Uniquely honouring the fallen of the Great War

The Lochnagar Crater was created by a large mine placed beneath the German front lines on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, it was one of 19 mines that were placed beneath the German lines from the British section of the Somme front, to assist the infantry advance at the start of the battle.

The British named the mine after ‘Lochnagar Street’, a British trench where the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers dug a shaft down about 90 feet deep into the chalk; then excavated some 300 yards towards the German lines to place 60,000 lbs (27 tons) of ammonal explosive in two large adjacent underground chambers 60 feet apart. Its aim was to destroy a formidable strongpoint called ‘Schwaben Höhe’ (Swabian Heights) in the German front line, south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département.

Battle of Albert. Laying a charge in a mine chamber. Note the officer using Geophone. July 1916. © IWM (Q115)
The Explosion

On Saturday 1st July 1916, at 7.28am, two minutes before the attack began, the mine was exploded, leaving the massive crater 70ft (21m) deep and 330 ft (100 m) wide, that we see today.

Debris was flung almost a mile into the air, as graphically recorded by Royal Flying Corps pilot Cecil Lewis in his book ‘Sagittarius Rising’:
‘The whole earth heaved and flared, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up into the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar, drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet.’

The reason the Crater is so large is that the chambers were overcharged. Meaning, sufficient explosive was used to, not only break the surface and form a crater, but enough to cause spoil to fall in the surrounding fields and form a lip around the Crater of approximately 15ft high, to protect the advancing British troops from enfilade machine-gun fire from the nearby village of La Boisselle.

The Crater was captured and held by British troops but the attack on either flank was defeated by German small-arms and artillery fire – except on the extreme right flank and between La Boisselle and the Lochnagar Crater.

The Crater today

Today the Lochnagar Crater has been preserved as a memorial to all the men and women of all nations who suffered in the Great War and now has in excess of 200,000 visits a year, many of them British and French schoolchildren.

In 1986 a large cross of medieval wood was erected close to the lip. It was made with roof timbers from an abandoned, deconsecrated church close to Durham – most likely a church used by some of the soldiers from Tyneside who themselves fell at Lochnagar.

On the anniversary on July 1st, a remembrance ceremony is held, starting at 7.28am – the exact time of the explosion. Lasting about an hour, with around 75 wreaths being laid, it is often attended by up to 1,000 people. Should you wish to attend please click on this link to find out more.

The Role of the Foundation

The Foundation was set up as a charitable organisation designed to secure the long-term future of Lochnagar. Its focus is on Conservation, Commemoration and Reconciliation.

Visitor Information

Head for the village of La Boisselle which is on the D929 between the town of Albert and the village of Pozières. On arrival at La Boisselle look out for the signs to La Grande Mine.