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Remembered Today:

How long did it take for the battlefield to be denuded of vegetation a


Felix C
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When did the battlelines take on the stereotype of a cratered, grass-less, tree-less terrain?

Seems plenty of vegetation on the battlelines into 1915 and then I recall there was a shell shortage at Loos.

Was the ground swept clean by the Somme in 1916?

Edited by Felix C
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Trench panoramas from Givenchy les la Basseé taken in April 1918 show that there was plenty of long grass in No Man's Land. (Long enough for battalions holding the line at this time to send out daylight patrols.) Interestingly, aerial shots of the same location, taken a few days earlier, appear to show the stereotypical 'moon-cratered' mud devoid of all vegetation, so aerial photography can clearly be misleading when taken in isolation. Ground shots of 3rd Ypres clearly show mud, mud and more mud and similar for parts of the Somme, but one has to wonder how typical this actually was.

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At fromelles in 1916 no-man's land was quite covered to the point where the germams used scythes and weedkillers to clear lines of sight. Behind their immediate lines were hedges and fields.

Craig

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At Fromelles in 1916 no-man's land was quite covered to the point where the Germans used scythes and weedkillers to clear lines of sight. Behind their immediate lines were hedges and fields.

Not only grass, though. Accounts of the (northern) Battle of Aubers Ridge on the same ground in May 1915 speak of tall stands of oilseed rape in no-man's land. This was evidently self-seeded from the unharvested 1914 crop, and it presumably continued to return each season. Field boundaries were formed of rows of low trees that were pollarded annually in normal times, but had not been cropped since autumn 1913.

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I imagine the answer will vary according to:

1. The degree and type of bombardment per square metre (imagine a seed trying to germinate in a flower pot whose contents get thrown in the air every day or so). Comparatively little heavy artillery on the Somme in summer 1916, so lots of grass, vegetation remained

2. The time of year - a bombarded winter landscape is going to look and stay desolate quicker and longer.

3. The underlying soil and drainage conditions. Around 3rd Ypres, ......the clay soil, high water table, shattered drainage system and heavy rains.....produced the mud in which nothing could grow.

Once the war has moved on, nature is generally pretty good at re-establishing itself. I recall a picture of an officer standing on the site of the Pozieres windmill after the Somme battle, which I first saw in one of Paul Reed's books. The churned-up moonscape of the battlefield has been entirely recolonised by long grass. Beautiful photograph.

David

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The QM of 1/4th King's Own had this to say about the former German lines between Fricourt and Maricourt on 31 July 1916.

A giant of steel seemed to have ridden over the proud German defences. Villages were wiped completely out of existence- Fricourt, Mametz, Carnoy, Maricourt, Montaubin, all a tumbled heap of rubble; woods were laid waste. Saddest of all there was not a blade of green grass visible. Trenches were everywhere blown out of recognition. In every direction disused gun pits with piles of empty shell cases showed how the artillery had advanced. Disrupted sandbags littered the broken earth. A poignant reminder that victory is not purchased without cost lay in the newly-delved earth, where blue flags were fluttering over the dead.”

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