As part of a joint initiative between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at Ballykinler, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and the Historic Environment Division (HED) of DoE a reconnaissance archaeological excavation was undertaken at the Ballykinler Military Training Estate in County Down during April 2016. These investigations revealed new information about the camp’s function as a First World War training establishment with a view to further informing the current protection of the scheduled areas within the extensive military landscape, in addition to developing a better understanding of the physical remains of existing First World War topography, in advance of full-scale excavations in August 2016.
Work focused on three locations within the confines of the military estate and information uncovered will now be used to inform the project design for the planned August excavations and community outreach project. The archaeological investigations were carried out on behalf of the MoD by the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF), School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP), Queen’s University Belfast under the co-direction of Heather Montgomery (QUB/PG) and Dr Paul Logue (Senior Inspector, HED). The project was financed by Defence Infrastructural Organisation (DIO) and Queen’s University Belfast’s First World War Living Legacy Engagement Centre.
This program of work is the first excavation of this type in Northern Ireland to include the evaluation of a First World War facsimile trench system. It is anticipated that information gleaned through both the desktop analysis and the fieldwork will augment the current historical narrative of the site while informing the accurate interpretation of the physical remains of ‘training for war’, garnering a greater understanding of the British training doctrine provided to the volunteer recruits in Ireland who trained there prior to heading to the war in 1914-1918. In addition the works will afford commemorative outreach to both the local community, the MoD rehabilitation scheme (The Nightingale Project), and further build upon relationships with the Irish Defence Force (IDF).