”The Windermere penknife

When my wife Denise and I decided to volunteer for the archaeological dig at Troutbeck Bridge, near Windermere, we were expecting to help a team of eminent archaeologists to verify the position of the complex of buildings that housed The Boys in 1945. These lodgings were demolished in the sixties and a school with associated playing fields now occupies the site. Indeed, the three trenches excavated at strategic positions within the rugby field, brought to light a variety of artifacts associated with buildings, such as broken bricks, glass and tiles, rusty nails, some fragments of china and, most significantly, whole sections of a clay underground drainage pipe.

We attended the dig for two whole days, the second made famous for reaching the highest temperature ever recorded in this country. Under the searing heat, we were using small trowels to dig, sieved the rubble and sorted it for anything of interest. It was hard work and all rather repetitive. After a few hours I think that my actions had become rather mechanical: picked up the bigger cobbles, rubbed them gently with my fingers to spot any manmade feature and threw them on a pile of stones. Another cobble, and another…. All of a sudden my fingers felt something smoother and more tangible. I removed the muddy layer from what appeared to be another stone and the mother-of pearl casing of a small penknife was revealed. After sharing the find with Will, our team leader, my initial excitement turned into humble and profound musing about the possible origins of that little object and its owner. Perhaps one of The Boys had managed to smuggle the penknife into a concentration camp and to keep it all the way to Windermere. Who knows…. What is certain is that the little penknife made our trip to the Lake District an even more uplifting and worthwhile experience.”