This is a post written by student Dan Joyce, who is currently studying on the Archaeological Computing MSc at the University of Southampton. Dan is one of the team who have been on site during the two surveying weeks that we have been running at Basing House, and is doing his major project on Basing House.
Although I was actually on site to continue a survey of the buildings within the Old House the corner of a drawing from the 1964-1996 excavations preliminary report peaked my interest by mentioning a 1939-45 Gun Site, while a quick search on the Pastscape website brought up a record on a Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery and Radar site in Basing although it suggested that there were no remains. A search of the usually useful Defense of Britain database brought up no results.
One of the drawbacks of being a Conflict Archaeologist is that you spend a great deal of time dragging yourself through dense undergrowth or up the side of hills in search of some interesting overgrown structure. And these snippets of information led me to be in the same situation on an overcast Tuesday morning, walking through some woods searching for evidence of a structure.
This continued until I came across what was obviously a railway rail sticking upright from the ground. I knew that they had been used in the War in some defensive situations and thought it likely that this was another instance of a World War 2 construction. In all 8 similar rails were discovered in 2 groups of 4 and a poke with a stick as well as the boggy state of the ground made it obvious that a concrete slab was located between them.
A cursory survey of the ground between the rails also discovered another interesting metal object set in the concrete that may possibly have been the foot of the gun emplacement that I was looking for. And upon searching the internet when I returned to University I came across a number of other examples of similar objects associated with gun emplacements.
Further searches in the woods came across a second apparently identical structure, although this one was possibly damaged.
But having seen Heavy Anti-Aircraft Batteries at more than one location I knew that these were much larger concrete structures with concrete walls and compartments around the gun for storing ammunition, this structure was much smaller with no evidence of ancillary structures although there were bricks strewn across the woodland floor.
Due to the size of the structures it appears that this might be a Light Anti-Aircraft Battery using a gun such as the 20mm Oerlikon. Further research will hopefully answer the many questions about these interesting structures.