Centenary News films the WFA's 'Great War Underground' conference

Posted on centenarynews.com on 21/01/2014
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Centenary News has filmed The Great War Underground, a conference organised by the Western Front Association and the National Army Museum to explore the hidden world of the tunnellers who fought below ground during the First World War.

The event, hosted by the National Army Museum in London on November 2nd 2013, examined how resourceful commanders took advantage of the opportunities to attack enemy defences from underground once trench warfare had set in along the Western Front.

From the first small­scale mines sunk by the French in the autumn of 1914, tunnelling developed into a web of increasingly complex operations, conducted by all sides with the aim of trying to break the deadlock.

The war underground culminated in one of the most dramatic attacks of the entire conflict in June 1917, when British and Commonwealth forces detonated almost 1,000,000 lbs (425,000 kgs) of explosives under the German lines at Messines Ridge in Belgium.

Unlike many earlier offensives, it resulted in the German positions being swiftly overrun. The blast was heard as far away as London.

Speakers

Andy Prada - An introduction to military mining

Andy Prada is from the Durand Group, a voluntary organisation dedicated to investigating and conserving the tunnels of the Western Front.

He focused on how the tunnellers lived, moved and fought underground.

Professor Peter Doyle - The Geology of the Western Front

Geologists were deployed by the military to advise on the challenges of tunnelling in widely contrasting terrain, from the dunes and clay of Belgium, to the chalk of northern France.

Peter Barton - A Deadly Rhythm

Military mining during the Great War ­ and how techniques described by a celebrated 16th century German scholar were used to Britain's advantage on the Western Front.

David Hedges - Canadian Graffiti in Maison Blanche

The story of research into the graffiti carved by Canadian soldiers who sheltered in a recently discovered underground quarry near Arras.

Dr Ritchie Wood - Welsh miners on the Western Front

Dr. Wood's consideration of the role played by Welsh miners before, during, and after the war.

Simon Jones - Born fighters: Who were the tunnellers?

Personal biographies shed light on the tunnellers and how their special skills led to their success.

To watch the lectures, click here.

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

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