Accepted Paper:

Writing on the wall: the anthropological interpretation of WW1 subterranean military graffiti on the Western Front  


Mike Dolamore MBE (The Durand Group)
Andrew Hawkins QGM (Durand Group)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the theoretical anthropological relationship between the graffiti produced by WW1 soldiers and the subterranean environments in which the graffiti was produced.

Paper long abstract:

The Great War witnessed the use of mining and tunnelling on an unparalleled scale in support of surface operations, particularly on the Western Front. However, the subject of subterranean warfare remains relatively sparsely documented and its integration with, and importance to, surface operations poorly understood. Much of the infrastructure associated with mining and tunnelling remains lost from sight beneath the ground with access rarely gained. However, The Durand Group's work at Vimy Ridge over the past decade has resulted in access being gained into a number of deep level defensive mining systems, higher level subways and other associated subterranean features where extensive caches of military graffiti have been discovered and are being recorded.

This paper will examine the anthropological interpretation of the graffiti within the context of the differing subterranean environments in which it was left. A theoretical interpretation of the inter-relationship between the materials used to make the graffiti, the locations of the graffiti within the environments and the contents of the graffiti itself can potentially tell us much about the mindset of the soldiers who made it and their cultural practises within this unique subterranean world.

Panel S20
Going underground: caves, science and theory