Meeting: Underground Warfare in WW1
Speaker: Simon Jones
Wednesday 9th December 2020; 7:30 pm
Woodcote Village Hall, Reading Road, Woodcote, RG8 0QY
Due to COVID-19 this Meeting has now been re-scheduled as a BMMHS Virtual Talk
The original Meeting scheduled for to take place in Woodcote Village Hall has been cancelled due to COVID-19. This Meeting however will now take place as a BMMHS Virtual Talk. Instructions for this Zoom Talk will be emailed on the day of the talk.
Underground Warfare in WW1
Simon Jones’s graphic history of underground warfare during the Great War uses personal reminiscences to convey the danger and suspense of this unconventional form of conflict. He describes how the underground soldiers of the opposing armies engaged in a ruthless fight for supremacy, covers the tunnelling methods they employed, and shows the increasingly lethal tactics they developed during the war in which military mining reached its apotheosis.
While he concentrates on the struggle for supremacy by the British tunnelling companies on the Western Front, his wide-ranging study also tells the story of the little-known but fascinating subterranean battles fought in the French sectors.
Vivid personal testimony is combined with a lucid account of the technical challenges – and ever-present perils – of tunnelling in order to give an all-round insight into the extraordinary experience of this underground war.
Tunneling and mining operations
The secret underground war of the Tunnellers was fought in warren-like galleries beneath the trenches of the Western Front and was terrifyingly portrayed in the novel Birdsong.
Tunneling and mining operations were used to attack enemy positions by digging underneath them and then destroying them with explosive mines. Much of the excavation work was done by special Royal Engineers units formed from Welsh and Durham miners. Sometimes miners would meet and fight German tunnellers underground as their tunnels intercepted enemy works.
Battle of the Somme
On 1 July 1916, a few minutes before the 34th Division attacked on the Somme, the British exploded two huge mines packed with explosives under the German lines at La Boisselle. The mines were dug at Y-Sap in Mash Valley and Lochnagar in Sausage Valley. Although many of the defenders were killed by the explosions, the delay in starting the advance meant that the men were unable to keep up with the artillery barrage that was supposed to take them through to the German trenches. This gave the Germans time to scramble out of their dugouts once the barrage had lifted, man their trenches and open a devastating machine-gun fire that cost the 34th Division around 6,500 casualties.
Biographical notes –Simon Jones
Simon is able to offer signed copies of his book Underground Warfare 1914-1918 for £10 UK (including 2nd Class postage) or £14 Europe or £16 Rest of the World (including international standard postage). Contact Simon Jones for payment details (PayPal preferred).
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