In order to connect the natural gas terminals at Dunkirk (F) and Zeebrugge (B) Fluxys commisioned construction of a gas pipeline between Maldegem and Alveringhem. The pipeline trajectory cuts through the former front lines and trenches of World War One, an area saturated with UXO.
ADEDE was contracted by Fluxys to clear the work area of UXO and prepare the surface for the archaeologists who followed us across the former battlefields. The section of front that is crossed by the project area has seen intense fighting by all armies involved which was evident from the variety and numbers of UXO we cleared. We also discovered positions and trenches where the ordnance had been fired from, illustrating the close quarters combat in this section of the Western Front. The angle of the mortar grenade in the featured image shows the high angle at which this piece of ordnace entered the ground, demonstrating the fact it was fired from a short distance.
A flare cartridge. Even paper survived in the heavy and wet clay. Although not High Explosive, it is considered UXO.
Box of 6″ shells, unfired, in a well preserved box. We often see early trenches with floors made from these boxes.
German 105mm shells, stacked and ready to be fired. We cleared several abandoned makeshift ammunition dumps during the project.
The gas pipeline preparation was the largest uxo clearance project ever undertaken in the battlefields of Flanders. At any given time a minimum of 35 of UXO experts and other specialists were working on the project. The archaeology gave great insight in this section of front and new lessons were learned with regard to the trench systems, fortifications and positions. In the six months operational time a total of 4,978 pieces of UXO were located and removed, ensuring a safe working environment for the people who will install the pipe and a protected service life for the pipe itself.