Under the trenches and fields of the Somme lies a complex and extensive network of tunnels. Here, beneath the wastes of No Man's Land, British and German miners risked a terrible death in ... See full summary »

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Peter Barton ...
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Under the trenches and fields of the Somme lies a complex and extensive network of tunnels. Here, beneath the wastes of No Man's Land, British and German miners risked a terrible death in trying to "undermine" the enemy, laying charges that would wreak death and destruction in the tunnels around them and in the trenches above. Written by Anonymous

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20 May 2013 (UK)  »

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Curious Program That Seems Uncertain About its Perspective
25 November 2015 | by (London) – See all my reviews

SECRET TUNNEL WARS is another one of those archaeological programs where an intrepid explorer (Peter Barton) and his intrepid team rake over the past - both literally as well as academically - in search of new historical truths.

In this case, their object of attention is the land in and around the Somme, where the infamous battle raged during World War I. With the help of sophisticated digging equipment, as well as equipment used at that time (a bayonet, a kick-mining device), Barton tells the story of the miners, both British and German, who spent much of their time underground digging tunnels in which explosives could be placed so as to kill as many of the opposition as possible.

Moving in confined spaces with the aid only of artificial light, Barton showed us just how difficult the task was of digging tunnels: under the perpetual threat of death, the miners worked on, and even when they had finished, there was no guarantee that their efforts would produce any advantage either for the British or the German armies.

Unlike the area above ground, the tunnels have remained intact for nearly a century, with equipment and corpses strewn among the rubble. The discovery of such finds might be beneficial for the archaeologists, but we could not help but feel somewhat guilty that the past was being excavated in such a peremptory manner. In light of the carnage that happened during the Battle of the Somme, we wondered whether it might not have been better to leave the past undisturbed.

The program failed to resolve this tension: on the one hand Barton rejoiced in his finds, but on the other he tried to make us aware of the consequences of the battle wherein scores and scores of troops were quite literally cut down in their prime. Even the tunnels failed to work properly, as the Germans foiled an ambitious British plan to advance further forward and killed thousands more men in the process.


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