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Delville Wood (the bois d'Elville, nicknamed by the troops 'Devil's Wood'), the northern part of which lay on a reverse slope, consisted of 'a thick tangle of trees, chiefly oak and birch, with dense hazel thickets intersected by grassy rides, covering about 156 acres' (Official History, France & Belgium 1916, Volume II).

Nearly half a mile square in area, the wood witnessed terrible fighting in the most desperate conditions. The tremendous bombardments meant that by the beginning of August the wood was a vast tangle of burnt and shattered trees, with stumps uprooted and twisted. Those trees remaining were stripped of all foliage. Continuous shellfire repeatedly changed the landscape; there were no permanent landmarks and guides, relieving troops and ration parties would often get lost.

Shellfire and rain turned the ground to mud and filled the scraped ditches and shell holes which served as trenches with water. The intensity of the fighting meant that the dead could not be buried. Fighting was at close quarters with bomb and bayonet; the wood was also a hive for deadly snipers.

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