Livens Flame Projectors at Breslau Trench

Less than a mile from the Manchester Pals assault on Montauban, this horrific weapon was used on mine trench, near the Carnoy Craters.
“One shot was fired from each gun in No 7 and No 10 saps; the flames reached well over the enemy’s trenches in each case. The moral effect on the enemy undoubtedly was very pronounced, for whom the infantry attack took place, the casualties were very much less in the width of front covered by the flame than in the flanks.

Clouds of black smoke and flame rose a hundred feet into the sky before descending upon the unfortunate Bavarians. It was a horrific death for those German sentries in Mine Trench who were incinerated by these jets of burning oil. Their charred remains were later found.

2nd Lieutenant R.W. Stewart, Royal Engineers, reported that soon after the Livens Flame Projector (here using the German term for these weapons) was deployed, fifty German soldiers immediately surrendered:

The large flammenwerfer on the west of the craters proved a great success and very little resistance was met on that side. Had there been another flammenwerfer on the East, possibly the assaulting party would have been able to get in equally easily.”

Weapons and Warfare

Livens Flame Projector

British objectives for 1 July 1916 with front sector allocated to XV Corps.

The Livens Flame Projector was one of the most horrific weapons of the war, instilling terror and amongst those that faced it. It was deployed along the sector held by the 55th Brigade opposite Breslau Trench. Invented by Captain William Livens from the Royal Engineers these weapons were meant to shake the confidence of and terrorise the enemy. The aim was to keep German troops below the parapets long enough to enable British infantry to cross No Man’s Land and get into their trenches without being fired upon. Livens was in command of a secret unit known as Z Section, Royal Engineers, which focused its energies on designing long-range flamethrowers.

The Livens Flame Projector required seven men to operate and these devices were buried underground in shallow tunnels – Russian saps – where they…

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