Hooge Crater

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    A large crater at Hooge was blown in July 1915 ..... this occurred during a time of relative quiet on the British part of the Western Front, when few major assaults were made. Nonetheless, the average casualty rate for the British and Commonwealth forces was around 300 per day. Hooge, having been earlier lost, had been retaken in May 1915. On the 2nd of June, Hooge Chateau was lost.

    The officer in charge of tunneling and laying the mine at Hooge was Lieutenant Geoffrey Cassels, and the work was completed by 175 Tunnelling Company in only five and a half weeks. Compared to the months of preparation before the mines used in the Battle of Messines in 1917, this was quick work indeed. The first attempt at tunnelling for the mine, starting from within a stable, failed, because the earth encounterred was too sandy.

    A second shaft was sunk from the ruins of a gardener's cottage nearby. The tunnellers reached blue clay, and could then make good progress. The main tunnel was in the end 190 feet long, with a branch off this after about 70 feet, this second tunnel running a further 100 feet on. The intention was to blow two charges under concrete fortifications which the Germans were constructing, although the smaller tunnel was found to be somewhat off course.

    The mines were laid using, for the first time, the explosive ammonal - as well as gunpowder and guncotton. The largest mine of the war thus far was blown on the 19th of July at 7 p.m. - but not before a German shell had severed the detonator wires only a few minutes before. They had to be rapidly repaired. The crater made was estimated at 120 feet wide and 20 feet deep. The crater was taken by men from the 1/Gordon Highlanders and 4/Middlesex. Ten of the latter, however, had been killed by debris from the mine as they waited in advanced positions.

    Lt. Cassels was almost arrested shortly afterwards because of this, although subsequently he was awarded the Military Cross, and praised for his efforts. The German losses from the mine were estimated to be several hundred.

    Eleven days after the mine was blown, on the 30th of July at Hooge, the Germans first used the flame thrower in battle. At 3.15 a.m., jets of flame from these flammenwerfer devices swept across the trenches occupied by companies of the 8th Rifle Brigade. Not surprisingly, the Germans with the advantage of this new weapon (also known as liquid fire) made some gains where it was used. There was desperate fighting with the sides only separated by a few yards. This small area of the line is described even in the Official History as being an area of "evil reputation". A flammenwerfer can be seen in the museum at Zonnebeke .... the crater and the Chateau were again retaken by the British in early August 1915, but changed hands again several times before the war ended.

    This ground was truly stained with the blood of many battles.

  2. Alas, after the war the Hooge Crater had been filled in. The location is now hidden under the soil of the Bellewaerde leisure park.
    ( 1915: British troops on the lip of the Hooge crater.)

    The site of the flame throwers is in the garden of Kasteel Hooge Hotel, along the fence with the leisure park.
    Click for instance HERE .
  3. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Not 100% sure I would agree with your positioning of the Crater having studied the area with 1915 trench maps and Linesman. The Hotel would appear to have been built very close to the old stables.
    This is from a 1/5000th map of G sector dated 24/7/15. The 8th Rifle Brigade had a bombing party on either side of the crater as it was right in the middle of one of theirtrenches.

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  4. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    When I went on a guided tour of the Ypres area, I was shown this site which I understood was the Hooge crater. (I took the photo attached). I can't remember exactly where it is, but it was just off the Menin-Roulers Road, obviously near the village of Hooge.

    There was definitely a children's theme park next to the site; which ties in with Pierre's description. I remember thinking how incongruous and thoughtless it was to build a children's theme park right next to such an iconic battle site.

    Then I thought again, and thought this was what those men died for, that children could play happily in a peaceful Europe.

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  5. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    I believe there has been some misconception for some time as to where the Hooge Crater actually was. With modern mapping methods it is showing a different story, although the 1915 maps were not as accurate as later maps they were not that far out.
    This map is another 1/5000th scale map clearly showing the crater as way outside of the theme park.

    Attached Files:

  6. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Are there any old photographs Andy ? that you can find bearings from ?

    Annie :)
  7. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    I have a few Annie and some personal accounts from the action where the men were on the right side of the crater, witnessed about 200 Germans coming through the crater during the attack and retired down the communication trench called Old Bond Street when their officer was killed, back to Zouave Wood only to have a pistol put to their head by Captain Ashworth. The communication trench Old Bond Street was filled in and is now the track to the side of Hooge Crater Cemetery.
    I am really looking for a photograph of the two most western house of Hooge, trench reference G.10a and Point P, due to something that has surfaced as having happened there which is important for my research before I get the book out.
    It is an area I have spent many days pouring over on my trips and I will be out there again in a couple of weeks to go over another aspect of the flamethrower attack.

  8. Well I am afraid, Andy, that I made my conclusions on basis of quite some publications.
    I collected my info from some sources of books like Peter Barton's "Beneath Flanders Fields", "The Battlefields of the First World War", but also copies of trenchmaps,. the well informed Belgian database, http://wo1.be , Tony Spagnoli & Ted Smith, the Holt's, etc. .
    A quote from the CWGC-website:
    The chateau itself was on the nowadays premises of the the Bellewaerde leisure park.
    The tunnel was excavated from the stables into the direction of the Chateau ( Barton).
    The craters you have seen at the garden of the Kasteel Hooge Hotel, Adrian, are German blown craters of July 1916.
    This hotel garden along the fence with the Bellewaerde leisure park is though the site of the flame thrower attack.
    I see no reason yet, even with modern tools like linesman, why it would be different now?
  9. A quote from firstworldwar.com:
  10. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    No problem Pierre, we will just have to agree to disagree. Nice site by the way. My information all comes from Corps, Division and Battalion diaries as well as personal accounts. I did talk to Tony Spagnoli in depth about his information and Hooge and what he published in Salient Points before his untimely death.

  11. That is ok, Andy. And thanks for the compliment. The tunnel was btw excavated from Bull Farm along the Menin Road (sais Barton).
    It must have been a privilege to have spoken to Tony Spagnoli!
  12. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

  13. Andy Pay

    Andy Pay Member

    Here is the actual position of the, just where we originally thought it was. Craters in the hotel area are mining crater from Jan to April 1916.


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