Answers in the Soil ?

Watching TV yesterday early evening (more correctly probably channel hopping, the curse of the grasshopper mind, the need to be organised (!) and too many channels) and heard the magic word “Allotments” on BBC Midlands Today (a daily local-news/magazine show which follows the national news).

That got my attention – of course. It seems that a plotholder – plot 23 to be precise -on some  Great Barr allotments  dug up a military medal while turning over the ground in 2007 and subsequent investigations by a determined group of people have discovered that it belonged to a soldier killed during the Great War (1914 – 1918). The allotment association have since decided to create a small memorial garden as a mark of respect and are naming it after the soldier whose British Service Medal had been found.


Private William Richards was a member of the Kings Own Shropshire Light Infantry who was killed in the third battle at Ypres (in present day Belgium) which took place in 1917. He was born, the programme said In the Welsh Rhondda valley and died at the age of twenty six. There are only theories as to how the medal ended up in the soil at the Thornbridge (a splendid name for an allotments eh?) allotments but, so far, no living relatives have been found.

I love the way the organisation responded to the find, that they are using it to create a small community area (turfed and with benches) which will remind people in the community of the sacrifices and lives of people in our recent past. So much more appropriate this year – a hundred years since the conflict started. They are planning a ceremony  (I think) to return the medal to the regiment and are also continuing to search for any news of relatives (it is thought that his family may have moved to Birmingham to work in the collieries around here … but this is, kind of grasping at straws as there are so many other possibilities). I wish them luck with the project.

Linked to this, at least by my own imagination, is the whole range of unexpected things we can find when we dig ground: the let’s-say-lucky metal detectorist coming across what is now known as the “Staffordshire Hoard”( in a field I have driven past for decades on my way to and from work. Treasure indeed, but of  a different kind. And so important historically, with questions and theories still being posed.

The old-penny coin that I myself turned up on our allotment. The past and some of the answers may well be in the soil.

Keep digging; as we used to say (and laugh about it) the past and some of the answers may well indeed  be in the soil.


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