A CAMPAIGN to save the Capital’s First World War trenches has taken a major leap forward – with funding being secured that will allow experts to carry out a vital survey of the historical site.
Edinburgh City Council has allocated £3500 to carry out an initial survey of the Dreghorn trenches, amid fears the historic network of warfare training trenches is being lost to nature.
The University of Glasgow’s Centre of Battlefield Archaeology and private firm GUARD Archaeology will carry out the work early next year.
The announcement follows a campaign led by writer and historian Lynne Gladstone-Millar, whose father, William Ewart Gladstone-Millar, was trained in the trenches before he was sent to the Battle of the Somme.
The drive – backed by the Evening News – has won the support of Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and historian Andrew Robertshaw, who was chief military adviser of Steven Spielberg’s The War Horse.
Ms Gladstone-Miller said: “Naturally, I am delighted with the news.
“This is a first step, but one which shows the campaign has been a great success – it’s recognition that the trenches are important and need to be preserved.
“It’s been tremendous what the Evening News has done with this campaign.”
Dependent on the weather, the survey will begin on February 7 with the report on the results due by the end of March.
Much of the work will be carried out for free by the Centre of Battlefield Archaeology. Its members include some of the most experienced battlefield archaeologists in the UK. They will use the survey as an opportunity for research and student training.
The network of trenches at Dreghorn Woods, Colinton, which will cost an estimated £10,000 to save, are at risk of disappearing as they become overgrown by trees.
The 16th Battalion The Royal Scots dug the trenches in Colinton and Dreghorn – which was open countryside at the time – before they made their way to France. The area of Dreghorn Woods where the trenches lie is open to the public and is owned by the MoD.
Representatives from Historic Scotland, the MoD and the council have been in talks to discuss how the trenches can be best preserved.
City education leader Paul Godzik has said there was scope for transforming the trenches into an educational resource.
MoD archaeologist Philip Abramson, who inspected the site, said the Dreghorn trenches appeared to be in as good a condition as two other examples – at Otterburn in Northumberland and Barry Buddon, Carnoustie – but more work needed to be done to make sure.
Colinton councillor Jason Rust said: “I am delighted this funding has been sourced. I hope to have a meeting of all interested parties in the new year.”
LET BATTLE COMMENCE
• SEPTEMBER: A campaign is launched to save Edinburgh’s trenches, which were used to train soldiers before they went off to battle. The trenches are at risk of disappearing as they fill up with silt and leaves.
The Ministry of Defence confirms it is actively seeking funding to preserve them.
• OCTOBER: Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart calls for the trenches to be preserved as the Prime Minister announces more than £50 million is to be spent commemorating the centenary of the Great War.
Des Brogan, director of Mercat Tours, said he wanted to include the trenches in First World War tours aimed at schoolchildren.
• NOVEMBER: Military historian Andrew Robertshaw, who was an adviser on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, lends his support to the campaign.
• DECEMBER: Funding is announced to carry out a survey of the site.