I feel like a bit of a slacker, I’m tired, having gallivanted through The Somme for most of three days, I’ll leave you with this; a starter for ten.
The photo is a ghost of one of the Somme mines that were set of at precisely and critically 7.30 (roughly-ish) in the morning of the 1st of July 1916, just before the attack started just beyond Beaumont Hamel near the sunken lane. It’s quite easy to find if you are there, looks like a copse, is in fact a giant crater just down slope of Newfoundland Park and just uphill from Auchonvillers (Ocean Villas), it also has a giant Scottish cross just opposite it on a bluff to the side of the road. There will probably be a badly parked coach blocking the parking and access too. By August 2014 there will be three coaches, by 2018, who knows; a million possibly.
Anyway, Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt was a German fortification, the scene of several costly attacks by British infantry during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, most of the attacks were costly, he says wearily. It was also the location for one of the most famous pieces of film footage of the First World War, Geoffrey Malins stood here and filmed it using a tripod trying to avoid being dead. I didn’t film it or use a tripod, I did take loads of photos as is my bent whilst trying not to get blocked in by a coach. Times change.
Malins apparently said “The ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion. It rocked and swayed. I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then for all the world like a gigantic sponge, the earth rose high in the air to the height of hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible grinding roar the earth settles back upon itself, leaving in its place a mountain of smoke“.
Sadly the mine went off at 7.20, a bit early then, warning the Germans in nearby occupation on the brow of the hill that something was likely to happen, so when two platoons of the 2nd battalion Royal Fusiliers suddenly appeared at 7.30 they were promptly killed by the waiting enemy on the high ground. A few brave foolhardy souls made it to the lip of the crater and held it, but by nightfall they had to give up. The Western Front North of the Albert – Baupaume Road was not especially active after this massive balls up for the 4th Division across most of this part of the front due to the foul up over timing the guns having been silenced too soon as well. So the German units held onto it until November 1916, when another mine and another attack gained the ridge and Beaumont Hamel and Serre and some other bits of important chalky mud.
The original photo is by Ernest Brooks, not a still from Malins’ film, if you want to see that in glorious black and white with no sound, which you should, it is here. If you really want to apprciate what a big bang it made and how huge it was, go and stare down at it from the top. Makes Guy Fawkes night seem a bit quiet. If you want to see a really big one, go to Lochnagar Crater at La Boiselle, it’s bigger.
There are some other Ghosts of the Great War or Ghosts of WW1, here from a few years ago. Enjoy.