Tag Archives: BBC

“The Somme: Secret Tunnel Wars” BBC Four, 9pm Monday 20 May 2013

Our documentary, “The Somme: Secret Tunnel Wars” will be broadcast at 9pm on BBC Four on Monday 20 May 2013. Written and presented by Peter Barton, the film follows the team as we explore the hidden labyrinth of the tunnel system at the Glory Hole, La Boisselle.

The film will also be shown on a number of occasions throughout the week. More details can be found on the BBC’s dedicated page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01skvnh

“The Somme: Secret Tunnel Wars” BBC Four, 9pm Monday 20 May 2013

Images from the 80ft level British tunnel system

The team have been working on site since 24 September and have gained access to the 80ft British tunnel system via W Shaft. There are three kilometres of tunnels accessible from this one shaft alone.

We are grateful to our volunteers for their help during this period – the work would not be possible without them. The site will be winterised over the weekend. Access to the site will not be possible until further notice.

Here are a few selected images. More will follow in due course. The website will be updated with details of May and October’s digs in the coming months.

The view looking south east along the lateral gallery from the foot of W Shaft. The tunnels are in a remarkable state of preservation. Exploration continues section by section in order to ascertain structural integrity in advance of archaeological survey.

Peter Barton in W2 mine chamber, 80ft below No Man’s Land. The floor was carpeted with sandbags.

‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks – A two-part adaptation by Working Title Television for the BBC. Broadcast Sunday 22 January and Sunday 29 January 2012

In June 2011 we were joined on site by Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Mawle, the two actors cast to play Stephen Wraysford and Jack Firebrace in the Working Title adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel ‘Birdsong’, a book which has come to occupy a permanent and celebrated place in First World War fiction. Filming in Hungary was yet to start.

LBSG member Peter Barton was Historical Consultant for the production. Because much of the film’s action takes place on the Somme battlefields (Beaumont Hamel) he invited the producers to visit La Boisselle to gain an understanding of the environment and conditions faced by tunnellers working beneath the Picardy battlefields. On Eddie and Joseph’s arrival the nature of surface and subterranean warfare at the Glory Hole was explained.

Peter Barton and Simon Jones show Joseph and Eddie the 179 Tunnelling Company mine plan

Peter Barton explaining the mine plans - there are up to eight kilometres of tunnels on site - all dug by hand

Trenches were flagged out, and shafts and inclines marked. Guided by Peter, they then went underground through the crown hole that gave access to the 1915 X Incline. They descended to a depth of about 30 feet, reaching the site of the now celebrated poem written in pencil on the chalk roof:

If in this place you are detained
Don’t look around you all in vain
But cast your net and you shall find
That every cloud is silver lined… Still

We were delighted to show the actors the site and explain some of the difficulties and dangers endured by the tunnellers. The visit was filmed by LBSG member Mike Fox BSC; some of this footage may appear on the Birdsong DVD.

Speaking with Claudie Llewellyn, one of the owners of the Glory Hole

Eddie and Joseph at the collapse providing access to 1915 X Incline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The experience had a powerful influence on both men. In recent interviews Eddie Redmayne revealed that he wrote the poem, which he described as “hope in the most horrific of circumstances”, on the cover of his script as an inspiration for the role, and as a reminder of the tunnellers and their work in the Glory Hole at La Boisselle.

The following articles mention the actors’ visits to La Boisselle in June:

Eddie Redmayne Talks About His Character In BBC’s Birdsong

The Independent: Putting on a brave front: Behind the scenes of the BBC’s epic adaptation of ‘Birdsong’

Daily Mail: I discovered a soldier’s poem etched in the wall in a tunnel under the Somme… Eddie Redmayne recalls how he drew inspiration for Birdsong

The BBC website for Birdsong is available by clicking the image below.

We are grateful to Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Mawle and the production team at Working Title for their permission to divulge this information and reproduce the images.

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

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

 

BBC cover the launch of our project – TV, radio and online

This morning saw the launch of our new project at La Boisselle. It was featured on BBC Breakfast, Radio 4′s Today programme, regional BBC and will be on News 24 throughout the day. There is also an article in the BBC magazine too. Please click on the link to read the BBC story.

WWI underground: Unearthing the hidden tunnel war

Many thanks for the comments and feedback – the reaction from the public and media has been wonderful.