World War I Underground

    Along much of the Western Front can be found reminders of the First World War.  With the help of a native, we will see some interesting remains in relatively obscure areas that saw little in the way of heavy fighting.  Especially interesting are rock quarries, some dating to medieval times, that troops modified and used as infantry shelters, dressing stations, and command posts.  

In many cases like this one, stone blocks were used to create rooms within a quarry.  In other places chimneys were dug to allow wood burning within a quarry.  Deeper inside the quarry there are wooden mounts on the wall, likely used to hold up bunk beds.  Today, some of these quarries are used a shelters by hunters.


Some locations are difficult to find, near impossible unless you know where they are.  Teenagers, of course, know exactly where they are. Chisel marks on the wall vary according to the era when the stone was removed.  Deeper in you find smoother surfaces.  These marks closer to the entrance are rougher and date to medieval times.

Wartime graffitti can be found on the quarry walls.

In some cases rock has fallen from the ceiling.

 In some cases, quarrymen were a bit too greedy and took out too much stone.  The quarries later collapsed.


In the panorama above, the French frontline was in the plowed field parallel to this farm lane.  The large depression in the center of the panorama is the location of a dugout - an infantry shelter.  Further to the right in the distance there is another depression where there was a dugout.

The photo at right shows a stairway descending into a dugout.  It looks dangerous to enter, so we continue elsewhere.  Each dugout would have two entrances seperated by a great enough distance that one artillery projectile could not destroy them both.  After the war many of the entrances were dynamited to close them off, but some can still be accessed.

The area here is solid rock, but elsewhere the French would build dugout with layers and layers of logs, packed earth and iron sheeting. In some quiet areas, electrical alarms were even used.

Trenches have been largely obliterated in agricultural areas.  In a forest like this one you are more likely to find remnants of the trench systems.


French were not fond of using concrete when creating their trench systems because there was a limited supply, and they thought that it took too much time to preparation.  Concrete defenses also lacked flexibility and were conspicuous targets.  The Germans, however, used concrete in a number of locations.  At this pillbox there are remains of German barbed wire, with more barbs than civilian wire and also thicker to better survive shell fragments.  Also visible here are rails used in narrow guage railways which were used to bring supplies to the front line.


This German position has clear layers.  As the war continued, materials became scare and the content of the cement changed.

Siting atop this position is the casing of a fired artillery round.  In other places unexploded ordnance can be found.  Every year, people are killed by unexploded ordnance.  If you go exploring, use caution.  

Copyright 2012 by John Hamill

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