In order to assist the general attack on 1 July, eight large and 11 small mines had been prepared under the German defensive positions. These comprised two large and nine small mines on the Mametz front (at the southern end of the battlefield); three large mines at 'The Tambour', opposite Fricourt; two large and two small near La Boisselle and one large mine near Beaumont-Hamel. Excavated with great skill and patience, in most dangerous and difficult conditions, by specialist Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers, the mines were classic weapons of siege warfare brought up to date by the use of the latest powerful explosives.
Great controversy still rages about the explosion of the huge mine at Hawthorn Ridge, near Beaumont-Hamel, which was fired at 7.20am, ten minutes before zero-hour.
The early detonation alerted the Germans to the impending British attack; German artillery was able to register on the British front lines and defending machine-gunners were able to emerge from their deep dug-outs and set up their weapons. Film footage of the explosion taken by the official Army Cinematographer is shown regularly on television and its striking imagery conveys the enormous power of the explosion which, some contemporary commentators remark, was heard across the Channel in southern England.
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