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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Elephant Iron?


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The line consisted only of breastworks with elephant type shelters built in and covered with a layer of sandbags. - The First Birmingham Battalion in the Great War. (14th Service Bat. R . Warwickshire Reg) J.E.B. Fairclough. 1933. Cornish Bros. Page 86

Officers would scurry into their holes and half an hour later emerge in slacks, well groomed, and enter the mess a white washed elephant shelter, - The War History of the 4th Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 1914-19 HQ 1922. F.G.Grimwade P 481

I was sent off to Cavalry Farm, a spot just behind the trenches, where a small elephant hut was being built to shelter the runners on their between the front line trenches and HQ behind - Extracts from the Diaries of a Tommy (1916-19) A.H.Davis. Cecil Palmer 1932 P 58

Spoil Bank - Bn HQ was located on the carnal side of Spoil Bank itself and formed the home of several units besides our own. Most of the dugouts here were made of elephant iron and though a shrapnel proof, would not have withstood a direct hit. - The History of the 11th [Lewisham Battalion, The Queen's Own RWKR, 1934 Russell, Lewisham News p87

Unfortunately no reference to sheep.


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Note that the iron in ororkep's photo is the same as the stuff I highlighted in my pic of the house at Oosttaverne. It is not ordinary wriggly tin but a heavier gauge material with more widely spaced undulations..

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  • 2 weeks later...
Sanctuary Wood Ypres.

That photo clearly shows the difference between ordinary corrugated iron and that used for 'elephant' shelters. The vertical shuttering is ordinary corrugated - the much heavier square section stuff is what elephants are made of. The problem is that lots of farmers use sections of curved ordinary corrugated for a variety of purposes (not just sheep shelters) so that unless its in situ its difficult to be absolutely sure that its WW1

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  • 12 years later...

I know of one definite contemporary reference to 'Elephant Iron'.  War Diaries of 2nd Bttn Canadian Railway Troops, 5 June 1917 (National Archives WO 95-4065-3 digitised pdf page 11 bottom). Men of unit moving to just east of the Yser Canal just north of Ypres, close to the bridge of the light railway they were working on (B4 line), dugouts by the stream just west of the canal, map ref 28NW I.1.b.35.80 - quote-

The dugouts of "Elephant Iron" and sandbags ......... 

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