Furtive underground war

Secret underground warOn the eve of the First World War, no one could believe that the enemy strengthen raspolzutsya horizontally and go deep into the ground, turned into a huge system of trenches, bunkers, shelters, machine gun nests, barbed wire, which gnaw artillery and fails for all four years majestic European carnage.

On the Western Front after a period of non-long combat maneuvering already vsentyabre 1914 the advancing infantry starts to slip in front of the trenches, which will divert the defenders at a feverish pace. And in October, the Western Front practically freeze until the end of the war.

The government put pressure on the generals, demanding frisky and complete victory over the enemy. The generals have also come to the realization that the existing means of warfare to ensure success of the coming of the impossible: the field is very strong defense. Artillery, simply destroys the fortress walls and forts, could not cope with simple ditches. And it's here that the military thought of the ancient technology saps (min). They saw the only way to give the infantry the opportunity to break into the enemy positions.

Cramped, stuffy, humid

Already in October 1914, the Germans and the French on the Argon front immediately began to carry items to the enemy mines, and along with countermine (tunnels, created to destroy not the trenches, mines and enemy).

The first underground-mine attack can be considered an act of French engineers of the 28th Division to the south of the Somme River, about Dompre in October. It was assumed that the explosions minutes at one point they will kill the German soldier in a trench, and the French infantry jump out of glanders (sheltered communication trenches, laid in the direction of the enemy to get closer to his positions) and rapidly seize the enemy's position. Sapna and mine work was assigned to a sapper company of 14/2. We had to dig through several tunnels, each about 300 m

But such works, there are many problems. First, it is very difficult to sustain the direction of the tunnel, and maintain the desired depth. For example, when laying the first countermine Russian sappers at Port Arthur in 1904 tunnel suddenly for them after 10 meters left on the surface. The premise was the inexperience of the fighter. Apparently, in France, as in Germany, there were miners and mining engineers capable of solving these puzzles. But ordinary coal mines torn for decades as the production of minerals, and no one puts the miners puzzle High tunnel lining when you need to dig hundreds of meters in a matter of weeks. In the ordinary mine tunnel dimensions are determined by the convenience of movement of people, the criteria for work or transportation of coal mined ore to the surface, the width of the coal seam.

The military is mine must have small width and height, which provide a smaller volume of removed soil, but give the opportunity for all that digging.

Had to develop new methods of fixing the walls and ceilings of tunnels. Those used in civilian mine, there were not good. Proved inefficient ordinary miner's tools, and of little use — lighting means, although they were used right up to 1915.

Particularly complicated question ventilation. In everyday mines make their way up the special trunks on which served the freshest air and gases are sucked miner. For underground mines can be almost every fifty meters to punch up the trunk and put it on the fan. Almost like the enemy emergence holes in the neutral zone, and besides, equipped with air pumps. But due to the small section of tunnel air in it very quickly becomes invalid for breathing.

On the dilemma of groundwater can not even mention — they had to be pumped constantly.

Secret underground war

Mines and Mine
Word of mine from the British and German translates as "mine." In order not to confuse the underground development on the specific ski-mi engineering ammunition, the latter are usually referred to as the landmine. In the same Russian military terminology in the time of Peter I the word "mine" in the sense it is "mine, to lay charges for blasting powder (explosives) under the enemy positions." And what we now call mine, in those days was called land mines, or, more precisely, "samovzryvnymi land mines"

First experiments

It is understood that the first underground mine was exploded German mine made the 2nd company of the 30th Combat Engineer Regiment in Rhineland forests Argonne Nov. 13, 1914. Charge it was small — only 40 kg. With the explosion crater with a diameter of 6.5 m — a bit more than a break from the 203-mm howitzer projectile. But still this explosion has permitted the Germans to move the front line a few hundred meters ahead.

Autumn and early winter of 1914/15, the French and the Germans had mined in mutual attacks. The main acts took place on the Vimy Ridge (Vimy) and on the plateau ridge Butte de Vauquois (Butte de Vauquois) near the village of Vauquois, located at an altitude of 289 m above sea level. Explosive charges do not exceed 50-100 kg, and tunnels dug no deeper 5m French used only black powder, large supplies of which have survived from the XIX century, loaded with French arsenals.

The British, whose army was very small, did not have the necessary number of engineers and very late with the start of mine operations. They launched their first attack only mine in December 1914 near the village Fri Festubert (Festubert) Force India team. In the tunnel length of 24 m laid 205 kg of gun-cotton. But the Germans have found work and languid mortar fire forced the Indians to abandon the trial to undermine the charge.

Secret underground war

Sketch indicates the conditions of military miner, or, as they were called in Russia, "minerals", and in the UK — clay-kicker. Ironic interpretation of the word — "kicking the clay", and the work itself was called working on cross (work on the cross). The height of the tunnel does not exceed 70 cm, width — 60. Hard to call this building the tunnel, it is faster Mole move. By the way, in the UK naikrupneyshy special underground-mine case Norton Griffiths officially called the people who worked in underground mines, the word moles (moles)

Mines and countermine

In 1915, the mines have become as much a means of preparing an infantry attack, and that the artillery. In January, in the Champagne Germans, trying to capture the main village at the height of 191 Massige, paved her five tunnels, in which laid more than 24 tons of dark powder. For all this they were able to capture only two lanes the enemy trenches is the height of the French left.

February 7 French began to attack the mountain ranges of Les Eparzh (Les Eparges) and Butte de Vauquois. Observation posts at these altitudes allowed the Germans to control the entire area to the east and west of Verdun. These key positions will inevitably have to be the main objectives
of the underground war as artillery showed their inability to crack the defense of the Germans. Mines started to conduct in October 1914. 7 February the French realized that the enemy is to meet countermine. Not to lose four months of the heavy work, they decided to break prematurely, which was made on February 17 at 14:00. But since they are not close to the German positions, the result was zero.

Illusions about the ability of underground mines remained very still for a long time. Fierce mine warfare behind the ridges and Eparzh Les Buttes de Vauquois illumine delayed until 1918. And the underground defense was stronger coming. On the surface, the men improved trenches and barbed wire, developed their network. Underground network of opponents did defensive countermine tunnels for protection from enemy mines, trying at the same time to fool the defense and take their positions at the mines.

The underground network

In 1915, in particular the struggle was angry at Karens inconspicuous village, located in the northern part of Vimy Ridge in the department of Pas-de-Calais. French command has come to the conclusion that there is an underground mine, the defensive front.

To this end, the French decided to run the tunnels of 20-30m in the direction of the enemy on the 2-level and cross-linking of their moves, so that at any moment could start mine countermine work or threatened in any location is fairly close to the enemy and remotely from their own positions . The longitudinal tunnels began at the rear, with a band of second or even third position, and the trenches were held under the first position. In the end, formed a continuous network of caves along the strip trenches in front of them at 20-30 m Enemy work now can be heard throughout the band edge at a distance of up to 20 meters — is allowed chalky soil. In addition, the mesh tunnel provides a huge safety miners, as in the case of the collapse of a tunnel miner could get out of the ground through at least some the other.

May 9, 1915 storm village Karens began the second Battle of Artois. The French then paved 17 minutes, which laid the 17.5 tons sheddita. The explosives had been undermined for 20 minutes. At the station "Alpha" explosions min absolutely ruined trenches and shelters in over 300 meters of heavy shelling is not allowed Germans to tighten up on this part of the reserves. Infantry attack parcel was taken after the insignificance of resistance. And although the Germans still held the Karens three days, the integrity of their defense was breached and the village had to surrender.

Show with fireworks

1916 was a period of more active mining operations. Separate charges min reached 50 tonnes in weight ammonal. But the most stunning mine operation when at least part of the front length of 15 km was detonated at once 19 min (range, 6 to 43 tons ammonal) met the British in June 1917. The drama of history, this operation has had no military significance. But in war as in the play: in the first act on the hanging wall of the gun, in the 3rd, it should shoot. In the autumn of 1915 in the Messines Ridge (Messines) began preparations coming, which included vsebya gasket mine tunnels. By the summer of 1916, when it was planned for the coming of the Allied ridge, under the German positions were announced and are equipped with explosives about 14-15 minutes.

But the plan was foiled German first coming on Verdun (February-December 1916), then the coming of the Allies on the Somme (July-November 1916). Coming to terms Messines Ridge postponed a couple of times, and in August and most have been displaced by year.

June 7, 1917, for a four day or prior to the advent, languid British artillery began the destruction of the German positions. As it turned out, the Germans knew of Britain's plans and not having enough troops and ammunition to hold positions, have begun the withdrawal of troops, leaving only a small cover.

Of course, the British were aware of this. Not the case at the height of Kemmel a 2-miles from the mine was built Spanbrokmolen platform from which the British Army's senior generals and countless journalists can keep track of mine explosions and attacks. These shows are usually satisfied only in those cases where the apparent success of the battle.

The show was a success. Lt. Brian Freyling, who oversaw the greatest explosion in the history of war, mines Spanbrokmolen (43m ammonal), described the incident as "… At first, the sharp quake, earthquake faster. The platform swayed and creaked. We have all been hit by the meat. Slowly began to surge ahead of the dark side, which has risen to the middle of the sky, and here is a dazzling pure white light shone all around. The soldiers of the 14th Infantry Regiment, the Royal Irish, who rose from the trenches at the time of the explosion, all were knocked down. I looked to the north and frightened. There, too, rose to the horizon wall of soil and dust. "

Diggers of our time

Specifically, in the first world development undermining the enemy's positions received its greatest development time and also over its long history.

It would seem, then you can make your point. But … in the XXI century underground acts revived. On the night of 27 to 28 June 2004 in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants to tunnel a few hundred meters under the Israeli checkpoint and blast 170-pound charge of TNT killed him. But the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, paving the tunnels up to 1 km and through these tunnels make them suitable supply of real money. And we can now call it underground-mine war only because the Israelis and do not try to lead the response underground acts at all necessary for this feature.

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