Jonathan Berry

Behind the Wire: explosive archaeology at MOD Caerwent

After a really successful day at Caerwent on Sunday, I can now share some of the edited snippets I took during the tour….

Jon Berry gives an introduction to the tour

The first clip is Don Waring, talking about the Nitro-glycerine hill at Caerwent….Don is a retired pharmacist and know loads about the history of the site:

Caerwent Military Base – Behind the Wire tour – Don Waring talks about the Nitro-glycerine hill (mp3)

The underground level at the Nitro-glycerine plant

The central pillar at the Nitro-glycerine plant


Next is Jonathan Berry, talking about Sea slug, the first-generation surface-to-air missile, developed by the Royal Navy:

Caerwent Military Base – Behind the Wire tour – Jon Berry talks about the sea slugs… (mp3)

At the former Royal Naval Propellant Factory's Guided Weapons Scheme Unit at Caerwent

Lastly, Medwyn Parry talks about the American Magazine buildings:

Medwyn holding up a shell

Caerwent Military Base – Behind the Wire tour – Medwyn Parry talks about the American magazine buildings… (mp3)


Lighting the cordite spaghetti in one of the American magazine buildings..

It was a really great day! Thanks to all that came!

Ffion Reynolds

A visit behind the wire at Caerwent Military Base

Hello! My name is Ffion Reynolds and I’m the Council of British Archaeology’s Community Archaeologist – placed at Cadw, which is the historic environment service for the Welsh Government. My post is part of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and you can find out more about it here.

Usually, I’m a Neolithic specialist; working with the Council for British Archaeology and Cadw, however, I find myself travelling from one period to another. One minute, I’m exploring community projects about Neolithic archaeology; the next I’m organising medieval open days for the Festival of British Archaeology.

My activities this weekend will take me even further from my period of specialism, as I take 160 visitors to a twentieth-century military base, otherwise known as the Caerwent Training Area. Accompanying me and sharing their knowledge on the tour will be Jonathan Berry (Regional Inspector of South-east Wales), Medwyn Parry (Royal Commission Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales) and Don Waring (Caerwent Historian). This will take place on Sunday the 31st of July as part of the Festival of British Archaeology: the last day of the festival for this year.

As this is the Day of Archaeology, I thought I’d flag it up here, as it would be great to share this experience with you over the weekend – especially since military sites are pretty strange and interesting places.

Caerwent Military Base is a huge site, the location of a former propellant factory and munitions dump. Within the wire (or the boundaries of the MOD Training Area) there are 414 original buildings, built and used between 1938 and 1942. Later developments include the rocket manufacturing plant, within the former Royal Naval Propellant Factory; and 64 American magazines – places in which ammunition was stored. In addition, there are 75 air raid shelters, and most are still intact.

Since the departure of the Americans in 1993, the site has become a troop training area, as well as an explosives demolition practice area, which is limited to a few structures. These days, a number of buildings are used by visiting troops for training purposes, and also by civilian companies as storage.

Recently twentieth century military sites have been recognised as an important element of our heritage and, as such, we’re hoping to set up more community projects at the site….

…so I’ll be back on Sunday with more about how the tour went!