Relics come in all types and sizes.
The team at ERH (Extreme Relic Hunters) are devoted to recovering and preserving relics from all eras of military history, although predominantly the two European World Wars. We search both in the UK and abroad and we have great succsess in both. I never would have imagined finding an WW2 SS dogtag or Turkish WW1 belt buckle in the UK, but things like that do turn up.
We are always on the look out for new potential sites, although at present we have a large back log of sites and unless its something very special we might not be able to help you dig it. We should at least be able to point you in the right direction or we may have diggers local to you that you can ask for help. We have members worldwide and a huge wealth of knowledge at our finger tips. Not only of how to find the best areas of a site, but also in identifying what it is you have found and also a huge general knowledge of military history and militaria.
We have found ammo from the smallest pistol rounds to some of the hugest caliber shells from WW1. Weapons of all types; bayonet, fighting knives, pistols, rifles and anti-tank weapons have been found. The most interesting items are the personal items, to which you can trace back some individual doing something interesting at one particular event.
We usually do not sell of any of our finds, we prefer to offer them to other diggers in the group. From time to time however we dig huge amounts of one item and so sell them off to pay for equipment, branded ERH items like woollen hats etc. These in turn are sold on to members at little over cost price, mainly just to expand the ERH family by getting our name out into the big wide world.
We would always recommend that anyone thinking of searching for any Military relics go with an experienced digger first so they can give you tips on how to keep safe as well as help you stay within the law. We would also recommend you have a good knowledge of the firearms act (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/27/contents). Many items you may find on old World War Two sites are illegal to possess, either because they are ‘live’, or perhaps form part of a firearm. Remember that it is illegal to possess live ammunition without the relevant licence, and certain kinds of bullet, (i.e. the projectile itself, even if not attached to a cartridge case), are also illegal to posses. All small arms ammunition should be handed in to the police. Anything explosive should always be left in situ and under no circumstances should you attempt to move it. Moving explosive ordnance is not only life threatening, but you may also be prosecuted for public endangerment, along with numerous other offences under the firearms and anti-terrorism acts. If you find explosive ordnance, call the authorities immediately, keep people away from it, and wait for 'the experts' to arrive.
Many people believe you have to visit the battlefields of Europe to find Military relics, but that is very far from the truth. The UK is littered with old airbases, gunnery ranges, POW camps, army camps, AA sites…they are everywhere. Many sites now have modern uses and the relics they hold are buried beneath housing estates, motorways and warehouses. However, some sites have never been built on and the relics they hold can be recovered, with the right knowledge and research.
We cannot stress enough that you can’t just show up up at an old RAF base with a metal detector, a spade and a start searching. If you do, you will be committing an illegal act. First and foremost you must have the landowner’s permission to enter any site you wish to detect. Without it you are trespassing, by digging a hole you are committing criminal damage and should you find anything in said hole and take it, theft. Although speaking with a police officer about this whole I went bottle digging with, he laughed so hard about this he almost fell in his hole. He has never been called out for anything like this ever and never expects to. I enquired further, to 'tresspass' is NOT breaking criminal law, its a civil matter. So feel free to walk where you like, but if you are asked to leave, leave. If you don't then you will be breaking the law. You also need to be sure the site you wish to detect isn’t covered by any bye-laws (many old gunnery ranges still are), ensure the site isn’t protected under the Heritage act, isn’t a Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), or protected under any other law. Always remember that ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law.
Once you have landowner permission and have checked to ensure the area isn’t protected in any way, you can start hunting for relics from the conflict. We have visited numerous locations over the years, in some cases returning again and again to the same site for 8 years or more. Old airbases are always littered with relics, as are the sites of old POW camps and army camps, and some take many trips to recover all the relics they hold.
Digging any military relics is not like digging a coin, as the hole you dig is much much bigger, and coins very rarely contain explosive material. That said it is important to adhere to the following rules when digging these relics:
Never dig directly downwards to a detection
Dig at least 12 inches away diagonally to where the item should be
Work your way slowly and carefully towards the detection
Once you reveal the relic, you must identify what it is before removing it from the ground. If you’re in any doubt at all about what it is, LEAVE IT ALONE! If there is one piece of advice we will repeat over and over again it is this:
If you have any doubt that what you’re digging is safe, leave it in place, photograph it, post it up on ERH and someone will identify it. If your told it is dangerous, either rebury it or if you want to risk being arrested and treated like a criminal/terrorist then call the police. No relic is worth losing limb or life, so check first with people who know. If you phone the police first, then they will blow it up regardless of it being safe or not and you have lost your chance of keeping an inert piece of ordnance... remember all those cement filled Spigot Mortars years ago... they blew up hundreds of them!
If you do find military relics then don't bother to report them to your local archaeology officer to be recorded. The simply will not give a crap about anything you find, even if it belonged to a VC winner. Trust me, been there, done that. I have asked them repeated questions over why there isn't a system in place to record items from both World Wars now while people will record this data, they have ignored all my emails to date, so I won't bother to contact them again. The only thing you would be going is recording your finds on Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) for everyone else to see. You may as well stick billboards up and ask people to dig here and clear your site for you.
The best areas to search are always those of high activity. Places where there were lots of men going between buildings; Areas where aircraft were parked and repaired; Communal sites with concentrations of large numbers of living quarters; Parade grounds. Once you’ve found a location that yields finds, start searching it methodically. Work the area in a careful grid pattern so you cover every possible inch of ground. Avoid gun butts and rifle ranges, they are only ever full of cartridges and rifle heads... unless you want a collection of 99% crap.
Remember unless you are really lucky, like finding the odd cap badge in the random field, you won't be finding military relics on non-military sites. I just doesn't work like that. Try and finds plans for bases, examine what life would have been like there, where people went, what they did, where the pubs where... drunk people loose lots of items! One other major source of relics is rubbish dumps. The majority of bases had their own rubbish dump and, if you can find that, you normally don’t even need a metal detector. Simply dig a hole and recover the relics. It isn’t easy finding dump sites though, and takes a great deal of research and practice, but if you find one, they can yield a huge quantity of important artefacts. Some of our best sites are huge dumps covering acres and are packed full of World War One relics. You name it, and its come out of that dump.