‘Blowing’ Messines ridge – a century ago today

Matthew Wright

It’s a century, this June 7, since the British blew up Messines Ridge, part of the front line of the Ypres salient where they had been wedged against the Germans since the end of 1914.

The blast involved most of the 1,307,800 pounds of ammonal, dynamite, gun cotton and blasting gelatine TNT, amatol and other explosives that industrious British tunnellers had been quietly planting under the German lines since early 1916. They were planted in 25 caches; and of these, 21 were deliberately detonated to support a British attack on the night of 7-8 June 1917. Nineteen of them went off over a space of 30 seconds, representing – as far as I am aware – the biggest non-nuclear detonation in military history.

The craters are still there – I’ve stood in one of them – a testament to the power the British unleashed that night. And one of the un-detonated…

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