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Brian Pohanka
The Western Front:
- Belloy-en-Santerre
- Flaucourt, Bray, Albert
- Y-Sap, Lochnager
   Craters
- Memorials, Thiepval
- Ulster Tower,
   Beaumont

- The Somme
- The Fallen Soldier
- Mametz Wood
- Delville Wood, High
   Wood

- Newfoundland Park
- Hawthorne Crater
- Arras
- Proyart, Chevauchee
- Mort Homme, Fort
   Vaux

- Verdun

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Visit to the Western Front
Part 3: Y-Sap, Lochnager Craters

By Brian Pohanka - October 24, 1999

This brief sketch was originally posted at a Civil War discussion group site and is reprinted here with the author's permission.

To look at the fields of the Somme today is to note the healing power of man and of nature, on that once-tortured landscape. After the Armistice it was at first proposed to make many square miles off limits -- as was done at Verdun. Too much unexploded ordnance in the ground, every village leveled, forests and livestock erased, and so on. But the residents of Picardie are a hardy farmer stock and they wanted none of that. So back they went, and literally rebuilt their homes and lives on the same acreage they'd vacated during the War. Today the little villages look much as they did in 1914 -- though with rare exceptions the homes, churches, farms date to the 1920s. Such a place is La Boiselle, which on July 1, 1916 saw some of the worst carnage of that bloody day -- more than 60,000 British casualties, more than 20,000 dead -- in a single day.

The Y-Sap Crater, one of several mines blown up under the German lines, has been filled in, though the white chalk so common in the soil of Picardie marks its outline. The Lochnager Crater on the other hand has been left as it was. High explosive made a crater that was 100 feet deep -- today I would say it is still about 70 feet deep, and must be 80 yards or more across. It makes "The Crater" of [the American Civil War battlefield] at Petersburg [Virginia] look like mighty small by comparison. As we drove up into La Boiselle, noting the memorial to the Tyneside Irish -- one of the new "Kitchener Army" regiments slaughtered that day -- and over to the Lochnager Crater -- it was a solemn site. A 12 foot high memorial cross stands at the edge. There are many dozen of paper poppies, popsicle stick crosses, personal messages to grandparents and so on -- left at it's base. And behind it is the crater.

On October 31, 1998 a tourist walking along the edge of the crater saw a boot heel sticking from the ground. Thinking perhaps it might mark at least a partial set of human remains, he notified the authorities. In fact a complete human skeleton was found, along with equipment and gear, a rifle with wire cutter attachment, and among the items buttons and a badge denoting one of the Tyneside Scottish Battalions -- 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers. No identity disk was found, but a straight rasor, the handle of which had a name and Army Number on it -- identified the man as George Nugent of the 22nd Btn. His remains have since been reinterred in one of the many cemeteries there, with honors.

As I was walking around the lip of the crater I saw a small wooden cross off to one side, near the edge of a plowed farmer's field. There were some of the ubiquitous popsicle stick crosses and paper poppies around it, but no inscription. However this was where, a year earlier, Private Nugent had been found.

red poppy by DLO

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