Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

100 Years Ago: German Forces Retake Hill 60 at Ypres

The site known as Hill 60 southeast of Ypres was so called on British military maps because the contoured height of the ground was marked at 60 meters above sea level. This high ground was man-made in the 1850s, having been created by the spoil from the cutting for the railway line between Ypres and Comines. The railway line was opened in March 1854.

Utter Moonscape: Hill 60 after the War

The Memorial Site on Hill 60 is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is a site which was the scene of desperate fighting in April and May 1915 between the British and Germans. The first British "deep mine" was exploded here on 17 February 1915. Following a second detonation on 17 April 1915, the British were able to temporarily seize the hill, but it was soon lost. Hill 60 was retaken by the Germans following a series of gas attacks from 1–5 May during the Second Battle of Ypres. The underground war continued until the beginning of June 1917 (Battle of Messines). Five Victoria Crosses were awarded to British soldiers for various actions on Hill 60 during the war.

Tunneling and mining operations were carried out here by French, British, Australian, and German soldiers. Hundreds of soldiers lost their lives on this small area of ground at that time, and owing to subsequent fighting across the ground later in the war it was not possible to recover or identify many of them at the end of the war. If tunnels caved in or were blown in by the enemy the soldiers who died underground were usually left where they died because of the difficulty of retrieving them. The remains of many soldiers, therefore, still rest in this site.

My 2011 Tour Group at the British Pillbox atop Hill 60
(Rubel and Mark, We Will Miss You)

The 1917 detonation of the mines at Hill 60, one on the hill proper, the other across the rail line under the "Caterpillar" formation is dramatized in exciting fashion in the Australian film Beneath Hill 60, which we highly recommend.

Sources:  Wikipedia,,


  1. I agree Beneath Hill 60 was excellent film about tunneling done in the area. I visited the area in 1963 with my school group when living in London. I hope to get there this summer or next year.

  2. I'd like to add another strong recommendation for the film "Beneath Hill 60" and say how powerful I find the image of the blasted landscape that you've chosen to accompany this post.