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Tunnels of WW1

Wednesday 26th March 2014 Our speaker for the evening was David Hedges of The Durand Group an association that have undertaken to further the research and investigation of military related subterranean features. David himself having taken part in a number of the archaeological excavations made for a very knowledgeable and interesting speaker. David began his talk by providing some background information starting in the modern day, explaining how the 25 tonnes of unexploded bombs and shells that come to the surface in modern day France each year are cleared and disposed of. The different types of explosives were covered and how dangerous each type is today. The talk moved on to discuss some history of tunnelling prior to World War 1, the purpose and locations of the tunnel systems in World war 1 and the 3 types of tunnels employed. The fighting tunnels which were to either intercept an enemy tunnel or to inflict damage above on the surface. The larger subway tunnels that were constructed for rapid movement of troops and the underground shelters (souterraines) which often featured the natural caves in the chalk geology. We learned that there were over 500 miles of tunnels and that up to 100000 people were underground at any one time along the western front. David talked of the archaeological digs that the Durant Group have undertaken and provided some interesting anecdotes of his personal experience on these digs. The remains of tunnels as they are today was discussed, the talk concluded with a question and answer session.

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