THE SPANBROEKMOLEN MINE

The right hand photograph shows the flooded crater of this huge mine the result of the explosion of 91,000 lb. of ammonal at 3.10 a.m on 7th June 1917.

Prepared for the battle of Messines (7th-14th June 1917), the mine took 171 Tunnelling Company R.E. a year to excavate. Just before the battle was due to commence, German artillery fire destroyed the passage to the charge causing considerable doubt as to whether or not the mine could be blown. Working frantically day and night the miners dug a second gallery, only completing the work a day before the British attack was due to begin. Nevertheless there was still a doubt that the charge could be exploded and the infantry of the 36th (Ulster) Division were told not to wait if the mine failed to explode. The mine exploded 15 seconds late but although the force of the explosion flung some men to the ground, as they traversed No Man's Land there were no casualties.

The Germans had suspected that the British were mining in this area and had actually raided the trenches without discovering the mine shaft. The Royal Engineers sign "Deep Well – Keep Out" apparently sufficed to keep the existence of the mine a secret.

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