The following are first hand quotes and diary extracts relating to the use of mines in the Great War. They are taken from Paul Allens book 'Neath a foreign sky.'
Extract: Huge mines The Somme July 1916 ...At 7-30am the bombardment abruptly ended. There followed soon after the ear splitting roar of the mines 'going up'. Probably the most famous of the mines, the one under Hawthorne Ridge, was filmed by Army cameraman Geoffrey Malins, who later recorded:
'Then it happened, the ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion, it rocked and swayed, I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then for all the world like a gigantic sponge the earth rose in the air to the height of hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible grinding roar the earth fell back upon itself leaving in it's place a mountain of smoke'
Extract: Messines mines - Third Wipers
At ten minutes past three precisely the nineteen mines under Messines Ridge had been blown taking thousands of unsuspecting Germans with them. At Hill 60 and a position known as 'The Caterpillar', huge clods of earth the size of farm wagons had been thrown into the air forming a crater 430 feet across. Philip Gibbs the war correspondent for the 'Daily Chronicle', a witness to the blast, had subsequently reported to his readers:
'The most diabolical splendour I have ever seen. Out of the dark ridges of Messines and Wytscaete and the ill famed Hill 60, there gushed out and up enormous volumes of scarlet flame from the exploding mines and of earth and smoke all lighted by the flame spilling over into mountains of fierce colour, so that all the countryside was illuminated by red light. Where some of us stood watching, aghast and spellbound by this burning horror, the ground trembled and surged violently to and fro. Truly the earth quaked'
Extract: Huge mine
A few precious seconds before the beginning of the assault, the artillery bombardment, which had been pounding the Germans positions continuously day and night since the fourth of April had abruptly stopped:
'Only a few seconds to go, then suddenly a complete silence, an absolute cessation of the intense roar, a stillness punctuated and emphasised by the barking of trench mortars up and down the lines; every gun had stopped firing. That sudden silence was more terrifying than the most reverberating explosion. It had the effect of making men feel that they were losing their balance on the edge of the abyss... it did not last long. At 5-30 to the second the earth shook as the mines exploded with a muffled roar [the Royal Engineers had detonated two mines under the German positions] and every gun n the fifteen-mile front of attack and beyond it opened fire with a clamour such as had probably never been heard in the world... The air screamed as it was torn by a thousand shells. Miles up the great projectiles hummed their mighty drone. Lower down through each layer of air the shells flew according to their kind, until, quite above the lines of men closing in behind the barrage, the missiles of light mortars and the bullets of machine guns hissed…. Within three minutes of the time it took our men to form up behind the barrage, a new kind of illumination was added to the fantastic scene. For miles upon miles, all along the German lines hundreds of flares went up. Red, white orange, the distress signals shot high, falling back in sprays of multicoloured rain. The German infantry was begging for support the British were upon them'