Buffnut's 2021 Tour of Great War Sites...And Other Animals

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Snautzer01

Honourably banned
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Mar 26, 2007
Well, folks, that about wraps up the account of my trip. To end on a more light-hearted note, I thought some might be interested in the fact that the French name for shopping carts/trolleys is "chariots". I think we should expand the usage...turn every supermarket trip into an excuse to behave like Ben Hur. I LIKE THAT IDEA!!! We could turn panic buying sprees into a spectator sport and sell tickets:

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In closing, it was a truly lovely holiday. Apart from the final morning, the weather was unusually cooperative. I got to see some beautiful parts of France and Belgium, meet some friendly people, and visit a lot of places that have been on my bucket-list for a number of years now.

And on that note, adieu!
Thank you, i read it again in one sitting. Great story.
 

buffnut453

1st Lieutenant
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11,168
Jul 25, 2007
Utah, USA
The next stop was associated with La Boisselle and was one of the most amazing points on the journey.

On the morning of 1 July 1916, the opening day of the Somme offensive, the British exploded 2 huge mines under the German lines. The British tunnellers liked to give their digs names and so it was the case here. The two saps were called Lochnagar and Y Sap. The following, from Wikipedia, gives some indication of the effort that went into the Lochnagar mine...and the amount of explosive used:

The Lochnagar mine consisted of two chambers with a shared access tunnel. The shaft was sunk in the communication trench called Lochnagar Street. The Lochnagar mine probably had the first deep incline shaft, which sloped from 1:2 to 1:3 to a depth of about 95 ft (29 m). It was begun 300 ft (91 m) behind the British front line and 900 ft (270 m) away from the German front line. Starting from the inclined shaft, about 50 ft (15 m) below ground, a gallery was driven towards the German lines. For silence, the tunnellers used bayonets with spliced handles and worked barefoot on a floor covered with sandbags. Flints were carefully prised out of the chalk and laid on the floor; if the bayonet was manipulated two-handed, an assistant caught the dislodged material. Spoil was placed in sandbags and passed hand-by-hand along a row of miners sitting on the floor and stored along the side of the tunnel, later to be used to tamp the charge.

When about 135 ft (41 m) from the Schwabenhöhe, the tunnel was branched and the end of each branch was enlarged to form a chamber for the explosives, the chambers being about 60 ft (18 m) apart and 52 ft (16 m) deep. When finished, the access tunnel for the Lochnagar mine was 4.5 by 2.5 ft (1.37 by 0.76 m) and had been excavated at a rate of about 18 in (46 cm) per day, until about 1,030 ft (310 m) long, with the galleries ending beneath the Schwabenhöhe. The mine was loaded with 60,000 lb (27 long tons; 27,000 kg) of ammonal in two charges of 36,000 lb (16 long tons; 16,000 kg) and 24,000 lb (11 long tons; 11,000 kg). As the chambers were not big enough to hold all the explosive, the tunnels that branched to form the 'Y' were also filled with ammonal. One branch was 60 ft (18 m) long and the other 40 ft (12 m) long.



Y Sap was similarly in size and located north of the main Albert-Baupaume road but its crater was filled in after the war. Lochnagar's crater remains a truly awe-inspiring landmark to this day. The first image is a view to the north, taken just adjacent to Lochnagar, showing the main Albert-Baupaume road (you can just make out a vehicle at the top of the patch of green in the centre of the image). The photo I took looking into La Boisselle on Day 4 was taken at the top of the ridgeline there:

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The following photos simply wont justice to the size and scale of the Lochnagar Crater. Bearing in mind that there's been over 100 years of rain, snow and wind affecting this place, with associated subsidence of soil into the base of the crater, the sides are still remarkably steep.

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Maybe this GoogleEarth image of the area will help provide some scale for this "bluddy big 'ole". The grassy area between Rte de Becourt (near the "Old Blighty" Tea Room) and L'Illot de la Boisselle to the west is the site of the Glory Hole mentioned previously:

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This image was taken from the southern end of the crater looking back towards the access road and carpark (the latter is adjacent to the location marker in the GoogleEarth image above). To give an idea of scale, the memorial cross that's standing against the skyline is about 15 ft high:

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Just near where the above image was taken, there is a much smaller cross with a name plaque. It marks the place where the body of Private George James Nugent serving with 22nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Scottish) was found on 31 October 1998. At that time, Lochnagar Crater had been a place of pilgrimage for Great War veterans and their families for over 70 years. It was a well-known and well-visited location, and yet it still held onto the secret of Pte Nugent's body until 1998. How many more remain to be found?

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After leaving Lochnagar, I stopped by the Glory Hole. It's on private land and I hadn't made arrangements to visit, although clearly it's prepared for visitors. While much less awe-inspiring when compared to Lochnagar, the Glory Hole is a remarkable place in its own right. It became a focus of mining attention because of the close proximity of Allied and German front-line trenches in this area, at some points barely 50 m apart. Between April 1915 and January 1916, some 61 mines were exploded in this area, some loaded with 20,000–25,000 kg (20–25 long tons) of explosives. This is what the site looks like today:

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That wraps up Day 5...so just one more day to go (although it will include images taken across multiple days). More to follow...

Hey folks, apologies for resurrecting this thread but I watched a documentary on the Battle of the Somme this evening and it got me thinking about my Great-Great Uncle Bill Pountney who was wounded on 2 July 1916 attacking La Boisselle. The War Diary of his unit (the 9th Royal Welsh Fusiliers) doesn't explicitly identify where they were fighting, or what their objectives were.

Watching the documentary caused inspiration to strike...I wondered if the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records for the 9th RWF soldiers that were killed on 2/3 July might include concentration reports identifying where the bodies were found before they were moved to a CWGC cemetery. As luck would have it, I found one soldier killed on 2 July plus a few more on 3 July...and all the positions, when plotted on T-Mapper, came out in the area between the Loch Nagar Crater and the village of La Boisselle. Here's a screenshot from T-Mapper showing the original burial site of the chap who was killed on 2 July:

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The first image in the post I'm replying to shows the view from Loch Nagar Crater generally southwest towards the high ground from where the 9th RWF launched there attacks. I unknowingly took that photo during my visit last year because it was one of the few areas where I got a good, clear view of the area from which the 9th RWF attacked. Given that all the 9th RWF soldiers who were killed and whose identities are known were originally buried in this area (with none appearing northwest of the main road out of Albert), it seems pretty certain that Bill Pountney was shot somewhere roughly within the field of view of that photo.

Re-reading the War Diary again, it does mention craters which almost certainly referred to the Glory Hole craters, which already existed at the time of the battle, as well as the Loch Nagar and Y Sap mines, the latter being just over the Albert road. The War Diary entry for 2/3 July reads "This Battalion therefore only reached the craters - which had been formed in the German trenches the previous morning - at daybreak on the 2nd."

Just got a few shivers down my spine thinking about having walked that ground last year. Methinks I'll be revisiting before too very long!
 
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buffnut453

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Jul 25, 2007
Utah, USA
Interestingly, I just pulled a GoogleEarth image of the area. Take a look at the brown field just northwest of the Loch Nagar Crater, above Rue de la Grande Mine. Those lighter areas correspond pretty well with the trenches shown on the right-hand 1916-vintage map in my previous post.

Area of 9th RWF Action, 2 Jul 1916 - Light Areas in Field Show German Trench Positions.jpg
 
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