Group of volunteer explorers surveyed a sector of the line called Copse – which is part of a 12km long First World War front near Lens, northern France. They discovered numerous items and several pen and pencil inscriptions made by tunnellers of Durham Light Infantry.
Long forgotten passageways from the Battle of Loos during the First World War are researched by volunteer archaeologists, historians, surveyors and engineers, to discover more about the tunnellers working in France. So far rusty explosives, digging equipment and remains of trench life were found and graffiti giving names, service numbers and regiments of the men who fought a hidden war. The area of the works has a multi-level network of tunnels, including listening and fighting galleries, a brigade battle headquarters and several internal and external shafts. According to the explorers the tunnels are difficult to explore as there can be poor quality air, deep water, unstable collapses and unexploded ordinance within them.
The experts state that the Durham Light Infantry probably weren’t involved in the tunnelling, but were a regiment in the line, and may have been living and working in the tunnels. The details from the graffiti, including the names and service numbers of three men, were checked with the Durham Record Office. Using census and parish records the archivists were able to find out more about who the soldiers were before they enlisted. All three were discharged due to becoming medically unfit for further service and that alone tells us something of the appalling conditions the soldiers had to serve in. Private Robert Richard Slater came from Ryhope, in what is now Gateshead, and later Thornley Colliery, near Kelloe in County Durham; Lance Corporal Reginald George Walker from Consett and later Chopwell; and researchers have not been able to find out much about Private J. Brown.
(after Star Radio)