Who Digs Wins - Geology in WWI

Mike checking the recordsThe objectives of our project Who Digs Wins funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund were to research and identify the role of geology in the First World War and follow threads through special characters and locations and quirky twists of fate and brave actions.

Surprising as it sounds, the role of geology was restricted to mineral resources for the first few years of the war. In the field of operations, it was ignored or rather taken for granted even though its impact had been known and acknowledged in many a field.

Knowledge of geology was going to prove crucial, not only in the identification and exploitation of mineral resources at home and in the Empire as well as the enemies whose war effort could be hampered but also at the Front as a tactical weapon in military warfare.

Who Digs Wins is a story of determination where geology ends up playing aIt's all very interesting! pivotal role, a hero's intervention in a quiet and understated way. It is a project that captured people's imagination, our Trust members, volunteers, members of our communities, museum curators, librarians and history enthusiasts.

We had a very interesting workshop at Northallerton Records Office with Archivist Anthony Hughes as our guide. Anthony and his colleagues' efforts unearthed account books from mines reopened during WWI, abandoned mine plans and maps, field notebooks and the Aysgarth baptism register for Captain King.

Another field tripTwo geologists fascinated us and played a pivotal role in the First World War: Captain W.B.R. King and Professor Edgeworth David. Captain King became the first geologist appointed as such by the British Army in charge of locating groundwater resources.

Professor Edgeworth David, an amazing individual, a Welsh-Australian who joined the war effort in his 50's made the first use of geology for mine warfare. He ensured the success of our engineers and tunnellers.

Online searches on Google and in the archives of Imperial War Museum and Royal Engineers and in company records revealed countless treasures.

As outcomes of our involvement in the Who Digs Wins Project, we have created a collection of stories with a common thread, geology in the First World War. They are fragments of history our volunteers, contributors and members came across and were intrigued by.

Hopefully you will find them of interest and they will inspire you to investigate further or simply discover the many ways in which geology impacted resources and military warfare and helped win the war.

An excellent day for allIf you have an interest in the project or perhaps something of interest to add to the collection and wish to share your stories, please get in touch. Our project is now technically completed but we are still receiving articles. We will continue to upload them to our website, under the Who Digs Wins section, and they will be archived at the British Library.

Heritage Lottery Fund - Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

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