira

Click here to read the Bulletin (in PDF format)