Back to the Somme: Part 4

Lochnagar Crater, South of La Boiselle, Somme, France. (P. Ferguson image, September 2010)

Lochnagar Crater, South of La Boiselle, Somme, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2010)

The Mines

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), 19 mines were detonated. Eight large and eleven smaller charges prepared by tunneling units of the British Army exploded on the German frontline. Both the mines at Lochnagar (detonated at 7:28 AM) and Hawthorn Ridge (detonated at 7:20 AM) were, at the time, the largest mines ever detonated. Both craters remain intact.

The Lochnagar mine was privately purchased by Richard Dunning in 1974 and preserved by the Lochnagar Crater Association. At the time, Lochnagar Crater was in danger of being filled in. Y Sap mine, at Picardy, also detonated 1 July 1916 was filled in 1974 and is now no longer visible.

The famous mine crater at Hawthorn Ridge is well known as its detonation was filmed by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell. In 2018 the crater site was leased from its owner by the Hawthorn Ridge Crater Association.

I have managed to visit both sites and was especially interested to arrive at Lochnagar when a number of students arrive which provided a reflection of magnitude based upon the size of the visitors to the depth of the crater. Lochnagar is the site of several commemorations and one is able to walk a path around its edges. At Hawthorn Ridge I was pleased to stand at the camera site of Malins and McDowell. For an in depth view of the work of the Hawthorn Crater Association visit their website. I look forward to a return to both sites.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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