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Remembered Today:

Yorkshire Trench


dah
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Just spent a long weekend in Ypres re-visiting many familiar sites. Visited the Zonnebeke museum for the first time - and was particularly impressed with the reconstruction of a dugout.

My question, however, concerns Yorkshire Trench. If I had my bearings right, the dugouts are beneath no-man's land. If I'm correct, was this normal practice? For some reason, I had expected them to be behind the front line rather than in front. I can see a certain logic in protecting the dugout entrance from incoming shell fire.

Look forward to responses.

David

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For some reason, I had expected them to be behind the front line rather than in front. I can see a certain logic in protecting the dugout entrance from incoming shell fire.

David .

You practically answer your own question. By putting the entrances in the trench wall nearest to the enemy (ie. putting the dugouts under no-man's land, or wherever) you actually are protecting the entrance from enemy fire. An entrance in a rear wall of a trench is far more likely to recieve a shell through the door, due to the trajectory of the shell. (Unless of course it was a "friendly" short).

Dave.

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Dave,

And the Yorkshire Trench certainly was no exception. For between Yorkshire Trench Dug-Out and let's say 1 kilometer south east of it, there were 3 more dug-outs. (Among them Lancashire Farm dug-out)

As far as I know the dug-outs were (also) meant as the places to launch the attack for Third Ypres from too. So they had to be at or near the front.

Yet I understand their presence there can be puzzling. What I find even more puzzling : how for heaven's sake was it possible to constructs these dug-outs not more than a quarter of a mile from the German first line, without this underground activity being spotted by the enemy. In absolute silence ... during the night ? That of course was the reason that the b*stard blue clay that was brought to the surface had to be camouflaged, or transported as fast as possible, so as not to be seen by the enemy from there observation balloons.

Something else that should be mentioned... The dug-outs indeed were at a dangerous place, so near the enemy lines. But if I remember correctly, can't we say that the first line was a relatively safe place, safe from shelling that is, as both sides were not eager to shell the front line of the enemy for fear of hitting their own lines with friendly fire.

Aurel

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Aurel,

I also wondered about the water and possible noise of pumping that would have to been done 24 hrs to stop them from filling up as they are now

Peter

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Peter,

Of course, that too. Plans for two dug-outs on the west side of the canal had to be abandoned as the water table made it impossible. Probably the original (standard) plans for the Yorkshire Trench Dug-out were twice as large, but due to the terrible conditions ...

When I welcomed visitors at the YTDO site, I always said that there are two things that are impossible to convey :

1. What is feels like to be one of the first men to go down a dug-out after 90 or so years,

2. What it must have been to construct a dug-out at the time, in these appalling conditions. Nowadays making such construction with modern technical means would be a piece of cake, but in 1917, a few hundred meters away from the enemy ?...

Aurel

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Aurel, I think I might have asked you this question before but I have forgotten the answer.

The Yorkshire Trench dugouts are filled with water to about half a metre below the level of the trench floor. When the last investigations were over, and it was decided to turn off the pumps and let nature take its course, how long did it take for the dugouts to fill with water to this natural level?

Tom

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tom,

Sorry for the delay, but I haven't discovered your question until right now.

Not easy to answer. The last time we entered after having pumped out all the water was in July 2001 (an extremely dry period). How long did it take for the water to reach the maximum level again afterwards ? I think it must have been about two (three ?) days ? I'm sure it must go a lot faster in winter of course.

Slowly at first, because first the two corridors of approx. 23 and 18 meters, and the 11 rooms (approx. 2 x 3 x 2 m) fill with the water, but as soon as the ceilings of corridors and rooms were reached, and the water filled the 2 staircase shafts (approx. 12 m up from these ceilings to the surface), it went a lot faster (as the volume was a lot less).

Aurel

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