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First World War site in France examined by Staffordshire University researches

An international team of researchers have been handed exclusive access to explore a key First World War site in France.

Researchers on site at Hawthorn Crater in France

Archaeologists, historians, chemists – including members from Staffordshire University – have been researching the Hawthorn Crater.

The site, near Beaumont Hamel in France, was one of 17 mines blown up by British troops on the morning of July 1, 1916.

It marked the start of the Battle of the Somme offensive – with the area having never been scientifically examined by experts.

Fiona Graham, associate professor at the university and TV and Radio presenter, said: "It is the first time that anyone has been granted access to uncover the secrets of this time capsule which has laid dormant for over 100 years.

"The first day of the Battle of the Somme is undoubtedly one of the most infamous days in British military history. Now due to unprecedented unique access granted by France, we are uncovering new information never seen before.

"The new evidence, images and personal stories discovered are creating a picture of what happened in more detail about both the first and last days of the Battle of the Somme.

"The research has revealed how Hawthorn Ridge was used by the German front line as a means of defence and that there is actually not just one crater."

The site is being explored through collaborative work by the Hawthorn Ridge Crater Association along with Staffordshire University, French communities and British partners.

The Erasmus-funded project has been captured on film using narrative and digital film archive methods – with the team also producing a podcast to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on July 1.

To listen to the podcast, visit

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