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Hi I want to run a shellscrape activity for some kids,  I was in the Infantry  T.A. in the early 90's and the shellscrape was a common overnight shelter for 2 soldiers.

The basic hole dimentions were roughly the size of a poncho or a long double bed mattress 7ft x 5ft x 2ft.

The removed soil made  a mound that surrounds the hole(apart from a small slope at the rear to crawl in and out), 

The mound/wall  at the front (facing the enemy) was slightly longer and had a built in shelf you could use as an arm rest.

The surrounding mound/wall aprox 1ft tall and wide gave the shelter more internal head height and provided further protection from all directions,

If you got the size right the poncho would sit just above the mound/wall so you could see out and aim your rifle without touching the poncho.

Also you'd need to get the size right so the poncho would shed rain on the outside of the hole.

I've done a Google search and asked several veterans I know that served in the British Army and RAF regiment from 70's up to the 1st Gulf war, and kosavo, and they all remember making and sleeping in the shellscrape but, were like me, were taught in the field word-of-mouth.

My question is this, was there ever an official document or even a line drawing with specific measurements of how the shellscrape should be built?

I'm guessing perhaps if there were a document it would probably date back to post WW2 when Platoon harbours type overnight camps became common, perhaps after 2 man tents were a common sight,  or perhaps when 58" gear with the poncho and shovel were issued? just a guess.

apart from 2 leaky shellscrapes I stayed in I found them really quite comfortable to sleep in, you could adapt them slightly to make more space and because of the surrounding soil they were always quiet and well insulated against wind and cold. once you got a hexy going they were really cosy.

It would be dead easy to just make a shell scrape the way I was taught,  but it would be nice to know if there is an official document.

I've looked in British Army issued  MoD Aide Memouires,  field guides and MoD training pamphlets but the only thing they ever show is a few trench designs, never the shellscrape.

any ideas? cheers

Edited by webkitlover

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Maybe ask the MOD directly via whatdotheyknow.com

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There are some very detailed instructions for shelters & trenches with overhead cover, ranging from basic IPK to quite complex command posts in Manual of Field Engineering, Vol II - All Arms, Part 2 - Field Defences 1970 AC No.70619.

If you don't want to do any digging there are a range of improvised shelters described in Military Engineering (Part V) Miscellaneous 1914, 40/WO/1934

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I've not come across the term "shellscrape" before so I don't know if it refers to a bolthole to avoid shells or to make use of a shell hole as a form of shelter. But both eventualities are covered in Manual of Field Works (All Arms) 1925, Manual of Field Engineering 1911, Manual of Field Engineering Vol I (All Arms) 1933, Manual of Elementary Field Engineering 1883, not to mention the various incarnations of Field Service Pocket Books 1914-1938.

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I have looked at all the old pamphlets and so I which I have and, again, can't find anything written down - though there are references to shellscrapes in some of them - which then go on to describe how to construct fire and shelter trenches.  I can remember making them in the 70s.  Their purpose was to provide basic cover from shell  bursts in temporary field positions where fire trenches were not going to be constructed.  They were built to protect just one man rather than two and were in the "stand-to" positions around, for example, a platoon harbour area.  The dimensions were, as you say, large enough to hold a man wearing full kit - and perhaps 9" deep with a parapet at the front of about 12".  While some may well have been constructed with a camouflaged poncho over the top, they weren't all - the idea being, of course, that, if you came under shell fire you could dive into them rather than have to crawl in from the bottom.  Their advantage being their speed of construction over proper trenches  and their lack of a requirement for defence stores or tools larger than the small shovels or picks carried on the webbing.

10 68

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