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Late 19th & Early 20th Century Trenches

An archaeological excavation took place in 2017 at a site in the woods close to the Aden Caravan and Camping site. A team of keen local volunteers were assisted by several classes of local school children.

Practice Trench

Longside P6 pupil with copper alloy fly button found in Trench 1

Practice Trench

Plan showing structures, trenches and older trees

A plane table survey was carried out – this allowed mapping of all the lumps and bumps in the wood which showed that there were several round, oval and irregular shaped structures as well as a series of Z-shaped ditches. A total of nineteen archaeological trenches were excavated over a range of banks and ditches and the interiors of features.

Practice Trench

Tr5 and 5A bank 5005 (left), ditch 5004, ditch 5015 (right); facing NNE

Some of the structures are poorly preserved and there have been trees removed from the site and fallen trees rotted in situ forming mounds. Whilst excavating the trenches the archaeologists and volunteers found finds including copper buttons, pottery, flints and bottles.

Buchan Rifle Volunteers and General Frank S Russell

General Frank S Russel and the Buchan Rifle Volunteers

During the late 19th century the Aberdeenshire Volunteers had trained at various estates including Aden. General Frank S Russel and the Buchan Rifle Volunteers (shown above) along with Aden featured in the local paper – The Peterhead Sentinel and Buchan Journal – as being a host for a large group of Volunteers and it is thought that these trenches were created during these training events.

Buchan Rifle Volunteers ButtonAt the beginning of the World War I training trenches would also have been created and the Z-shaped trenches may date to this period.

At this time there was a huge influx of recruits into the army, and the digging of practice trenches was a means of imparting a valuable military skill to the soldiers. This helped to build up the men’s fitness, skills, and team spirit. Across the UK there would have been many training trenches as British soldiers were not sent to the Western Front untrained. The image to the right shows one of the Buchan Rifle Volunteer buttons.

There are few similar sites known in Scotland. This makes the excellent survival of these features even more culturally significant. There are some similar sites within Aberdeenshire including at Old Meldrum, Fraserburgh, Banff and Peterhead. It is believed that the trenches at Aden are some of the best-preserved practice areas used for training solders to fight on the Western Front in Aberdeenshire.

Map of the practise trench

Trench 5 plan and section

The trenches are not the only link to military conflict at Aden Country Park. During the Second World War the Mansion House was used as accommodation for soldiers.

For further information about the Late 19th and Early 20th Century Trenches dig, please download the attached Data Structure Report (DSR) below, however please be aware that this report is large in size and depending on your internet connection, might take a few minutes to download.

Aden Archaeology Support Logos

It is important to note that the Late 19th and Early 20th Century Trenches research, dig, and Data Structure Report (DSR) has only been made possible with funding support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and support from Aberdeenshire Council itself.