The UK Second World War Heritage group was established by Chris Kolonko and Peter Hibbs in 2018 to support involvement in researching, recording and interpreting Second World War heritage assets throughout the UK. The group also aims to promote ethical fieldwork, in-line with current archaeological best practice, and encourage the recording of sites with Historic Environment Records and wider professional heritage organisations. We are an independent organisation and not affiliated with any other groups.
The ‘spotting’ of Second World War military sites and defences is a popular hobby in the UK; with photographs and videos posted to social media platforms and forums frequently. It is a commonly held belief that spotting sites and posting photographs online constitutes recording or documenting wartime heritage assets, with many being led to believe that this is somehow preserving surviving sites. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Posting images and videos to social media platforms and urbex forums has no influence over the preservation of heritage assets and does little to enhance our understanding of surviving sites.
Today, very few Historic Environment records relating to wartime sites have been updated since the conclusion of the Council for British Archaeology’s Defence of Britain project in 2002. As a result, most records relating to wartime sites and structures contain very little information (often only a sentence), meaning there is a serious lack of available information available to inform planning decisions, or show the significance of surviving wartime sites. Also, as most of these records don’t meet the requirements to ensure preservation by record, when a site is lost there is no information about its form, function or context. As a result, many wartime sites are vulnerable because of this lack of information. The best way for members of the public to make a difference is to interact with local Historic Environment Records (and their equivalents across the UK) to update site records and add much needed detail to these records. Information gathered through thorough research and detailed field recording is now required by many HERs. Due to a lack of action over the last decade, it is now even more important that members of the public with an interest in wartime sites do their bit to help record and show the significance of surviving sites while interacting with local heritage bodies. By ensuring that all information gathered is submitted to the local Historic Environment Record or Sites and Monuments Record there is a better chance that surviving sites will be retained in the future. Links to contact details for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
Focussed research and field work can yield impressive results; leading to a greater understanding of the defensive landscape. Research and field recording is key to understanding how wartime sites would have been utilised in the event of invasion, as well as explaining how defences were located within the defensive landscape. Detailed research and fieldwork is the only way the significance of wartime heritage assets will be realised.
Our Facebook group offers a forum for people to discuss sites and offer an interpretation of their use (Where possible, providing parallel sites or documentary evidence to confirm interpretation), purpose and history, as well as ask questions. This is much more productive and useful than posting random images and video content without context.
As a start, we recommended that any research or fieldwork project starts with a small, yet defined survey area. This ensures results can be effectively compiled, interpreted and properly written up.
Aims of UKSWWH
Our core aim, as mentioned above, is to encourage public involvement in researching, recording and interpreting Second World War heritage assets throughout the UK. We aim to inform members of the public and further develop and promote a framework of ethical fieldwork in-line with current best practice, using an up to date archaeological recording methodology. The group’s final aim is to encourage engagement with Historic Environment Records (and their equivalents across the UK) and wider heritage organisations; allowing members of the public to play an active role in informing the planning process and aiding the preservation of wartime heritage assets.
How UKSWWH currently fulfills these aims
The aims of the group will be fulfilled by providing information online and encouraging discussion via our online forum. We also advise members of the public to make contact with their local Historic Environment Record.
Our main platforms for engagement are a public Facebook group and a website.
The Facebook page is used to provide a forum where people can ask questions and seek guidance. We also use this platform to inform and promote recording of sites with local HERs and their UK-wide equivalents. The Facebook page is also open to archaeologists, who can seek advice or provide additional information.
The website provides additional information, including good practices guidelines, contact information for HERs (and their UK-wide equivalents) and access to our guides. The website will also feature FAQs and an interactive site type guide that will be fully referenced. The website can also be used as a platform for guest blogs and papers for anyone wishing to publish their research.
We are working on a suite of PDF guides that cover specific subjects and provide readily accessible information in a simple format. Over time we will develop further resources, including a concise guide to site recording, an introductory guide to archive research and further thematic site/structure information.
Who We Are
Peter Hibbs BA (Hons), MSc
Pete has had a keen interest in history from childhood. His love of both Sussex’s rich past and general military history combined in 1987 while exploring the Crumbles prior to the construction of Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour. It was here that his first research project, the Napoleonic Martello Towers of Kent and Sussex, was born, along with a love of wildlife and landscape photography. His pursuit of history as an academic discipline saw him attain both GCSE and A-level qualifications before graduating with a BA (Hons) 2:1 in War Studies with History in 1997.
After several years with the East Sussex County Library Service, Pete moved into web development and worked in the education sector, simultaneously achieving an MSc (with distinction) in Web Information Management in 2011. Having established his personal research as the Defence of East Sussex Project (www.pillbox.org.uk) back in 2006, the combination of history and ICT qualifications has resulted in a database of over 250,000 records pertaining to East Sussex during the Second World War.
A former committee member of Sussex Military History Society, Pete co-founded Sussex Military Research with Stewart Angell in 2018. Aside from SussexMR, Pete undertakes freelance web development and historical consultancy work on wartime Sussex. He is currently writing a book on the Rye area during the Second World War.
Chris Kolonko-Weet BSc (Hons), PCIfA
Chris is an archaeologist with nearly 20 year’s experience of investigating, researching, recording, and interpreting Second World War anti-invasion defences in the UK, with specialisms in both Community Archaeology and the archaeology of the First and Second World War Home Fronts. He is an accredited member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), at the Practitioner level, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Archaeology from the University of Bradford.
During his career he has provided specialist training courses in the archaeological recording and interpretation of wartime defences on behalf of organisations including the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), English Heritage (Now Historic England), the Nautical Archaeology Society, and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). Chris has also provided professional consultation and advice in the preservation of wartime heritage assets to a range organisations across the UK, including the CBA, several local councils, Historic Environment Records, and Civic Societies. As well as advice to non-profit organisations, individuals, and community groups who are keen to preserve and learn more about their local wartime heritage assets. Chris has also consulted on several successful listing applications, including the Steeton Dump pillboxes and the Docking Tett turrets.
During his career he has also worked for several major organisations, including the CBA, as the Project Archaeologist and Officer for the national recording project Home Front Legacy 1914-18, and MOLA’s multi-million pound funded Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) project, where he worked as both a Senior Community Archaeologist and Project Officer.
In his spare time, Chris develops resources to help others record wartime sites, having established his website in 2015 (chriskolonko.wordpress.com) to share this information. He also frequently liaises with local Historic Environment Records, providing information, site records, and reports, and also provides talks and presentations on various aspects of the wartime Home Front.