Throughout September, Archaeology Scotland organises the yearly Scottish Archaeology Month (SAM) to showcase the richness and range of archaeological sites across Scotland. As part of the IWM Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme (SWWHPP), Industrial Museums Scotland explored the theme ‘Landscapes of War’, to look deeper into the lasting effects of WW2 on the Scottish landscape and through this its people. The stars aligned and the dates for our upcoming exhibitions were smack bang in the middle of Scottish Archaeology Month. We saw this as an opportunity to not only share our events with our other Scottish heritage partners, but also establish archaeology and structures dating from the Second World War as equally important as the older, perhaps more well known sites across the country.

From later August to early October we arranged six different events for SAM all which developed on the theme of Landscapes of War. We opened two exhibitions on theme; one at the Devil’s Porridge and one at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, we ran two talks; one by Fife County Archaeologist Steve Liscoe and the other by PhD student Gary Willis, we ran one tour across Dumfries and Galloway with County Archaeologist Andy Nicholson, and begun a social media campaign called #postyourpillbox. All these events helped us explore how the landscape of Scotland, and the people who lived in it, were drastically changed by the Second World War.

Andy Nicholson at Eastriggs MOD, next to a concrete pillbox from the Second World War
Courtesy of Rosie Shackleton
Andy Nicholson at Eastriggs MOD

Landscape is an important factor in any archaeological dig or survey as sometimes only traces within the landscape can tell us what activity and history took place in that area. WW2 archaeological, for the most part, is in pretty good condition and often still above ground and was documented by the Army of local authorities. But in some cases, there are hidden structures which tell hidden stories about the local area. On our tour ‘WW2: The Landscape Legacy in Dumfries and Galloway’, we explored the more hidden side of WW2 archaeology in Dumfries and Galloway county. One such site was at Dumfries Airfield which was the previous site of RAF Dumfries. Down a small path next to one of the runways was a series of hidden Type 22 pillbox which was covered in grass and ferns. Without them being pointed out, we all would have missed it. This is a perfect metaphor for the huge amount of WW2 history across Dumfries and Galloway, and Scotland more widely, that is hidden, buried or overlooked.

The group discuss the hidden type 22 pillbox
Courtesy of Rosie Shackleton
The group discuss the hidden type 22 pillbox to the righthand side of the photo

To try and counter this, we developed our social media campaign #postyourpillbox to promote exploration of theses hidden histories. Most of the sites we visited in Dumfries and Galloway were completely publicly accessible and we want to highlight that these structures and the stories that accompany them might just be in your local neighbourhood. We’re encouraging the public to explore WW2 sites in their local area, take a photo or use the SCAPE app to record them and then post these images on social media using #postyourpillbox. We want to show that the War affected Scotland on a national level by this micro focus on the local area. Scottish Archaeology Month was a nice funnel for our whole project, allowing us to explore different aspects of our theme of Landscape and war, while placing it within the wider history of Scottish archaeology.