A Durand Group member looking down the subway passage. This is a communication passage where troops would have sheltered before attacks. During the wait inside the tunnel many had time to carve graffiti inside the tunnels. The graffiti in the picture on the right is of Canadian origin.
The incline ends at the main subway entrance. Once intended to be used as a mushroom farm but never used. The local area once had many coal mines, some original coal mining pit props have been used to support the gallery roof.
The Bottom of the Entrance Incline
Location: Loos-en-Gohelle, Pas de Calais, France
Project Detail:Excavation and investigation of a British multi-level tunnel system containing listening and fighting
galleries, a brigade battle headquarters and several internal and external shafts and subways.
Context: After the unsuccessful and costly Battle at Loos in September 1915 - the first major British offensive of the war - 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers began sinking shafts and driving galleries to counter an enemy mining initiative immediately to the south and east of the town. They did this from existing galleries begun by 17thDivision of the French XXI Corps between October and December 1915. From January 1916 to April 1917 the tunnellers waged war underground - at three levels - MAIN (35 ft), DEEP (60 ft) and DEEP DEEP (115 ft), later supported by the newly raised 258 Tunnelling Company RE, who deployed to the Hill 70 mining sector in April 1916. Together with Hulluch to the north, these two sectors were then taken over by 3rd Australian Tunnelling Company until September 1918. By that time the enemy mining threat had ceased almost completely and the front was relatively quiet.
Results: The Group has accessed elements of all three levels - although the lowest level proved to be a considerable engineering challenge - as the shaft leading to it needed to be excavated completely (due to infill from the surface), re-lined with 80 ft of timber and supported by acrows. To make matters more difficult for the Group, this level is also under water for much of the year, due rain washing in from the fields to the south.
Educational resources: Informational material has been prepared for the museum of the Association sur les traces de la Grande Guerre in Loos-en-Gohelle, in the form of mobile displays.