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Zonnebeke Church Dugout

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Zonnebeke Church. Authors image.

Gallery of the dugout. Authors image.

On 31 July to 10 November 2017, the dugout below Zonnebeke Church was opened to the public. Visitors were given a pre-booked time slot and then twenty minutes underground. The Memorial Museum Passchendaele had facilitated this event as part of the centenary commemorations. The gallery had been drained of water and pumps were in place to keep the water at bay and the gallery dry.

The dugout was begun on 20th January 1918 by the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, and handed over on 24th March to the 254th Tunnelling Company (the only Tunnelling Company to include a Victoria Cross winner in its ranks, although Sapper William Hackett was later killed in action). The British never finished the dugout before the German spring offensive in Flanders, Operation Georgette, began on 9th April.

The visible areas today, consisted of the entrance stairs, not the original stairs, down into the main gallery there would have been a gas blanket at the top and bottom of the stairs, the main gallery, which is some ninety-five feet in length, and off this five rooms had been created. within these there is evidence of a cave in and collapse of the roof supports. The objects found when they drained the water from the dugout included buttons, waders, shovels and hammer and they are on display in the museum.

Water pumps keeping the water at bay

Evidence of roof collapse

An original wedge, prevented slippage of the beams

After its closure to the public on 1o November, the dugout was cleared of all the equipment that had kept it open and the water was allowed to once again rise and consume the dugout.

Authors image

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