In preparation of the installation of a new sewerage system around the Belgian city of Messines ADEDE conducted an archaeological excavation and UXO clearance of the trajectory and safety perimeter.

The ground around Messines showed traces of Roman and medieval settlements but the focus was on World War One. During that war Messines found itself at the centre of the German front line making the area a scene of combat so intense it resulted in near eradication of the village.The presence of the front line and the tactical importance of the German held high ground known as Messines Ridge had resulted in construction of countless underground positions, eloborate trench systems and use of tunnels and mines. The mine explosions on Messines Ridge still are the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever.

German stick grenades in a trench wall at the exit of a German dugout.

Detail of a collapsed German trench, the result of a direct hit by a British shell.

Overview of a British built trench showing the “A-frames” which supported the floor of the trench.

During the project known and unknown German and British positions as well as numerous items of UXO were discovered. Evidence of tunnelling, underground shelters and gun positions was also found. The nature of the soil ensured excellent conservation and a very revealing and moving peek into life at the Western Front. Our work was filmed by a Channel 5 film crew for a two part documentary called “The Big Dig”; “Earthquaking the Ridge” and “Tunnels of Death”.

Armoured digger with pressurised cabin

Our diggers are customised to protect the operator against explosions.


Detection technique for finding ferrous metal in soil.


Electro Magnetometry 61 is an active magnetometry technology with downward signal. It will pick up all metals and we deploy it both on land and under water.


The ElectroMagnetometer 31 measures conductivity of the soil. Suited for finding backfilled trenches, burials, rubbish dumps and non-gradual subsoil disturbances.