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Remembered Today:

"Mine Crater where 100 Suffolks Died"


ianw
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I am currently transcribing a labour company diary which in early 1917 describes a visit to " a mine crater where over 100 Suffolks died ". Could anyone confirm which 1916 Somme crater this was . Labour Company was based near Ovillers at the time.

Diary also briefly describes a visit to Ovillers Cem. to see the grave of the then recently interred son of Harry Lauder. Ovillers area is generally described as "quite interesting" !

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It was more likely Y-Sap crater, Ian. The 7th Suffolks were on the right of their divisional front when the division attacked Ovillers on 3rd July. This would haveput the Y-Sap crater directly in front of them.

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It may well have been Lochnagar; 11th Suffolks (Cambs Bn) attacked across Avoca Valley on 1st July and lost heavily. When the battlefield was cleared later many men were buried in or near the mine crater.

Very few of their dead for this action have graves - most are on Thiepval.

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Interesting one this, since both battalions lost nearer to 200 than 100 men in the respective July actions. Given that this contemporary reference refers specifically to the Suffolks does this indicate that Y Sap crater is meant. Was this a Suffolks only show ? If they were referring to Lochnagar might they not have referred to the Tynesiders. Y Sap crater would have been a bit closer for the walking visitors from Ovillers which I suppose could be significant.

Strange to think of these first battlefield tourists in 1917 wandering these places familiar to us ,with the detritus of war in all its ghastliness still very fresh. The diarist comments rather testily that all the German corpses have been "got up" and already stripped of anything of value.

I presume Y Sap crater is now no more.

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Y Sap is gone but memory says Lyn McDonald's Somme has an aerial photo of it and Lochnagar which must be named after a place in Scottish Highlands.

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See comments on Y Sap in Battlefields in Danger section of this site.

Don't forget 11th Suffolks were in the first wave at Lochnagar; while it is a place we associated with the N'Fus, the 15 and 16 Royal Scots, 10th Lincs and 11th Suffolks were all in the first wave towards it.

The 7th Suffolk attack wasn't in isolation; it was part of the 12th Div attack on Mash Valley, which also included the 9th Essex, and the 7th Sussex somewhere.

Ian, if you read The Diary of Private Fraser you'll see that battlefield tourism began while the battle was still on! Fraser visit Y Sap and Lochnagar on foot in September 1916!

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Certainly take your point about "tourism" starting as soon as the battle had passed on. It seems that the last campaign on such passed by ground took on a mythic nature within months - as in "Beaucourt Revisited" - "..and there was Harmsworth shot,..." etc.

Even as tourists we follow directly in their footsteps.

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