Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 5°C


First World War: The blast was heard in London as mine exploded, leaving a huge scar in the French countryside

13:26 01 July 2014

014 The Somme 9

014 The Somme 9

At almost 91 metres in diameter – 300ft in old money - and 21 metres (70ft) deep, Lochnagar Crater is an awe- inspiring site.

014 The Somme 10014 The Somme 10

A great scar in the rolling countryside of northern France, the crater is a reminder of the destruction wrought as the great European powers slugged it out in “the war to end all wars”.

This year we mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of that war and the crater remains a stark physical reminder of the power of industrial conflict – it is the largest man-made mine crater created in the First World War on the Western Front.

The mine was laid by the British Army’s 179th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers underneath a German strongpoint called “Schwaben Höhe”. Though exactly where the tunnel was has been lost in the mists of time.

The mine was exploded two minutes before 7.30am – Zero Hour at the launch of the British offensive against the German lines – on the morning of July 1, 1916 and the explosion could be heard as far away as London.

A witness described the scene: “The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky.

“There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air.

“The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris.”

Now in private ownership, the crater is found just outside the village of La Boiselle.

It is maintained by the Friends of Lochnagar who give up their spare time to look after the site and help preserve it as a memorial.

On the day I visited, 83-year-old Leslie Disbrey talked to me about what the crater means to him.

He said: “My uncle Herbert Disbrey was last seen alive on the first day of The Somme on Fricourt Ridge not far from the crater. He was a private and joined up as a volunteer in 1914 in the 11th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. His body was never found but he is commemorated at Thiepval.”

Today the crater is dedicated to peace, fellowship and reconciliation between all nations who fought on the Western Front.

Leslie added: “I came out here with my cousin in 1976 for the 
60th anniversary of the battle. Ever since someone from the family has come here every year. The crater is a way of remembering and preserving the memory of those who died.”

Richard Dunning bought the crater in 1978 to ensure its survival.

He said: “Every year we hold a remembrance ceremony on July 1. I view the crater as a physical reminder of the horror of war and it is also a living wound in the landscape which represents the suffering and sacrifice of those who were here.”

South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court

A 20-year-old woman was given a six week prison sentence suspended for 12 months for stealing £10 from a resident of a care home where she worked.

Concerns for police staff over jobs

Hundreds of Suffolk Constabulary civilian staff face an anxious wait this week to discover the impact of a multi-million pound cost-cutting programme.

Tim Holder, director of the Suffolk Community Foundation, with Surviving Winter supporter, former journalist and TV presenter Christine Webber

A campaign to combat fuel poverty in Suffolk has helped more than 100 people to stay warm this winter in the first three weeks since its launch.

Former Ipswich Town manager Sir Bobby Robson

An online auction launched in memory of Ipswich Town and England legend Sir Bobby Robson has raised more than £160,000 for charity.

Bad weather in Felixstowe.

Properties are at risk from flooding at Bawdsey Quay and Felixstowe Ferry, the Environment Agency has warned.

Ipswich Crown Court.

A 67-year-old west Suffolk garage owner who sexually assaulted and raped three schoolgirls more than 25 years ago has been jailed for 19 years.

Some of the UCS Choir members who will be appearing on Songs of Praise on television

University Campus Suffolk’s new choir is to appear on BBC Songs of Praise

Felixstowe mayor Doreen Savage switches on the lights helped by Elise Gorski, Peggy Osborne, and Ash and Lila Tadjrishi.

It’s a problem faced by millions of families across the country every year.

The close-knit Smith family in 2006: Matt, Wendy, Nikki and Barry

It can be upsetting and lonely having a child with a disability, but Wendy Smith would rather shout about the many positives. Steven Russell hears how love and kindness trumps any anger and bitterness

Domestic violence reports increase

Domestic violence reports soared by 12% in Suffolk last year with more than 2,000 recorded incidents involving male victims, police have said.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages

Local business directory

Suffolk's trusted business finder

Property search

e.g. Oxford or NW3
Powered by Zoopla

Digital Edition

Read the Ipswich Star e-edition today E-edition

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24