Please read the
Battlefield Digging warning page before even considering digging for battlefield relics.
Digging for Battlefield Relics
Things to remember
Many of the most interesting items to be found on
are made from iron, so if you are using a metal detector
remember to turn your discrimination right down, off, or
even switching to all metal mode, doing so will mean that
you won't miss things like bayonets and you will also be
able to detect items that are buried more deeply.
Using a metal detector on a modern battlefield can be a
nightmare - expect to dig thousands of shell casings from
rifles, submachine guns etc. Don't even try to discriminate
them out. If you are a head stamp collector, this might be
your heaven, but for the average detectorist it is hell.
Consider investing in a 'Two Box' type detector - again this
will help you detect larger metal objects more deeply and
will help you avoid digging the thousands of spent shell
casings, a two box is ideal if you are looking to pinpoint
the concentrations of metal you would expect to find in a
filled in trench line or fox hole.
Although most trench lines will have been filled in by farmers
long ago, they may still be visible as slight depressions in
the ground. Aerial photography can be very useful in
Farms in many effected European countries will have a 'rust pile,'
a place where the farmers and farm hands dump all the metal
work they plough up from their land - farmers are very
diligent about clearing as much metal work as they can from
their fields after ploughing because of the amount of damage
it can do to their farm machinery. Why go to the effort of
digging when the farmers may have done the work for you
Field walking can produce some interesting finds and means
that you won't have to put up with the problem of digging
thousands of shell casings. The ideal conditions for field
walking battle sites is to find a freshly ploughed field
that has had a good amount of rain. The plough brings
objects up to the surface and then the rain washes some of
the dirt off making them easier to spot. Remember, the trick
to successful field walking is not looking for objects
amongst the mud, but looking for unnatural shapes, patterns
in the chaos, straight lines and uniform curves - master
this art and you will increase your finds rate
Never underestimate the power of local knowledge - if you are
looking for sites of interest be sure to speak to the
locals, they will almost certainly be able to supply you
with information long forgotten or ignored by those who
write the history books. They will also know where items of
interest have been found in the past. Whether you are
eastern or western Europe, make a determined effort to speak
the language of the area you are in.
Yes, a great many people in both eastern and western Europe
speak English very well indeed, but don't underestimate
the effect that at least trying to speak the language can
The Importance of Recording Find Spots
Being an amateur does not mean that you can't do a
I'm not saying you should record the find spot of every bullet
casing you find, that would be pointless. But you should be
meticulous in your record keeping for other finds. You can
use a Global Positioning System, now a lot cheaper and a
great deal more accurate than they used to be, or a map and
compass to triangulate the position of the find spot.
Start a finds log book to record the date and locations of
your finds, be sure to include a detailed description of the
object (its size, condition, whether or not it is complete
etc.), and a positive identification where possible
(regiment and date of use for cap badges and insignia. Model
number, date of manufacture, country of origin etc. for
other objects such as helmets and bayonets).
Also be sure to record as much information about the context
of the find as possible. Did you find the object on ploughed
land or pasture? How deep down was it? Did you locate a
signal with a two box and find many different objects in the
same hole? What were the other objects you found? Take
photographs at every opportunity whilst digging and refer to
the photographs in your finds log book.
Detail. Detail. Detail.
Remember that in the future your log book will need to
understood by people with no knowledge of you or your
activities. Be clear and concise, any kind of short hand
should be avoided, unless you provide a detailed key.
Keeping detailed records is not enough, at some point you need
to make sure that your finds log books get passed on to
someone who can preserve them and use the information
contained within to further our knowledge of battle sites
and battlefield relics. Consider leaving your finds log
books to the Imperial War Museum (or a similar institution)
in your will. Even if they don't want to keep them for their
own collection, they may be able to pass them on to another
who will be able to make great use of them.
Conservation and Preservation of Battlefield Relics
As finder, you have a duty of care over the objects you
recover. Stabilising, or preventing the further
deterioration of, iron artefacts can be particularly tricky,
 I find speaking to people in many European countries
extremely embarrassing, I can just about order a beer in the
pub, while the locals can discuss the history of the area and
great depth in excellent English, those who run our
education system have a lot to learn from our neighbours on