Tunnellers on the Western Front: The Underground War 7-11 June 2017


I have developed this five-day tour with The Cultural Experience to offer an unparalleled opportunity to visit some of the outstanding sites associated with underground warfare on the Western Front during the Great War. It draws on thirty years of experience and research with access to a range of surviving galleries and caves. Full details of the tour are available at The Cultural Experience website.

Day 1 – Ypres and Messines.

Travel from London St Pancras by Eurostar to Lille. Drive to Ypres to discuss mining in the Salient and the epic tunnelling achievement which resulted in the huge mine explosions at Messines in June 1917, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle. Check-in to our hotel and attend the Menin Gate ceremony.


The four craters at Hooge, blown by the Experimental Company of the Prussian Guard Pioneers, on 6 June 1916, virtually wiping out two companies of the 28th Northwest Canadian Battalion.


The Caterpillar Crater blown by Oliver Woodward’s 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, (featured in the movie Beneath Hill 60). It is one of the 19 Messines mines all detonated at 3.10am on 7th June 1917.

Day 2 – Arras & The Somme.

We take a guided visit of Wellington Quarry, used by British troops prior to the Battle of Arras in April 1917. Thence to La Boisselle to visit the Lochnagar Crater, the result of the massive mine exploded on 1 July 1916. We take lunch at Auchonvillers where we visit a cellar dressing station and a preserved trench. This afternoon we visit the eerie Bouzincourt cave system with its extant graffiti, relics and many chambers. Continue to Châlons-en-Champagne, our base for the rest of the tour.


The Wellington Quarries, an exit to the surface strewn with British helmets, prepared for the Battle of Arras, 9 April 1917.


The Lochnagar Crater today (Wikimedia Commons).


An inscription left by a soldier of the Highland Light Infantry in the Bouzincourt cave. (blogs.ac-amiens.fr)


Artefacts left by British soldiers in the Bouzincourt cave. (blogs.ac-amiens.fr)

Day 3 – Les Éparges & St Mihiel.

This morning we visit Les Éparges for the spectacular mine craters, bunkers and tunnel entrances. We break for lunch in Saint-Mihiel and then view the amazing trenches and bunkers at the tranchée des Bavarois and Bois Brulé.

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A wartime aerial view of the mine craters and trenches at Les Eparges.



German bunker protecting the entrance to a deep mine gallery at Les Eparges.


Restored French trenches, Bois Brulé.


German trenches, Bois Brulé.


German dugout entrance, Bois Brulé.


German bunker, Bois Brulé.


German bunker, Bois Brulé.


German bunker, Bois Brulé.


Grave marker of a German Pioneer, Bois Brulé.

Day 4 – Vauquois.

We spend a full day at the spectacular site at Vauquois taking the underground tour and visiting the trenches, spectacular mine craters, bunkers and the museum.

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The line of mine craters which separated the lines at the butte de Vauquois, 1918 and today (butte-vauquois.fr)


The German front line and mine craters at Vauquois. (Wikimedia Commons)


Entrance to underground accommodation beneath the German front line.


The French S1 mine gallery at Vauquois.


The French S1 mine gallery at Vauquois.

Day 5 – Aisne.

Our final destination is a specially arranged visit to the Froidmont Quarry, also known as the Creute or Cave of the Americans, on the Aisne to see remarkable wartime carvings.  We stop for a lunchbreak in Laon. Thence commence our drive to Lille for our return train journey to London.



Sculpture by an American soldier in the Froidmont Quarry, and French and German inscriptions side by side. (Wikimedia Commons)


Your guide (in the La Boisselle tunnels).

Full details of the tour Tunnellers on the Western Front: The Underground War 7-11 June 2017 are on The Cultural Experience website. 

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I am currently working on a book about tunnelling at La Boisselle, read the story of the Lochnagar Mine here.

EB-Literary Executors for the Vera Brittain Estate, 1970 and The Vera Brittain Fonds, McMaster University Library-CropBWenhWhere and how did Edward Brittain die?



2 thoughts on “Tunnellers on the Western Front: The Underground War 7-11 June 2017

  1. I’m not sure of my summer movements yet Simon, but let’s suppose I was available, what would be the cost of such a wonderful trip? RegardsBrian

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

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