Mine’s A Guinness

While Bisley met some of the requirements of the Heavy Section, it was neither big enough nor far enough away from prying eyes and so a search was made for s suitable alternative.  The answer lay in Suffolk (not a phrase you hear that often today), at the home of Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness dynasty; Elveden estate.

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Elveden was requisitioned in May 1916 and in early June a large detachment of Royal Engineers was sent there to create an exact replica of the German trenches and defensive positions in France.

Security was tight and two Battalions of the Royal Defence Corps reinforced by the Royal Hampshire Regiment (and briefly by Indian cavalry) were employed to keep people out of the are which was cunningly called the Elveden Explosives Area.  A special pass was required to enter and signs warning of a deadly peril, posted around the perimeter, kept the locals out.

The Royal Engineers did an outstanding job creating a replica battlefield that was over one and a half miles wide, and in depth it contained the British support and front lines, no man’s land, and the German first, support, second and third lines.  It included breastworks, wire, wooden barriers (abates), craters, machine gun emplacements, communication trenches.  Massive craters were explosively created and some of the farm buildings were fortified to replicate German redoubts.  In total some 3000 men spent six weeks creating the training area.

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