This former German Redoubt can be seen on the sky line from a number of siginficant locations on the former 1st July 1916 Battlefield. The Hawthorn Ridge Crater Association has made improvements to access and visitors can now climb steps and stroll up the slope to the craters formed by two British mines, the first of which exploded at 07.20am.
The site helds major significance on its own. I also find the prespective of the battlefield to be another great reason to make the walk from the Serre – Hamel Road. The rolling hills of Picardy seldom provide such a perspective, inculuding a large part of the northern sector from Serre, to the Sunken and Lane and the Newfoundlanders postions to the south.
Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt was a German front-line fortification, west of the village of Beaumont Hamel on the Somme. The redoubt was built after the end of the Battle of Albert (25–29 September 1914), and as French and later British attacks on the Western Front became more formidable, the Germans added fortifications and trench positions near the original lines around Hawthorn Ridge.
At 7:20 a.m. on 1 July 1916, the British fired a huge mine beneath the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt. Sprung ten minutes before zero hour, it was one of 19 Mines on the first day of the Somme and was filmed by Geoffrey Malins. The attack on the redoubt by part of the 29th Division of VIII Corps was a costly failure. The corps commander had ordered the mine to be fired early to protect the advancing infantry from falling debris but this also gave the Germans time to occupy the rear lip of the mine crater. When British parties crossed no man’s land to occupy the crater, they were engaged by German small-arms fire. A few British soldiers reached the crater; at noon they were ejected by a German counter-attack. The success of the German defence of the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt crater contributed to the failure of the British attack on the rest of the VIII Corps front.
The British reopened the tunnel beneath the Hawthorn Ridge crater three days later and reloaded the mine with explosives for the Battle of the Ancre (13–18 November). The new mine was fired on 13 November in support of an attack on Beaumont-Hamel by the 51st (Highland) Division of V Corps. The Scottish infantry advanced from a trench 250 yd (230 m) from the German lines, half the distance of 1 July, with the support of tanks, an accurate creeping barrage and an overhead machine-gun barrage. Beaumont-Hamel was captured and 2,000 German prisoners taken.