Air raid shelter is uncovered in Greenwich park

A team of volunteers have dug up an intact underground bunker and model soldier from the Second World War.

The 26 volunteers from the Royal Parks Charity discovered the air raid shelter in almost pristine condition with a toy soldier made of lead inside, in front of the Queen’s House in Greenwich Park.

Experts knew there were three air-raid shelters in the park that could hold about 500 people, but it was believed they had been demolished after the war, so the discovery came as a shock.

The volunteers excavated over the course of a week to uncover the concrete walls, posts and ceiling beams of the main shelter.

The team of volunteers, led by archaeologist Graham Keevill, also dug up prehistoric flint tools, and Roman and mediaeval pottery.

He said: “The dedication and determination of our great team of local volunteers was brilliant, and all credit to them for learning the skills needed to be an archaeologist so quickly.

“Best of all, they had the amazing experience of finding the main air-raid shelter.

“It was incredible to see how well-preserved everything was – and to be the first people to see inside it for 70 years.

“The discovery is extremely important, not only locally but also nationally, as so many relics of the war have been lost since 1945.

“It has been exciting and a privilege for us all to reveal the shelter.

“But everyone’s favourite find was made almost at the end of our last day: – a lead toy soldier, probably from the Second World War, was found in the air-raid shelter.

“We can’t help but wonder who lost it.”

The aim of the dig was to find out more about the role Greenwich Park played during the war.

Most of the lower ground in front of the National Maritime Museum was given over to Dig for Victory allotments during the war.

It was the Dig for Victory campaign that encouraged members of the public to keep allotments, as the Nazi’s continued their campaign of bombing merchant vessels carrying food stuffs across the English Channel.

Helen Wallis, Greenwich Park’s partnerships and community engagement officer, said: “We’ve worked with a dedicated team of volunteers and in just one week we’ve uncovered this incredible heritage – we can only imagine what other stories from the past are hidden, waiting to be explored.

“We’re working with experts and heritage organisations to map out the history of Greenwich Park, both underground and over land, working with the community to discover the untold stories of their local park”.

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