Drone pilot discovers layout of first world war era trenches in a field in Newark
A drone pilot who was using his aircraft to search for a missing man made an incredible historical discovery.
Steven Smith spotted strange outlines in the scorched ground of a field on Beacon Heights, Newark. He used the drone to take pictures and, on closer inspection realised the drought had revealed the existence of long-covered-over first world war practice trenches.
Mr Smith said: "I walk the dog there every day. I had never noticed these patterns until I saw the footage.
"They've never appeared before now and it's because the ground is so dry. It seems the drought has made them visible."
Mr Smith has visited first world war battlefields in France and Belgium in the past and recognised the patterns from what he had seen in those countries, with their distinctive teeth outlines.
"I actually had the drone up looking for a man who had been missing for three hours," he said: "Somebody notified me that he'd been found and I spotted them I was returning and took the pictures. I was literally 100 yards from my house.
"My first thought was that they could be older, knowing Newark's civil war history, but they are to new for that era.
"I've been to Belgium and France and seen the real trenches. I know my military history.
"They're practice trenches. They follow the line of the ridge. They reminded me of what I'd seen on the battlefields.
"I didn't know if anyone had seen them before. They're 110 years old. I wonder when anybody last saw them? I also wonder what happened to the men who made them?"
Kevin Winter, a local history expert, confirmed that the Royal Engineers trained in Newark during both world wars and would have been involved in the planning and digging of practice trenches in readiness for the front.
"They certainly look like world war one practice trenches, with the teeth outline," said Mr Winter.
"I have to say they aren't particularly straight and regular, but maybe that's why they needed the practice."
Mr Winter, who is chairman of the East Midlands branch of the Battlefields Trust and exhibitions and collections assistant at the National Civil War Centre, said their existence was previously unknown, but similar practice trenches had been discovered at Kelham that were also from the period.
An investigation of the Kelham site, which has also surrendered civil war artefacts, had been shelved due to covid, but it is hoped it could still take place in the future.
"It's amazing what a spell of dry weather reveals as crop marks," he said.