The remains of mine explosions near Deepcut

In conversation with Andy Robertshaw, curator of the RLC Museum in Deepcut, I learned that in 1916 an area on Frith Hill, near the junction of the Old Bisley Road and The Maultway, was used to train soldiers in seizing mine craters. My photos show what remains of the mine explosions. The following is a description of the event from the time:

Mine Crater_1“Blackdown Camp, October 1916, Wessex Field Company Royal Engineers: The company moved into an excellent hut-camp, … leaving No.4 section to complete Claycart Bridge. The chief interest at first was the mine that had been made on Frith Hill, some of our men assisting in the tunnelling. It was to be blown up by 5,000lbs of gun cotton, and was the first of three that were to be blown for experiment and training. To make the affair more like an operation at our front line, our company made wire entanglements all about the imaginary ‘No man’s land’ above the charge, and practised the consolidation of the mine craters after seizure by infantry.”

“On the great day , VIP’s arrived, the Sandhurst cadets came over and were shown by us how to consolidate a crater. All the windows for miles around were left open, so as not to be blown in by concussion of the Mine Crater_2explosion. At the last moment the spectators, numbering several thousand, were moved from ½ to ¾ of a mile away. The guns and trench mortars began to fire blank, machine guns and rifles the same, up went the mine, and attacking parties seized the craters with much cheering and throwing of dummy hand-grenades and bombs, while our Sapper party, under Lt Davidson, started entrenching in the lip of the craters.”

“The actual explosion and upheaval of the mines was most disappointing. The charge had been divided, by order from above, so that two little craters were made instead of one large one. We hardly felt any concussion, heard no noise, and the spectacle was far from alarming. The soil was thrown up about thirty feet, in the form of a plum-pudding, then it subsided through a dense volumes of smoke. So slight was the effect that it was said that parties in a dug-out 300 yards away did not know the charge had been blown under they were told of it by a runner.”

At the end of the above report it said, “Blackdown was very bleak, desolate spot, far from any village or town where entertainment could be had, and though the camp was excellent, I think we all hope we may never stay here again.”

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