The Western Front Today - Hawthorn Crater, Somme

Hawthorn Crater was one of the 17 mines that were exploded by the British on the morning of 1 July 1916 to signal the start of the Somme offensive.  It is one of the few remaining craters (along with, notably, Lochnagar), however its chief claim to fame is two-fold.

Firstly, the Hawthorn Crater was the first to be blown that day, at 0720 - eight minutes before any of the remaining 16; and secondly because the explosion itself was actually captured on film.

The mine took seven months to lay, being 75ft deep and 1,000ft long.  It was prepared with a 40,600lb ammonal charge by 252nd Tunnelling Company.  The resultant crater was 40ft deep and 300ft wide.

Today it forms a figure of eight, the result of a subsequent British mine explosion (with a 30,000lb ammonal charge) under a German fortification in November 1916.

The 1 July 1916 mine explosion was captured on film by Geoffrey Malins for the highly successful officially approved film 'The Battle of the Somme'.

He shot the footage from a vantage point near the famous Sunken Lane.  Whenever the Somme offensive is discussed on TV Malins' footage of the Hawthorn Crater is invariably shown.  Also nearby is the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Memorial.

1916 Film Footage of Hawthorn Crater

Present Day Film Footage of Hawthorn Crater

Before Endeavours Fade, Rose E.B. Coombs, After the Battle 1994
Major & Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide - Somme, Leo Cooper 2000

A howitzer is any short cannon that delivers its shells in a high trajectory. The word is derived from an old German word for "catapult".

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