Tag Archives: archaeology

Précis de travail récente à La Boisselle

A la mi-novembre 2013, les fouilles du La Boisselle Study Group (LBSG) ont repris dans les tranchées de la Première Guerre Mondiale à la Boisselle, dans la Somme. Le travail s’est focalisé sur les éléments qui se trouvaient dans la cour d’une grande ferme, une position connue des forces françaises sous le nom de « l’ilot », et que les Allemands appelaient « Granathof ».

En Juillet 2013, pendant les fouilles d’une tranchée allemande datant d’avant Noël 1914, située dans le dernier coin restant de la cour (le reste a été emporté par un cratère de mine), et d’une tranchée de communication reliée creusée au début de 1915 par les troupes françaises, les archéologues du LBSG ont découvert les restes d’un soldat britannique. Les recherches ont montré la présence d’autres restes humains.

Suite aux discussions menées avec le Ministère de la Défense Britannique (MoD), la Commission des Tombes de Guerre du Commonwealth (CWGC), la Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC) et l’Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre (ONAC), et à une campagne intensive de collecte de fonds, les fouilles ont repris à la Boisselle le 15 Novembre 2013. L’équipe internationale de bénévoles du LBSG se composaient d’historiens, d’archéologues, de généalogistes, de géophysiciens, d’anthropologues, de géomètres et de conservateurs.

Un abri spécifique a été spécialement construit pour englober le site de travail. Il comportait une zone de traitement des objets, de nettoyage et de conservation avec un poste de photographie et une section d’anthropologie. Lors du travail très complexe qui a suivi dans les débris de l’écurie de la ferme, un second soldat britannique a été découvert. A proximité, les restes de sept soldats français et allemands ont aussi été retrouvés.

Quand le projet s’est arrêté le 8 décembre, les corps des Français et des Allemands ont été remis à l’ONAC à Bray-sur-Somme. La CWGC, agissant pour le compte du Ministère de la Défense Britannique, conserve les deux squelettes britanniques dans sa morgue à Beaurains, et le MoD continue son travail pour les identifier.

En attendant les décisions sur l’avenir du site du Glory Hole, qui doivent être prises plus tard dans le mois par la récente Association des Amis de l’Ilot de la Boisselle, le site a été rebouché pour protéger les fouilles.

La Boisselle Study Group, 8 janvier 2014

Another report from Dutch television programme ‘Een Vandaag’ about the La Boisselle Project

Bart Hettema, a reporter for the show ‘Een Vandaag’ returned to La Boisselle in early July to discover the work that had taken place since his last visit in October 2011. Much of the video is in Dutch but there is an extended interview with Peter Barton and unseen footage from the 80ft level of tunnels. The video can be viewed below.

Rapport des fouilles archéologiques : 30 avril – 16 mai 2012

Nous avons commencé le travail ce lundi 30 avril, en montant deux nouvelles tentes pour stocker les trouvailles archéologiques et pour servir d’atelier. Le nettoyage continue au pied de la Pente X (1915). Notre objectif principal est de faire un sondage plus large entre la Pente X, Granathof, et la Galerie W. La couche supérieure du sol a été retirée sur une zone de plus de 50 x 30 mètres, comprenant la Pente W, Scone Street et Quémart Street. Ce processus a clairement mis à jour les limites des tranchées. Nous avons commencé à ouvrir une section de Scone Street et à nettoyer autour de l’entrée couverte de la Pente W.

Des volontaires travaillent à Granathof

Le sol en briques de l’écurie – Granathof

Un gros effort a été fourni pour mettre à jour ce que nous pensons être une partie encore en état de la ferme Granathof. Les résultats ont été spectaculaires, avec la découverte des murs et du sol en briques de l’écurie. En utilisant des cartes françaises trouvées dans les archives, nous avons découvert une des premières tranchées, creusée à travers l’écurie vers la tranchée française suivante. De nombreux objets, comme un grand nombre de petites munitions françaises et allemandes, ont été découverts à cet endroit.

Nos efforts sous terre ont aussi été récompensés. Pendant la première semaine, nous estimons avoir retiré 40 tonnes de débris de craie de la chambre du Puits W. Les caillebottis posés sur le sol de la Galerie W ont été prolongés. En travaillant avec des harnais Petzl dans des conditions strictes de sécurité, nous avons nettoyé les débris autour du Puits W vertical de 15 mètres. Comme ce sera notre accès principal au système souterrain, nous nous efforçons de sécuriser cet endroit au maximum. Grâce à l’expertise de Danny Gunner une cage en acier de sécurité, faite sur mesure, a été construite pour couvrir le puits. Soudée et verrouillée, elle offre maintenant une zone sécurisée, avec un plancher d’acier sur lequel travailler. Le travail se poursuit cette semaine avec l’installation de treuils électriques et d’une cage de sécurité dans laquelle se tenir une fois au fond du puits. Nous allons aussi commencer la tâche délicate de contrôler l’intégrité des murs du puits vertical et, s’il n’y a pas de danger, de nettoyer les 3 à 4 mètres de débris au fond du puits.

Le nettoyage des débris de la chambre du Puits W. Plus de 40 tonnes ont été retirées cette semaine.

Nettoyage de la zone autour du Puits W. Des poutres d’acier et de bois couvrent le puits de 15 mètres.

Nous avons reçu des centaines de visiteurs. Nombre d’entre eux ont été très généreux dans leurs dons. Nous aimerions les remercier pour leur aide, comme ceux qui ont fait un don via PayPal. Si vous souhaitez nous aider financièrement, merci de vous rendre sur notre page Donate. Nous remercions aussi nos volontaires dévoués qui ont donné de leur temps pour nous aider dans notre travail. D’autres remerciements à Phil Giles de Pan 3Sixtyqui a été avec nous depuis le début, pour prendre des photos panoramiques au-dessus et en-dessous du sol. Celles-ci seront disponibles sur notre site

Nous serons rejoints par Meridian TV le 16 mai, qui viendra filmer pour un reportage qui sera diffusé plus tard dans la journée.

Un rapport complet des travaux archéologiques sera accessible sur le site après la fin des fouilles. Si vous avez l’intention de visiter les champs de batailles de la Somme avant le 16 mai, venez nous rendre visite.

Autre sélection d’images

Vue en plongée du Puits W. Environ 3 à 4 mètres de débris doivent être retirés du fond avant de pouvoir accéder au tunnel latéral.

Une pipe en argile et une bouteille en verre bouchée contenant un fond de rhum. Ces deux objets, dans un état de conservation remarquable, ont été trouvés dans la chambre du Puits W.

Peter Barton au-dessus du Puits W

Site visit by a group of 20 students and two teachers from Farnham Sixth Form College – 8 February 2012

A group of 20 students and two teachers from Farnham Sixth Form College visited the site at the Glory Hole on 8 February.  Despite bitterly cold temperatures the group was met and guided by La Boisselle Study Group member Richard Porter. Richard set the scene by pointing out the respective positions above ground of both sides, before giving an explanation of both defensive and offensive military mining in the immediate area from autumn 1914 to the opening day of the Somme offensive in July 1916.

He was also able to show the students some of the artefacts that had been found during October’s archaeological work. Many of the students were studying Birdsong as part of their ‘A’ Level English Literature course, and were fascinated at being taken a short way underground in W Adit to appreciate the work of the tunnellers, see the size of the underground workings and remains of the tramway system that had been installed. Richard was also able to tell them stories concerning individual RE tunnellers from 179 & 185 Tunnelling Companies operating at the site in 1915 & 1916.

Richard Porter greets the student group visit

Richard's briefing

With the group at the British front line

Showing the 179 Tunnelling Company mine plan

Dependent upon existing work commitments we will always endeavour to show parties around the site. Please contact us for details.

Article in Black Country Bugle entitled ‘Princes End miner killed in German underground blast’

Many thanks to Andy Johnson who sent us a scan of a recent article published in the Black Country Bugle. Entitled Princes End miner killed in German underground blast, it tells of the loss of two Tipton men, Sappers John Lane and Ezekiel Parkes, who were amongst the dead from a German blast on 22 November 1915.
Further information about this incident can be found on our dedicated Tunnellers page and in the Black Country Bugle article. It can be read in full by clicking on the image below.

Crater clearance on site – ongoing work

We have been joined on site this week by regular volunteers and friends. Our focus has been the continued clearance of the larger mine craters. The largest crater on site had already been cleared prior to the October open days. However, the neighbouring crater, sitting nearest to the Contalmaison road has now been cleared. This work is necessary for appreciating not only the size of each mine crater but for investigating the complexity that multiple mine blows had upon the area.

Site clearance will continue over the winter months. Please click on images to enlarge.

Looking back from German positions over the newly cleared mine crater towards Tara & Usna Hills - November 2011

The covered entrance to W Adit is visible in the middle distance behind the stumps left by the clearance team - November 2011

Looking towards Contalmaison. The Contalmaison road running through the village is just visible behind the tree – November 2011

LBSG member Iain McHenry in the newly cleared crater. The Contalmaison road runs between the crater and the houses – November 2011

Recent newspaper articles on our work at La Boisselle

Following the BBC media coverage on 3 November the story of the tunnellers at La Boisselle was picked up by a number of newspapers. We were also contacted by many people with an interest in the project, including those with relatives who served above and below ground at La Boisselle. Please click on the Newspaper names to read each story.

BBC News, radio and online at La Boisselle – 3 November 2011

Thursday 3 November saw Robert Hall and BBC News again visiting the site at La Boisselle. Since their visit to the site in June when the project was launched much work has taken place.  Results from our recent archaeological dig were broadcast.

A film on the BBC website entitled Excavating tunnels from World War 1 has now been published. It can be viewed by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15568539

A further piece with Peter Barton & Simon Jones inside the newly opened W Adit, entitled Secrets from inside a WWI trench can be viewed by clicking here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15566851

A gallery showing artefacts recovered to date on the dig is now on the BBC website. Entitled Trench soldiers’ belongings unearthed it can be viewed by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-15574283

Dutch television programme ‘Een Vandaag’ shows short film about La Boisselle Project

During our Open Day weekend on 8-9 October we were joined by Een Vandaag, a Dutch current affairs programme. They had contacted us a few months before and were keen to film a piece for broadcast The open days provided them with the perfect opportunity to visit the tunnels in safety and to meet the group, the landowners and visiting relatives of tunnellers who had served at La Boisselle.

sitestat

The film, broadcast on 22 October, is over ten minutes long and much of it is in English. There are contributions from Peter Barton, Claudie Llewellyn and Peter Lane, grandson of 102439 Sapper Peter Lane, 185 Tunnelling Company RE who was killed at La Boisselle on 4 February 1916.

Article in Earth Magazine

October’s edition of Earth Magazine featured an article by freelance journalist, Lucas Laursen on our work at La Boisselle. Titled ‘Modern Tools Reveal World War I Tunneling Tricks’, it can be read by clicking on this link:  http://lucaslaursen.com/modern-tools-reveal-world-war-i-tunneling-tricks/

A pdf of the entire article can be downloaded for free by clicking on the image below.

New material added to the website

Following our work at the Glory Hole from 3-9 October we have updated the website with the following information:

Coverage of the week’s archaeological dig in the Courrier Picard

We were pleased to read the recent article in the Courrier Picard, “Ils empruntent la petite porte qui donne sur la grande Histoire” which reported on the week’s archaeological dig and open days for visitors.

The article (in French) can be read by clicking on the image below.

Progress Report on Archaeological Dig: 3-9 October 2011

Work is well underway on site. Having erected our HQ tent and connected necessary services such as water and electricity the team, comprising LBSG members, French archaeologists, serving soldiers from the Royal Logistics Corps, volunteers and members of GIEOS began a number of tasks for the week. Two small sondages have been started. The first, around the existing collapse of the 1915 X incline covers a 5x5m plot. Topsoil was removed and chalk  uncovered.

The 'top-stripping' process begins for the first sondage around the 1915 X incline collapse. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Terry Blackwood.

Working back from the collapse (which has been acting as our entry and exit point for the tunnel system) the archaeologists are now beginning to gain an understanding of how the incline was associated with Quémart trench. A large amount of infill has been removed from the incline mouth, yielding impressive quantities of artefacts including containers for cheese, jam and pickles as well as a hipflask and tobacco tin. A quantity of French small arms munitions was also retrieved.

French archaeologists inspecting artefacts found in the first sondage at the 1915 X incline. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Terry Blackwood.

A second sondage was begun yesterday to locate and open the 1916 W adit. By the end of the day the entrance had been located and cleared. The adit is much longer and thus has a shallower gradient than the 1915 X incline. Once completed in 1916 it became the main entrance point to that sector of the tunnel system. By having two openings to the tunnel system the flow of air is now regulated.

Peter Barton, Simon Jones & Anthony Byledbal discuss how best to excavate the 1916 W Adit entrance. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Terry Blackwood.

Clearing infill at the top of the 1916 W Adit. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Terry Blackwood.

Today will see us clearing spoil from this adit as well as continuing archaeological work on the 1915 X incline and Quémart trench. It is slow, meticulous work but by utilising this process we are beginning to understand the complex relationship of the trench system. Only one item of unexploded ordnance has been unearthed – a German Lanz trench mortar – which was dealt with immediately and efficiently by the Service Déminage.

Daylight at the top of the 1916 W Adit - the first such light for over ninety years. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Terry Blackwood.

Preparations are well under way for the Open Day at the weekend. Trench lines have been flagged out all the way to Lochnagar Crater. These will be named and the locations of mine shafts clearly marked. We will also be marking the precise locations of men known to be buried on the site. Their details and, in some cases, photographs will be affixed to signs directly above their burial spot. By doing this we endeavour to interpret the site for the expected large number of visitors.

The hidden battlefields – article in the ‘News & Star’ seeking descendants of men who served at La Boisselle

We were pleased to read an article in the Cumbrian newspaper, the News & Star from Wednesday 6 July, focussing on our work at La Boisselle. Special mention is made of the men whose names we have found on the walls in part of the British tunnel system.  We are aiming to locate any surviving family of these men, some from the 11th Border Regiment (Lonsdale Battalion) and others from 179 Tunnelling Company RE.

Unfortunately the piece was not added to the News & Star website but we have received a hard copy in the post. If anyone has any details on the men mentioned in the article then please get in touch with us via our Contact page.  Our thanks to Stephen Blease for his interest in our work. The full story can be read by clicking on the image below.

Tunnels under the Somme – The Sun newspaper article

We had been contacted by Martin Phillips, a feature writer for The Sun newspaper as to the possibility of his writing a piece on our work at La Boisselle.  We met him on site on Friday 17 June and spent a couple of hours showing him around. His feature has attracted huge interest to the site and our work.

For the online version of the story ‘Tunnels under the Somme’ please click the image below.

ARCHAEOLOGY The Battle of the Somme resurfaced – Article in the Courrier Picard

We have been heartened by the reaction of the local residents and were pleased to read the following report in the Courrier Picard dated 18 June 2011: ARCHÉOLOGIE La bataille de la Somme refait surface

It covered the launch of the project and made reference to our colleague Daniel Deschamps of GIEOS, the specialist intervention group who study underground structures. He called the site “the most symbolic site for tunnel warfare ».

The article (in French) can be read by clicking on the image below.

IWM’s new Centenary Project website reports on La Boisselle project

The Imperial War Museum’s new Centenary Project website picked up on the news of the project.  This newly formed resource will highlight centenary events and resources from around the world. Writing on the news section of their website http://www.1914.org/ Nigel Steel’s article entitled “Digging out the truth of the Somme” covers the basic facts of the story. It also has a good recent panoramic photograph of the Glory Hole.

The article can be found here: http://www.1914.org/news/digging-out-the-truth-of-the-somme/

Simon Jones interviewed by Canadian radio

The news of the project had crossed the Atlantic to Canada and Simon Jones gave an interview to CBC Radio’s esteemed ‘As It Happens’ show. His seven minute interview begins 16:35 into Part Two and can be listened to by clicking on the image below.

Daily Telegraph article on the project

The Daily Telegraph ran a story today reporting the news of our project under the headline « Western Front battlefield sees most detailed ever study ». The story can be read online here:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8569052/Western-Front-battlefield-sees-most-detailed-ever-study.html

BBC video piece by Robert Hall now online: WWI underground – Unearthing the hidden tunnel war

We have noted the huge interest generated thus far by the BBC’s reporting of the project. Following on from the BBC Magazine article piece written by Peter Jackson entitled WWI underground: Unearthing the hidden tunnel war there is now a video report by Robert Hall on the BBC website. Please click the video below to view.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13725687