Carriere Wellington Tunnels
- Arras, France -
Welcome to some more tunnels. An underground city of ancient quarry tunnels hid thousands of Allied soldiers in WWI.
The Allies had a secret weapon as they faced off against German troops near the town of Arras, France in the spring of 1917: an underground city, hiding supplies and an estimated 24,000 Allied soldiers.
Tunnel warfare has been common throughout human history in many parts of the world, and WWI was no exception. However, most tunnels of the Great War were either merely cut-and-covered trenches barely below the surface of battlefields, or secret passageways under enemy territory designed for eavesdropping and, occasionally, for detonating gigantic mines. The tunnels under Arras were different.
Quarried since the middle ages (and possibly as far back as Roman times), the tunnels under Arras provided stone for much of the above ground building up until the 19th century. Starting in the fall of 1916, expert tunnelers were brought in to expand and connect the ancient passages in preparation for battle.
Used both as shelter and for troop movement during the offensive, the tunnels may have contributed to the success of the battle. Despite heavy losses - estimated as high as 158,660 Allied troops and German losses at about 120,000 - the surprise attack in April of 1917 was generally considered a tactical success, inching the Allies towards eventual victory.
During WWII the tunnels found new life as air raid shelters for local citizens, before being re-sealed in 1945, and slowly forgotten until they were re-discovered in 1990.
In 2008 the tunnels were opened to the public as part of a new museum dedicated to the memory of those who served in WWI, with special attention given to the tunnelers and soldiers who lived and fought below Arras.
Clancy's comment: I guess you do what you have to do according to the circumstances prevailing at the time.