News

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.

Work on site – an ongoing process

Scrub and tree removal has continued throughout the summer. The site now looks markedly different from our first visit late last year.  The area behind the British front line has now been cleared opening up previously unseen vistas. The work has exposed a section of communication trench (Quémart Street), further small craters and a sap leading to an observation or listening post on a crater lip.

May 2011. View along the British front line towards Lochnagar crater on the horizon.

One of the two largest craters on site has now been cleared. Under the supervision of Iain McHenry a group of volunteers exposed one of the Glory Hole’s most impressive surface relics of mine warfare.  Archival investigation continues into the formation of the crater; at present it is unknown if it was formed by French, British or German mines or a combination of multiple blows.

Looking back over the British lines from the crater lip towards Tara and Usna Hills bisected by the main road to Albert.

Clearance work in the crater nearing completion - 29 August 2011.

The cleared crater with Tara Hill on the horizon. 15 September 2011.

As well as the installation of new fencing, time has also been devoted to the organisation of the October excavations. Updates of progress during that week will be posted in due course.

Open Day – Sunday 9 October

We have just advertised notice of an Open Day to be held at the site on Sunday 9 October. Full details can be seen in the ‘Access & Open Days’ section. See https://www.laboisselleproject.com/access-open-days/

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