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towisuk
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Chap in question is the very kind Mr Daniel Verbrugghe-Denis. I met him in 1998 and he furnished me with the very same photos when filming "One of our Mines is Missing". Because they were originals I set my video camera up in his living room and the rest is history.

It was quite possible to accurately pinpoint the where the crater would have been from the photos. The film took three years to complete! Interestingly there is a good photo taken after the mine crater was infilled in the book BEFORE ENDEAVOURS FADE.

In 1996 I visited an old lady living in Le Gheer and she quite clearly remembered hearing the mine explode in 1955. She didn't remember a thunderstorm however. I didn't record the interview (regret!!!) because it wasn't central to my story at Vimy.

The Durand Group, of which I am a founder member, have quite a lot of information on these mines and they will be publishing more on them in a re-vamped website in the spring. Most of the information was unearthed (no pun intended) by Lt Col Phillip Robinson, our Chairman, who is at the National Archives so much he may well now have an en-suite.

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Many thanks for the information Andy, you're quite correct Daniel was most helpful, he had seen me videoing the fields where the other mines are still in situ and invited myself and fellow traveller to his house to show me the photos.

When I return in March with another couple of companions I intend to drop him off a bottle of my best whisky as a form of thankyou, I am over in Flanders tomorrow (Tuesday) but will not have enough time to get down to house this time.

Unfortunately I missed the programme on the mine that you shot......is there anywhere I can still purchase a copy Andy?

my regards

Tom

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Yes...I nearly missed it myself. I've been trying to sell the film since 2001 and it looks like 06-07 is going to be the optimum time. My distribution company didn't even tell me they'd sold it to History Channel so it was only by way of an email from my old pal Dave Hedges that I realised it was on.

The TV film was cut to 48 mins. You can get the director's cut (73 mins) on ebay at the moment for £14.99+ P&P. The DVD now includes all the ROM material on the main disc including maps, plans, reports and diaries. There's also a high resolution multi-layer aerial panorama of vimy ridge where you can choose which facet of the battle to view.

Also included are aerial video of Petis Bois, Hollundscheschuur, Spanbroekmolen, and other mine craters on the Messines Ridge. There is also the full transcribed 2nd Army (Plumer) report on the Messines Mines.

I regulary put them on ebay so look out for it if they've not be listed. You can also order from my www.fougassefilms.co.uk website.

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Many thanks for all the info Andy, theres been a bit of interest on the forum of late regarding the unexploded mines still around in the ground after 90 years. in my job many years ago I came into contact with quarrying explosives frequently on a daily basis!!

I keep looking at the Durrand group site to see if there's any update in their activities, thats where I came across the info on the messine mines which I thought I would follow up, thanks to help with positions of the birdgcage mines from Simon Jones.........we have some great chaps on the forum!

regards

Tom

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  • 4 weeks later...

I hope I'm not going too much off-topic here but there is a very large amount of Gas shells (mustard gas I believe), which is stored underground somewhere in the Ypres area, if I remember rightly. The Belgian army is responsible for keeping the shells safe in a climat controlled bunker. It nearly went horrible wrong once (I recall a Belgian telling me this when I lived in Brugge) during one particularly hot and dry summer and residents nearby had to be evacuated due to the risk of gas being released.

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  • 2 months later...

An aerial photo of the German front line where the Birdcage mines were located.

I was allowed to copy this from a photo by Danielle who's house is situated over the German trench and about 80 metres from one of the unexploded mines on the south side of the small road running left to right in the picture.

post-5284-1175077475.jpg

regards

Tom

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Also from Daniel, a photo of German infantry in the area of where his house is situated on the Chemin des Loupes

post-5284-1175090128.jpg

Tom

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Any member requiring a DVD of "The Underground War" and "One of Our Mines is Missing can PM Me.

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Reading the of the Durand group activities I came across the fact that 25 mines were laid in the Messines Ridge area and only 19 fired.

Subsequently 1 other was detonated by a thunderstorm in July 1955. does anyone know were the other 4 unexploded mine charges are and their location??

post-5284-1157110563.jpg

The map is from the Durand groups site (many thanks)

regards

Tom

Actualy, there were 26 mines laid! Kruissraat had 4 in total.

No 1 30,000lbs

No 4 18,500lbs

These 2 were laid side by side. This was due to the luxury of extra time and ammonal available.

No 2 30,000lbs

No 3 30,000lbs

No's 1 and 4 produced 1 egg shaped crater.

Ontario failed to work properly, depth of crater, practically nil. Ground bubbled and boiled for 3 days.

Trench 127 right, for some un explained reason, blew a D shape crater, you can still see it today, well, yesterday at least anyway.

The St Eloi mine, was the largest British mine blown in the Great War. You can visit the crater by aquiering the key to the site from Ieper tourist office in the Cloth Hall.

When there, visit the March 27th 1916 craters across the road where Chaplain E.N Mellish and Capt Billy Congreve both won a VC and DSO in that order. Great visit! It is next to the WW2 damaged farmhouse.

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  • 1 year later...

I recently went to the area of these unexploded mines and the reason the 7th telegraph pole is higher than the rest is because when they were infilling the mine crater they expected the ground to subside somewhat afterwards, therefore they put in the telegraph pole 2 feet higher to compensate for this. Anyway as we can see now this didn't happen, hence a bigger than normal telegraph pole! Useless fact of the day!

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I'll be over there next Monday, looking over the area and meeting up with Daniel who lives in the cottage south of the road Junction at Le Pelerin, the three existing mines being very close to his property there.

I wonder if the team are still excavating up near St Yves on the Ploegsteert Project, as I'm in the are I wonder if ti might be possible to drop in and see the people who are involved.....

Tom

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I recently went to the area of these unexploded mines and the reason the 7th telegraph pole is higher than the rest is because when they were infilling the mine crater they expected the ground to subside somewhat afterwards, therefore they put in the telegraph pole 2 feet higher to compensate for this. Anyway as we can see now this didn't happen, hence a bigger than normal telegraph pole! Useless fact of the day!

Sometimes I just LOVE useless facts...

Thanks for adding another one to my list!

Roel

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  • 5 years later...

From the Australian War Memorial site.....this photo of a notice posted on the Messines Ridge, the question...which mine???? all guesses....sorry answers, sent to me with an entry fee of £10 (just joking)

regards

Tom

post-5284-0-44040400-1410940965_thumb.jp

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Ah!!! is the sign inside or outside the fence Kevin...???

Anyway I don't think vibration of hammering would set off the mine, it requires an electric signal to the detonators to initialise the explosion...

regards

Tom

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Ah!!! is the sign inside or outside the fence Kevin...???

Anyway I don't think vibration of hammering would set off the mine, it requires an electric signal to the detonators to initialise the explosion...

regards

Tom

So why the prohibition on camping on top? Did one of the mines fail to detonate (as opposed to not being fired)? Was there a worry that it could still explode? Given that the notice is only in English one must assume that it was placed there when the area was still under British control during the war

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Well they obviously knew there was a mine there, whether it was one of the "lost" mines or those that weren't fired at the Birdcage (4) who knows....but I would say that it was an excellent early example of "Health and Safety" at work.....

p.s. I am assuming it was one that was left over from 7th June 1917 attack on the ridge......

regards

Tom

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Ah!!! is the sign inside or outside the fence Kevin...???

Anyway I don't think vibration of hammering would set off the mine, it requires an electric signal to the detonators to initialise the explosion...

regards

Tom

Initiate ?

What set off the 1955 explosion ?

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Did the guys hammering the notice in, not read it?

Damn sight more likely to trigger the mine than putting up a tent!

They could of hammered stakes to mark where they wanted the posts to be, but post holes of that size are normally dug.

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Yes it was, and that is a reasonable explanation. As someone who spent a a lot of time involved with explosives, I can say with out doubt surface vibration, such as driving in posts, would not have any effect at all.

The notice says "or 40 yards outside" (the fence) . The problem is that we do not know what area the fence covers, If we did, it might give a clue to the potential size of the mine. and thus the danger area. I have to say that plus 40 yards does not sound like a substantial extra safety distance, unless it was a unexploded camouflet, but that is a guess.

TR

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Here's my guess....three of the 4 unexploded mines at Le Pelerin were in the field with White Estaminet marked on the map, the fourth was just over the road to the south. The one that blew in '55 was one of the three above the road and furthest east...(I mention that just for interest)

If we look at the first photo I posted.......

post-5284-0-25434900-1410970979_thumb.jp

There is a duckboard track behind the sign , and just visible at the rear of the duckboards what appears to a light railway track....

Looking at the section of the trench map below....we have a duckboard and light railway passing right by the field containing the unused mines...

post-5284-0-51075700-1410971219_thumb.jp

That's my guess...what do you think???

regards

Tom

Added....a map of the four Birdcage mines.......

post-5284-0-43468100-1410971781_thumb.jp

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I see I'm going to have to litter any other humorous posts of mine (did you see what I did there?) with lots and lots of smileys.

When Columbus first landed in America, the native Indians came down and shouted "Land Mine!" and Columbus shouted back, No, Land - mine!" then a big cloud of smoke erupted......

Coat, hat, exit....

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Photo taken 10 years ago, standing on the unexploded mine looking south towards the road.

Where one of the electricity posts is a little taller, is where in 1955 a mine exploded, struck by lightning.

When filling the crater they thought : let's put back the post a little higher, for it will sink a little. But it did not.

Whether the crater (of the in 1955 exploded mine) was north or south of the road, I would say : just south. But I can be wrong. Anyway : very near to the road.

Aurel

post-92-0-80937800-1410975928_thumb.jpg

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Photo taken 10 years ago, standing on the unexploded mine looking south towards the road.

Where one of the electricity posts is a little taller, is where in 1955 a mine exploded, struck by lightning.

I understand that it wan't so much the mine that was struck but a metal pylon which some genius had erected directly over the mine

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