WWII Conflict Archaeology in the Forêt Domaniale des Andaines, NW France
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis integrates archaeological survey, aerial photographs and historical documents to undertake the first analysis of the conflict landscapes and military history of some of the most important German logistics facilities in northern France during the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Post-war survival of features has been remarkably good in this forested setting and this likely constitutes one of the best- preserved and most extensive examples of a non-hardened WWII archaeological landscape yet documented in northwest Europe. Over 900 discrete archaeological earthworks have been mapped and interpreted with the aid of primary source material from both Allied and German archives to characterise munitions, fuel and rations depots in the Forêt Domaniale des Andaines around Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, Orne Département, Basse-Normandie. These landscapes also preserve bomb craters associated with air raids on the facilities by the US Ninth Air Force and these have been mapped and analysed to show that despite 46 separate attacks by over 1000 aircraft, and the dropping in excess of 1100 tons of bombs in the forest during the spring and summer of 1944, the depots continued to function and to support German Army operations until the area was occupied by American forces in August 1944. In some areas of the forest it has been possible to link discrete arrays of bomb craters to individual air raids and even specific flights of aircraft. This work is yielding new perspectives on the character and operation of fixed depots in the German logistics system in Normandy both before and during the battles of 1944, while also permitting a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of Allied intelligence gathering, targeting and bombing operations against forest-based supply facilities. In doing so it is making a unique contribution to the newly-emerging record of WWII conflict archaeology to be found in the forests of northwest Europe.
PhD by Publication in Human Geography.