How First World War soldiers on Western Front used to live in underground tunnels

November 10th, 2008 - 3:51 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 10 (ANI): Archaeologists have excavated an extensive network of First World War tunnels near the Belgian town of Ypres, which provide an insight into the underground life of the soldiers on Western Front during that period.

The tunnels were built by the Royal Engineers in the closing stages of the First World War.

According to a report in the Telegraph, the survey of the dugout, named Vampire, has shed fascinating new light on the experiences of the tens of thousands of soldiers who lived in similar subterranean workings, from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier, with dozens of poignant items of everyday life recovered.

After unearthing the entrance to the original shaft, used 90 years ago to create the structure, the group, led by academics from the University of Glasgow, followed it down 50ft below ground, after pumping out hundreds of tonnes of mud and water.

At the bottom, they discovered a 30ft long section, with a concrete floor, accessed by two staircases back to the surface, and with recesses for bunk beds to provide accommodation for around 60 men.

The section is connected to other subterranean chambers, but because of collapsed workings and the discovery of unexploded shells, these cannot currently be safely excavated.

Among the items recovered was a moustache comb created by a soldier by whittling away two thirds of the teeth from an ordinary comb.

A bottle of original HP sauce, made by FG Gartons in Nottingham, a Bairds pickle jar, from Glasgow, and a bottle of Cambridge Anchovy Paste, showed how the men, faced with the daily grind of frontline rations, tried to spice up their dreary diet.

The archaeologists also recovered an empty wine bottle, a petrol can used for storing water for tea, and a makeshift stove made from a German jerry can.

Scorch marks found on the walls of the tunnels indicate where candles were stuck with mud, to help illuminate the cramped conditions.

Archaeologists also found a functioning water pump, needed to keep the tunnels - built deep below the water table - dry.

What we have uncovered is unique, said military historian Dr Peter Barton. The most impressive artefact is the structure itself. It offers the opportunity to understand the endeavour and meticulousness that went into what was the only viable place where the men could live in the forward zone, he added. (ANI)

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