A selection of our battlefield tours visit The Lochnagar Crater at La Boisselle. This small village in the Somme region of Picardy, Northern France, is a startling reminder that some of the most dangerous military operations of the First World War took place not on the battlefield, but beneath it.
For both the German and Allied forces, mining was an important strategy with military units dedicated to tunnelling beneath enemy defensive positions and strongholds with the aim of detonating sufficient quantities of explosives beneath them in order to destroy them.
By 1915, mining and underground fighting between opposing forces had become commonplace around La Boisselle. Between November 1915 and March 1916 a tunnel was dug from the Lochnagar Street Communications Trench, behind British lines, to a point just thirty metres from the German trenches. Here the tunnel forked, each fork ending in a large chamber. Between them, the chambers were packed with 60,000lbs of explosives.
At 07.28 on July 1st 1916 the Lochnagar mine was detonated along with sixteen other mines, resulting in the significant weakening of German defences. British forces captured the area forty-eight hours later.
The Lochnagar Crater is the largest British mine crater on the Western Front. Today, preserved as a war memorial, it receives more than 200,000 visitors each year and is an important stop on any tour of the battlefields and memorials of the Somme.
With a depth of ninety feet and measuring three-hundred feet across, the remarkable Lochnagar Crater serves as a chilling reminder of the destructive power of war. Many of the craters that resulted from military mining operations in this area of the Somme were filled in and the land returned to agricultural use.
To prevent the Lochnagar Crater from being lost in this way Richard Dunning, an Englishman, purchased the land in which the crater is located in 1978 with the goal of preserving the site as a permanent memorial garden and a place for visitors to the Somme to remember and pay their respects to those who gave their lives here in the Great War.
Many of the British servicemen that died in battle around the village of La Boisselle were native to Tyneside in northern England. In 1986 a wooden cross was placed beside the Lochnagar Crater to commemorate the men of the Tyneside Battalions of the regiment of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The cross is constructed from the reclaimed roof beams of a former church in the city of Durham.