New WWI Museum opens

French museum opens WW1 tunnels


a French museum giving visitors a close-up glimpse of a network of tunnels where ANZAC and allied forces hid as they prepared to attack German lines during World War I was inaugurated.


Visitors to the Carriere Wellington memorial in Arras, northern France, can tour the tunnels and learn about them in interactive exhibits.


New Zealand miners were brought to northern France in 1916 to build underground tunnels out of chalk quarries. The complex system included kitchens, headquarters and hospitals, and it was able to house 20,000 men.


The tunnellers burrowed toward German lines, allowing troops to plant mines underneath. One of the war's great engineering feats, the tunnels also allowed troops to pop up quickly into their positions for an offensive on April 9, 1917.


In the ensuing fighting, Canadian troops seized a key German defence position at Vimy Ridge, but the success came at a heavy price, with 11,000 casualties, including about 3,600 deaths.


The tunnels were closed after the war and not rediscovered until the 1990s.


France's top official for veterans, Alain Marleix, and Mahara Okeroa, New Zealand's associate minister of arts culture and heritage, attended the opening.


Wonderful to know that it will be preserved and open to the public. On a related note from WWI. This story was from a few years ago...


Tuesday, December 12, 2000





A large part of the thriving Belgian town of Nieuwpoort is in danger of collapse, posing a significant hazard to public safety according to new research from the University of Greenwich, the Association for Battlefield Archaeology in Flanders and the Nottingham Trent University(1). The research team has, for the first time, identified a link between increasing subsidence in Nieuwpoort and military activity by British, Australian, French and Belgian engineers during the First World War.


Miles of tunnels, all fully lined with heavy timbers, were constructed beneath the town and surrounding areas to protect troops from German shelling. Now, the timbers are rotting and the town is beginning to collapse: there are serious signs of subsidence in many areas and several properties may be at risk, with the potential for many more along the Belgian coast.


"A secret menace lurks beneath a landscape once torn by war," says geologist Professor Peter Doyle, from the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Greenwich, an expert in geology and the Great War. "Along the line of the old Western Front, much of Flanders – the land over which the Battle of Passchendaele was fought – is sitting on a time bomb. Timbered chambers and galleries, built to shelter servicemen, were forgotten in the chaos of the post-war period. Now, 85 years later, they are rotting and beginning to give way on a large scale."


The results of an initial investigation are to be published in the next issue of Geoscientist, the monthly magazine of the Geological Society. The team has uncovered "compelling evidence" to explain "total and catastrophic" structural failure in one group of houses(2) .They have found long-forgotten military maps and wartime photographs to show that the line of present day subsidence matches the line of a shallow "cut and cover" subway created by French military engineers.


There is evidence of progressive collapse of houses built along the line of another, deeper tunnel cut by the Royal Engineers in 1917(3). The team has tracked this using the original military records. One typical property is no. 54 Kokstraat, a domestic house where a well and garage floor have collapsed, cracks are widening in the walls and the living room floor is becoming increasingly uneven.


Jean-Pierre Haemers of 37 Pieter Braeckelaan, a neighbour of a failed house, has also been experiencing severe subsidence. He says: "The problems started this year, and have just got worse. We didn’t know who was going to pay for this, as nobody seems to know what is going on."


The research team brings together the geological expertise of researchers at the University of Greenwich and the geohazards expertise of Nottingham Trent.


Ultimately, the researchers aim to identify the risk of ground collapse, raise awareness of geohazards and recommend strategies for minimising the impact on local residences.


Professor Mike Rosenbaum from Nottingham Trent’s Geohazards Group in the Faculty of Construction & the Environment will be applying his expertise in ground engineering to identify fracture patterns and to scientifically quantify the probability of structural damage.


He says: "Probing beneath the ground with rods met with little or no resistance along the line of the tunnel, suggesting open voids below and that the original timber supports are in an advanced state of decay. The preliminary research suggests that subsidence is increasing. Decay in the tunnel support timbers is probably being exacerbated by fluctuations in the water table which encourage fungal rot to take hold."


Professor Doyle warns that the tunnels under Nieuwpoort are just part of the problem: an extensive strip of land along the coastal dunes from Nieuwpoort towards De Panne is under threat, an area on which many new developments have been built. He says: "Deep beneath today’s landscape, the activities of troglodyte soldiers have lain neglected and forgotten for over 80 years. Along the length of the Western Front, covering hundreds of kilometres, the soldier-engineers of both sides cut subways and chambers for shelter. These underground excavations, which have not been adequately researched and surveyed, represent a significant hazard to development and public safety."


Peter Barton, from the Association for Battlefield Archaeology in Flanders, first made the link between tunnels and Nieuwpoort’s current problems. He explains: "When I first heard reports of subsidence in Nieuwpoort from my colleague Johan Vandewalle, it struck a chord in my mind. A friend, a Great War veteran, had served in the area with the Lancashire Fusiliers. He had once told me of his terrible fear of the constant shelling in the streets of the town, as initially it was the only route to the front lines in this sector. When the Royal Engineers built the subways those fears were allayed.


"When we searched for the evidence in archives all over the world, we were surprised at the wealth of information still available. The military had kept highly detailed maps and plans of their excavations, and comprehensive weekly progress reports. Records of an episode forgotten by history until now, when its legacy is beginning to create lasting problems. The situation at Nieuwpoort is by no means unique but the vast scale of workings in such a restricted area is certainly unusual."


Following earlier attempts to discuss this with local authorities in Nieuwpoort, and a meeting last week, the next step for the research team is to hold a public meeting in the town in the New Year to explain the research findings, and their implications directly to local people and their representatives.




(1) Geohazards as a legacy of warfare: the Great War tunnels of Nieuwpoort, Belgium.’ P. Doyle, P. Barton & M. Rosenbaum. To be published in Geoscientist, 22 December 2000.


(2) On the corner of Justus van Clichthovenstraat and Pieter Braeckelaan.


(3) From the Hoogstrat subway to Astridlaan.


(Link was removed because it is no longer active)



For further information:


Kate Dawson

Nottingham Trent University

0115-948 6589




Ted Nield


020-7434 9944


Research team:


Professor Peter Doyle

School of Earth & Environmental Sciences

University of Greenwich

020-8331 9832



Peter Barton

Association for Battlefield Archaeology in Flanders

01580 891878

Mobile: 0378 156664



Professor Mike Rosenbaum

Geohazards Research Group

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Nottingham Trent University

0115-848 2099





Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Well I bet that our Verow will show us soon plenty of photos from that museum!

Martin :rolleyes:


This weekend , I was visiting the wellington quarry

Battle of Arras Memorial 9 April 1917.


Under the paving of Arras , lie impressive chalk quarries which were dug during the Middle ages . during the great war, Arras was destroyed as soon as 1914 . From 1916 , the allies began preparing a diversion attack before the Chemin Des Dames assault . Their brillant idea : The New-Zealand tunnellers were in charge of linking up the quarries to create a true underground network where 24,000 soldiers could be quartered , waiting for the offensive to start.


After going down 20 metres deep in a glass lift , the audioguided tour , accompanied by a courier , takes the visitors into the intimacy of the place , strategic site as well as a living place , the quarry named Wellington by the New Zealand sappers preserves the memory of these thousands of soldiers billeted underground , a few metres from the frontline , before their surprise attack on the German positions in the morning of 9 April 1917 at 5.30 a.m. The raising to the surface , in the footsteps of these soldiers , will lead you to the shock of the battle , which you will experience through the projection of a film .


Also an emblematic memory place , the site of the Wellington quarry , on the surface , offers a memorial garden as well as memorial wall , to render homage to the regiments of the first , Third and Fifth British Armies involved in the Battle of Arras


If you're interested just click on the link below.


I hope you enjoy the pictures!



It's wonderful you were able to finally see this. Must have been a great experience. Thank you for sharing the photographs of the tunnels.
Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

It's amazing to me to think about all of the amazing historical sites that remain just out of reach of us. Sites that were abandoned and forgotten for so long that are just waiting to be discovered. Once again I voice my jealousy of not being able to get to Europe to see any of this for myself. Oh well, there are a few Marine positions in Europe, maybe I'll get lucky.


Thanks for the pictures, as usual, V!

Maj Todd O. USMC, Retired
Grandson of LTC John O'Brien

Thank you Marion and Capto .


I am happy you love the pictures !


I find this link very interesting .


I hope you enjoy reading .


V ;)

Great Photos Vero thx a lot :rolleyes:

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