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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Sapper Peter Lane, 185 Tunnelling Coy RE


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Sapper 102439 Peter Lane, 185 Tunnelling Coy, RE

My grandfather Peter Lane (coalminer from County Durham), enlisted in London and died (DOW) 04.02.1916 at La Boisselle.

> Why would he enlist in London? I imagined he'd never been there before in his life (speculation on my part . . . .)

> Am I right in assuming he volunteered? (in service prior to 1916)

> What is the difference between 'died of wounds' and 'killed in action'?


Peter Lane

PS . . . . and what may be a really silly question, but what exactly is a "camouflet"? (can't find it in my dictionary)

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Hi Peter,

A camouflet is - the mining chamber and the mine itself used to blow up enemy mines. ie. a counter mining tunnel.

Died of wounds means he was evacuated to a CCS where he succumbed to his injuries.

An appeal for miners was made even though mining was a reserved occupation and he probably volunteered for service and went to London as a volunteer.



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Your grandfather may have been recruited because of his specialist skills, and then been taken to some depot or headquarters or collecting-point for similar recruits, where he went through the formal enlistment process. Other Pals may know more about this than me, though.

A camouflet was a small, portable explosive charge which could be placed in an underground tunnel and then detonated. The blast would not reach the surface, but it would collapse enemy diggings nearby. This was the camouflet's main use in the Underground War.

Roughly speaking, the difference between Died of Wounds and Killed in Action is:

Died of Wounds means that the soldier died as a result of wounds received earlier. (Sometimes much earlier.) Killed in Action means that the soldier died as a result of enemy action and was seen to die, or seen to be dead, or subsequent investigations led to the conclusion that he must have been killed even though there were no witnesses.


(Oops! just noticed that Malcolm beat me to it.)

Edited by Tom Morgan
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Many Sappers in the Royal Engineers enrolled in London. This was because the prime mover behind the tunnellers was John Norton-Griffiths the MP for Wednesbury and Tipton. He encouraged men from mining communities to voulnteer as specialist miners in the RE, and had an office (in the Houses of Parliament if I remember correctly) where men signed-up.

Many men from the Black Country followed this route including a Tipton Miner named John Lane who was (and still is) buried underground also at La Boiselle (at The Ilot) due to counter-mining and camouflet charges. I have a copy of the war diary and report of the explosion which left 12 men buried underground, if you want a copy to get the 'flavour' of this type of operation reply to me off-forum and I will gladly post you a copy.

Norton-Griffiths was an intersting character, previously a speculator in S Africa, got involved in the Boer War although not a military man, built a huge contracting company (sewers where they developed 'clay-kicking' - see BirdSong, South American Railways, Aswan Dam) and becoming an MP - a little right wing I think it fair to say.

He proposed his clay-kickers as ideal for tunnelling on the Western Front and was initially rejected by the War Office. He was later (1917 ish) the main character involved in destroying the Romanian oil-fields to stop them falling into the hands of the axis powers.

An excellent recent biography "Tunnel Master and Arsonist of the Great War" has been published by Pen & Sword.



Researching the Tipton Men who fell in the Great War

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