Messines 1917: The zenith of siege warfare (Campaign)

By Alexander Turner

At 0310 hours on 7 June 1917, the pre-dawn gloom at the Western entrance used to be shattered by means of the 'pillars of fireplace' - the quick detonation of nineteen large mines, secreted in tunnels lower than the German strains and containing 450 tonnes of explosives. Admitted via the Germans to be a 'masterstroke', the devastating blasts triggered 10,000 squaddies to later be published easily as 'missing'. Launching a pre-planned assault into the carnage, supported by means of tanks and a devastating artillery barrage, the British took the strategic target of Messines Ridge inside hours. a unprecedented instance of innovation and good fortune within the First global struggle (1914-1918), this publication is a clean and well timed exam of a desirable crusade.

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Qxd:Layout 1 6/5/10 12:04 web page fifty three yet none have been extra frightened than the tunnellers. After quite a bit paintings and sacrifice, might the mines blow? a few have been down there for a 12 months. Others have been in basic terms simply frantically being primed. … Watches have been conscientiously synchronized; auxiliary exploders ready. Up on the Caterpillar, Captain Oliver Woodward from the first Australian Tunnelling corporation checked and rechecked his firing leads: ‘One’s nerves appeared to be strained to the verge of collapse. I approached the duty of ultimate checking out with a sense of extreme pleasure.

To the Germans it used to be Wijtschatebogen – Wytschaete Salient. Intelligence updates emanating from HQ military workforce North (the similar of BEF’s GHQ) have been caution of capability assault through the early months of 1917. there has been little that may be performed to enhance actual defences at the ridge; it lay past the world laid low with Germany’s withdrawal to the bespoke Siegfried Stellung. besides the fact that, the most recent shielding doctrine used to be utilized, resulting in a marked shift in emphasis from prior years. woke up to the costliness of shielding entrance strains with swollen garrisons, German planners got here to just accept a level of penetration through assaulting enemy forces and as a substitute outfitted their doctrine round counterattack.

Ospreypublishing. com CAM225_Messines_TEXT. qxd:Layout 1 A view of Blauwepoortbeek Valley in 1917. notwithstanding taken later within the yr, the photo is beneficial of comparability with the picture on p. seventy four. Shellfire had ‘ploughed’ the floor, destroying a lot of the crops. although, the flooding visible right here used to be no longer glaring in June, which was once principally dry. (IWM E 1364) 6/5/10 12:06 web page eighty Given the focus of strength accomplished throughout Messines Ridge on 7 June, the exploits of thirteenth Brigade’s different battalion (52nd) will come as a shock.

IWM Q 2304) In prospect, Wytschaete village threatened a repeat of the grubby company at Messines – its defences have been configured similarly. thankfully for the lead brigades of the sixteenth department, it fell with merely mild resistance: the single functioning machine-gun nest used to be conquer through a tank. Preparatory bombardment had decreased it to a sea of bricks and splintered roof timbers. certainly, apart from Lumm Farm, IX Corps had a virtually pedestrian development to Black Line. similar to White Chateau, it used to be X Corps that had their paintings lower out.

The facts are worthy attempting to visualize. in the course of the month of might, moment military took supply of 294,000 tonnes of offers, of which part used to be artillery ammunition: each 18-pdr had 1,000 rounds of ammunition at the gun-line ahead of 0 Hour. three½ million shells have been allotted for the preparatory bombardment. In a bid to lessen highway congestion, they laid 185km (115 miles) of broad-gauge railway and 93km (58 miles) of narrowgauge, a few working correct as much as the heavy gun-lines. through 7 June, Plumer had 31,450 males hired on labour accountability on my own, construction and bettering routes for his 9,500-strong motor delivery fleet and innumerable pack animals.

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