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The Danger Tree

By Hop-A-Long  
Good morning everyone.
Today I am sharing one of my photographs from a trip to The Somme that my wife and I went on. This upload was inspired by Moira mrswoolybill's upload the other day.
My wifes Great Grandfather was a tunneler in WW1,he sadly never came home, nor was he ever found. His name is remembered on the memorial at Thiepval.
His job was to tunnel underneath the enemies trenches, lay a huge amount of explosives then blow the trenches and all their contents up.
This was a very tricky job as the Germans were also doing this and were listening constantly with highly technical equipment for the time for any noise that could alert them to enemy presence, this was also the case for the Allys.
One of the most famous of these explosions is the Lochnagar Crater which has been preserved in memory of all those who fort and died there. The explosion was so large that they say it was heard in London. The crater is immense, I have uploaded a photo of it as a version, however I do not think a photo does its size justice.

My upload is of the "Petrified Tree" or the "Danger Tree". This tree is at a place called Beaumont Hamel which is where the Canadian Newfoundlands fought during the WW1.
This tree is in what was called no mans land. All my life I considered no mans land to be a short distance, maybe a football pitch in length, these thoughts were probably assisted by films which depict the distance as being a short sprint, the idea of a short distance soon changed when I saw it for myself. We are talking at least half a mile to cover. Looking from the trench, you can only just make out the enemies position in the distance.
I began to imagine hearing that whistle, which to be honest would have alerted the enemy to your intentions, you then have to haul yourself out of limited safety of your trench with all your gear and rifle where bullets are coming at you from nowhere as you wouldn't be able to pick out the gunners position, shells are falling which either explode into shrapnel or release chemicals such as mustard gas that would burn you in a horrific way. Then with all that weight of equipment and utter terror running through your body you have to run a massive distance through mud and dead comrades and enemies that went previous to you. If you made it, which the chances of doing so must have been tiny, you would probably have been so tired you wouldn't have the energy to fight.
Having seen this distance for myself, I now know why so many men died, the whole tactic was absolutely barbaric.
I have heard people say "It was suicidal", I have to say, this was not suicide as these men were under orders from above to go, if they refused then they were taken at dawn and executed for cowardice.

I have to say it was a very emotional visit and one I shall never forget.
I have taken a piece from Wikipedia below about the Danger Tree, just to give you some more information.

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaumont-Hamel_Newfoundland_Memorial
"The Danger Tree had been part of a clump of trees located about halfway into No Man's Land and had originally been used as a landmark by a Newfoundland Regiment trench raiding party in the days before the Battle of the Somme. British and German artillery bombardments eventually stripped the tree of leaves and left nothing more than a shattered tree trunk. During the Newfoundland Regiment's infantry assault, the tree was once again used as a landmark, where the troops were ordered to gather. The tree was however a highly visible landmark for the German artillery and the site proved to be a location where the German shrapnel was particularly deadly. As a result, the regiment suffered a large concentration of casualties around the tree. A replica representation of the twisted tree now stands at the spot."


Thanks for looking and for any comments or votes that you may leave.
Andy

Tags: Death War Tree Battle Fight Army Canada Somme Landscape and travel Survive Trench

Voters: mrswoolybill, BillRookery, Chinga and 6 more


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Comments


mrswoolybill Plus
13 2.1k 2233 United Kingdom
8 Jan 2017 10:58AM
I recognised this in the thumbnail, thanks for the upload. I should hunt out my own photo... It's extraordinarily evocative, even if it is a replacement, the original did not survive the Great War.
I have stood there, it's a weird feeling. Even today you sense how exposed, vulnerable it was.
I think I heard that three men died for every metre of the advance.
One of the local guides, Vic Piuk, who lives nearby, is a trustee of the group that saved Lochnagar crater from being used as a landfill tip. There's quite a story there...

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woolybill1 Plus
13 33 76 United Kingdom
8 Jan 2017 12:09PM
Somehow I recognised it too. I may even have a photo of it from a few years ago. I certainly photographed the Lochnagar Crater, but it's too vast to do it justice.
No man's land varied in width from a handful of metres to may be a kilometre or more. Opposing lines were seldom parallel: trenches were dug hurriedly, under fire, usually in foul weather and at night. To call the whole ensemble a trench "system" is to stretch a point, the only principle being to get the men under cover.
After days of artillery fire the ground to be covered by the men was far from flat, while woods, trees, hedgerows, buildings, entire villages were obliterated. Anything that did remain could be used as a sighting marker for artillery, church towers being particularly popular for this purpose, but even little trees could have more than merely symbolic purpose.
The whole history of mining and underground warfare has taken over a century to become known to more than a very few. I cannot begin to imagine its horrors. I can only equate the position of the men to that of submariners, another job I wouldn't fancy.

Thanks for posting this, Andy. I must have gone off the point somewhere (surprise, surprise!)

Regards
Bill
nonur 11 18 13 Turkey
9 Jan 2017 3:16AM
You excellent comprehensive narrative makes this shot very meaningful, and your shot of the crater has enough clues to imagine the immensity of the crater, Andy.
Chinga Plus
9 3 2 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2017 7:55AM
Thank you for the excellent write up... That little cross at the food of the tree just makes is so moving...
Isabel

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