The Western Front Today - Messines Mine 1955

21 mines were laid in preparation for the apocalyptic start to the Messines battle on 7 June 1917.  However a decision was taken to explode only 19 of the mines; the remaining two remained dormant until the end of the war and beyond.

It is said that the British lost the details of the whereabouts of these mines, much to the discomfort of the Belgian authorities.

One of the two mines went off unexpectedly on 17 June 1955 during a thunderstorm, near Le Pelerin.   Electrification of the area had arrived in the 1940s and 50s, and a pylon was unknowingly erected above the site of the mine; lightning struck the pylon, detonating the mine below.

The only casualty was a dead cow, although surrounding damage was extensive.  The resultant crater has since been filled in, although after heavy rainfall a slight depression in the ground indicates the location of the crater.

One mine remains undetected to this day; however there have been rumours that the whereabouts of this mine has recently been discovered, nearby the 1955 mine some 150 metres across the road.

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

A 'Woolly Bear' comprised a German shrapnel shell, which burst with a cloud-like explosion.

- Did you know?