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Eastern Courier, Wednesday November 28, 2001

Soldiers dig deep to help archaeologists

By JULIAN SLADE

Musket-bearing soldiers marched on to a former Albert Barracks site, intent on setting the record straight.

Members of military re-enactment society the 65th Second Yorkshire North Riding Regiment of Foot were on a mission to help archaeologists understand historical treasures found in an excavation site at Auckland University.

Ensign Matthew Bonnett and his men turned up in full 19th century British army uniforms and spent a Saturday morning inspecting the dig and talking with archaeologists.

The university has removed two 19th century merchant houses from the corner of Symonds and Alfred Sts to build a new computer learning centre.

Dr Hans Bader, a research fellow at the university’s anthropology department and principal in the archaeological consultant company Geometria, is working on site with Drs Rod Clough (the project co-ordinator) and Simon Best (a veteran of many CBD digs) as well as a group of 15 experienced students and archaeological graduates.

Dr Bader says the soldiers’ visit helped archaeologists put their finds in historical context: "It was really useful in terms of them wearing the whole uniform. We could see where on the cap the badges are and see the huge number of buttons."

The soldiers showed the team the difference between fired and unfired percussion caps. A useful exercise as the team has found 100 caps on site (confirmed unfired) as well as beer bottles, handpainted china, sauce bottles, badges and buttons.

Dr Bader says some of the items, along with remnants of barracks walls, are likely to be featured in the completed development. Other items will be donated to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Mr Bonnett says the original 65th regiment was stationed at the Albert Barracks in the mid 19th century.

Albert Barracks was a social as well as a military base for early Auckland, balls were held there and military bands played.

The barracks were built in the first part of the 19th century to protect Auckland from attack and grew into a huge complex with walls built by Maori, trained as stonemasons.

Taking up most of Albert Park, the site required high security as it included a magazine, filled with 10 million rounds of ammunition at the height of the Land Wars.

65th with Auckland University archaeologists

Trench Warfare:
Members of re-enactment society the 65th Second Yorkshire North Riding Regiment of Foot give archaeologists an insight into the Victorian era at the former Albert Baracks site. A uniformed Matthew Bonnett is kneeling in the front row, while archaeologist Hans Bader is pictured middle back, between soldiers.
Photo: JULIAN SLADE