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Remembered Today:

Battle of Loos


geraint
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Reading about the 4th Batt RWF in Loos in January 1916, this TF Pioneer battalion arrived at the Double Crassier where the front line went across the slagheaps. To quote "the obvious solution was to dig through the crassier and so link up the trenches on each side by an underground passage"

The French had started tunneling, and when the Welsh arrived 322 feet remained to be dug.

"The miners of the 4th RWF looked at the crassier, then at each other, and laughed. If they couldnt dig through in half the time they'd go down on their hands and knees and bite through." Two parties of an officer, 2NCOs and 25 men each began digging on January 6th, and given till February 3 to finish. 11.00am "the picks of the two miners working at the face clashed and "the Wrexham Tunnel" had been completed, six days before the scheduled time". Digging an average 14feet per day, twice the rate of the French pioneers. (Quotes from 4th Denbighshire Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Great War, Capt C Ellis 1920)

I would appreciate whether anyone has any further info or photos of this tunnel. Is the crassier still there? Was it demolished during the latter part of the war? Peter Barton/IWM's panoramic photos of the battlefield show the Double Crassier, but any other details would be much appreciated.

Geraint

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At the time the Double Crassier was two rows of slag parallel to one another about 50-60 feet high about half a mile long. (I'm working from memory but I'll check these figures.) Post war mining produced a huge volume more slag and by the time the pits closed there were two huge pyramids towering over the area and completely covering the area of the Great War Double Crassier. There may be contemporary photos but nothing will still exist of the tunnel.

ETA: Earlier thread

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I'd agree there are several Great War photos of the DC which when you look at it today it bears no resemblence to what it was.

I wonder if there are any photos from 1916 at the Photo Archive at the IWM?

It sounds most interesting but wouldn't it have been potentially liable to collapse?

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If it was shored up properly it ought to be stable enough, and 14 feet a day sounds like they did a thorough job. This comes with the caveat that I work in an office and don't know much about mining.

I did read somewhere that the Double Crassier were "cold" unlike a couple of the others which were smouldering beneath the surface and presented different challenges.

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Thanks for the replies folks, and the link to a previous thread on the Crassiers. one photo there really seems to be approximately pointing down the trench towards the crassiers where the 4th would have probably be located. Brilliant stuff!

N cherry - they were regular miners, and knew what they were doing regarding tunneling and mining. With 25 in each group, some would have been digging, but the others would have been involved in shoring the tunnel and ensuring it's safety. Prior to this, the front line was a scratched out shallow trench going up and down the crassiers and to quote Capt Ellis, Adjutant of the 4th RWF "a trench of a very dubious kind had been made over the top of the crassier in order to preserve the continuity of the front line, but the crassier afforded such an excellent target to the enemy that the trench was wipped out almost daily by shell-fire and communications became difficult and highly dangerous. In the event of an enemy attack, communications across the crassier would have been impossible"

So the 4th went to it to tunnel through.

In response to questions on that other thread, the dimensions of the crassier noted by Ellis was as follows

"They (the French pioneers) had tunnelled 64 feet on the south-west side, and 41 feet on the north-eastside....the distance still to be tunnelled was 322 feet." Which the 4th did in rapid time - hence "The Wrexham Tunnel.

Geraint

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Niall, it would not have been harder to tunnel through the crassier than through the sand and silt which confronted miners in Flanders. Coal bings quite often have railways and overhead track systems built across them. They are compacted as they are built. Spoil heaps and coal tips were regularly tunneled into and had dugouts excavated. The Dump at Hohenzollern Redoubt for instance. I believe that one of the hazards was the fact that they were easily set on fire by HE. Also, some tips seem to have spontaneously combusted with the result that dugouts etc. were uncomfortably hot. Of course, Hill 60 on The Salient was a spoil heap from the nearby railway and was riddled with tunnels both offensive and defensive.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...

As this occured 95 years ago today - thought I'd bump this up in case new pals have any material on this.

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I've always been puzzled by the views of the present day "mountains" and the trench maps of the area. I used the one of the maps from Dave Croonart's site to overlay on google, then drew in the approximate shapes of the crassers as shown on it. While this may not be scaled to the inch, it is reasonably accurate.

Pic one shows the trench map overlaid, pic 2 shows the approximate position of the double crasser at the time of the Battle of Loos. As you can see there is a lot of difference from then till now.

post-13680-063743400 1296973549.jpg

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  • 4 years later...

This happened a hundred years ago. I'm still proud of them! Hence the bump! :thumbsup::poppy:

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The National Library of Scotland has all the WW1 Trench Maps available online.

You can also view them with zoomable overlays of modern Google or Bing maps.

http://maps.nls.uk/ww1/trenches/

Kindest Regards,

Tom.

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merci tom

très interessant

gilles Loos sur les traces de la grande guerre

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Tom I can't get the site to work.

Gilles - Any French sources on the Wrexham tunnel? J'aspire!!!

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Bonjour

in the website War museum in London you can see a lot of photo of Double crassier

gilles p Loos grande guerre

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Geraint

In the History of 47th (London) Division in the chapter on the Battle of Loos there are quite a few mentions of the RWF pioneers, including a tribute to them for the building of the tunnel p47, and a picture of the Double crassier. It is not a great picture and may be prior to the tunnel. Can send a link if you want it .

regards

Richard

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Bonjour

Do you know the book?

"military mining 1914-19"

N&M Press

the work of the roral engineers in the war

double crassier in this book ( a few page)

gilles

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Bonjour

the centenary of battle of loos will be

the 26 september 2015 ( saturday) officiel

gilles p

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Geraint

In the History of 47th (London) Division in the chapter on the Battle of Loos there are quite a few mentions of the RWF pioneers, including a tribute to them for the building of the tunnel p47, and a picture of the Double crassier. It is not a great picture and may be prior to the tunnel. Can send a link if you want it .

regards

Richard

Thanks very much for that Richard. I'm not a techy bloke - please send as you see fit!

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Geraint

here is the link

https://ia801401.us.archive.org/7/items/47thlondondivisi00maudrich/47thlondondivisi00maudrich_bw.pdf

Because the 4th Battalion RWF joined the 47th Division there are quite a few specific mentions in the text, and occasional references to "the Pioneers" in accounts of life in the trenches so it rewards some close reading. Hope you find it useful

regards

Richard

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  • 2 months later...

I think you might be aware that the Wrexham tunnel goes through the Loos Crassier, not the Double Crassier, which is further to the west. This made sense as men were continually being picked off when taking the exposed shortcut over the top. Mining under the Double Crassier may well have been begun by the French but was soon taken over in January 1916 by 173 Tunnelling Company RE who dug at least two levels of tunnels there together with the adjacent TRIANGLE position to the east. The Durand Group have spent the last three years exploring the COPSE (Chalk Pit Copse) mining system between Loos and Double Crassier but we have yet to locate the Wrexham Tunnel. www.durandgroup.org.uk

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Richard and Andy - Thanks very much for the information. I'm reading the divisional history and need to refer to the 4th RWF history regarding your point about the names Andy, Thanks to you both.

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  • 5 years later...

Hello

I rebounded on this because there is a misunderstanding about the positioning of the "Crassier" - "double Crassier" in Loos.

 

the 47th div. takes over the 18th French Div. on January 04, 1916.

Sources:
Walking and operating logs to the 135ème Régiment d'Infanterie (French) - history of the 47th Div. 

"We relieved the French 18th Division at Loos on January 4th, 1916."


At that time the 18th French Div. occupied the slopes of Hill 70 to the nursery.

 

he map :

in green : the nursery


for me, Wrexham Tunnel is located at the location of the blue circle
 

for information, there is a gallery that is dug under "the Crassier" which is still visible from the old mushroom plant made in the former underground of Loos.
unfortunately, this gallery is swooped.

the association "Loos on the Traces of the Great War" has the plans.
contact gilles for this.

 

247726984_looscrassiers-Copie.jpg.733e866f041a418ac23a540eedc8e6f6.jpg

 

for there is no point in digging under the "Double Crassier" except to blow up the enemy trenches.
the northern tip of the "Double Crassier" is held by both camps.
each a mound.
the German side, precisely will suffer several mines (red cross) because their positions dominated those of the French.

 

679169438_DSC_0024-Copie.JPG.52bbbd709c23d114812f2f7e46e90323.JPG

 

Kind regards

 

Michel

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