Trench Explosion Question

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by John, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. John

    John Active Member

    What was the name and detail of the german trenches that were dug under and blown up killing hundreds of german soldiers. They said the explosion was heard in England :confused:
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Hi John !

    I'm not sure I know the answer ... I'm wondering if you mean the Somme ....... :confused:

    The experts will be here soon though .... they'll probably know the answer right off the bat !! :)
  3. Hill 40

    Hill 40 New Member

    It was reported that the mines fired under the Messines Ridge on 7th june 1917 could be heard in London. Maybe this is what you refer to?
  4. John

    John Active Member

    Annie and Fritz,
    Thank you both for your help. I didn't realize the use of mines were so widely used.
    Messines Ridge was the one I was looking for. It killed 10000 germans in the explosions. 2 of the mines did not go off. One of these went off in the 1950's killing a cow. I doo not know if the other one has ever been found. Thank you both for your help.
  5. Jeff Simmons

    Jeff Simmons New Member

    I have researched the Battle of Messines rather thoroughly over the past 20 years. Military mining operations go back hundreds of years, and in many places on the Western Front (including the Somme), but never on the extensive level as at Messines.

    The Messines Ridge ran in a bulge into Allied territory southeast of the Ypres Salient. As one historian described it, the front (running north to south) made sort of a reverse "S" curve, with the Allies holding the top bulge (with Ypres at the center) and the Germans holding the bottom bulge. The rationale for the mining campaign was that if the German bulge could be flattened out, it would improve the horrific conditions of the Ypres Salient and allow for a break-out and subsequent push to the sea, where U-boat bases could be eliminated. The plan also included an amphibious landing to link up with the Allied drive, encircling a large stretch of the German line in Belgium. Of course, that subsequent push (known as Passchendaele, or Third Ypres) was a dramatic failure and no amphibious landing took place. But I digress...

    The mining effort at Messines took nearly two years to complete. The result was five miles of tunnels, dug by hand 100 feet beneath No Man's Land, running from Hill 60 at the bottom corner of the Ypres Salient and down the German bulge. A total of 21 mines using one million pounds of explosives were planted. They were fired simultaneously at 3:17 am on June 7, 1917, making it the largest explosion in recorded history to date. Two of the mines did not go off, but did not keep the Allies from taking their objectives from the shocked, surviving Germans holding the line (many dropped their weapons and staggered down the ridge to surrender). Many objectives were captured in less than 30 minutes. Messines was one of the true, clear-cut victories of the war. Gen. Herbert Plumer, who was in charge of the operation, received knighthood.

    So what about the two unexploded mines? Their exact locations were lost. But sometime after the war, electrical towers were erected across the former battlefield, and one of the towers was erected right on top of one of the unexploded mines. During an electrical storm in 1950, the tower was struck by lightening and the mine went off, leaving a crater 100 feet deep and 300 feet across. And the last remaining one knows.
  6. Kitty

    Kitty New Member

    Didn't some smaller ones go off in the 80's? However the last big one is yet to go boom, am sure it will at some point, i just hope no-one or no thing is hurt by it.
  7. Jeff Simmons

    Jeff Simmons New Member

    Several years ago, I read an article in an archaeology journal that there were plans to build a highway crossing through the Ypres/Messines battlegrounds. However, the excavators encountered unmarked graveyards, explosives, shells, etc. every few yards they dug.

    I'm telling you that story so I can tell you this one: The explosives used in the Messines mines were typically sealed tins of ammonal (sometimes gun cotton was used). The ammonal in these tins would, to this day, remain in battle-ready condition. While I am not an ordnance expert, it seems that If, for some reason, an excavator working on this highway project were to encounter the (approximately) 1,000 pounds of ammonal that was placed in that last mine, it could go off. Possibly.
  8. John

    John Active Member

    Hi Jeff, thank you for your detailed answer to my question.
  9. Jeff Simmons

    Jeff Simmons New Member

    No problem, John. History is amazing. It is infinite. I've studied the war extensively since I graduated from college back in 1990, and there are only a few things I can write about with some level of expertise (the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, Second Ypres, and the Battle of Messines). I have, in fact, written a novel about an English coal miner and his experience in these three battles, but most of it relates to life in the Ypres Salient, preparations for Messines, and the actual battle itself. It is called "Wipers: A Soldier's Tale From the Great War." ("Wipers" was English slang for the salient; unfamiliar with the proper pronunciation of "Ypres," they called it "Wipers.") It is available on in paperback or Kindle. If you are interested, you can search books using my name or "Wipers."

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