Great Granddaughter Visits WWI Somme Tunnel – Digger’s Grave – For The First Time

Great Granddaughter Visits WWI Somme Tunnel

Sapper William Arthur Lloyd, a Welsh miner from New Broughton, North Wales, joined the 179th Tunneling Company in 1915.

In October 1915, he was sent to the Somme where he died just six weeks after, in an underground German explosion. He died aged 37, leaving behind his 6 children and wife.

Although he managed to send a last letter home, he wasn’t able to give away any information in regards to where he was or what he was doing. He addressed the letter to his wife, children and mother, telling them how terrible the war was, how bad the weather was and how much he wishes to be home for Christmas. Lloyd never got home for Christmas.

His family knew little about what happened to him. They received a letter confirming the miner’s death, but nothing else.

Almost 100 years later, William Arthur Lloyd’s great granddaughter, Ms Lesley Woodbridge, started searching the internet for clues and facts that could guide her to finding out where her relative died, the BBC News reports.

“You can spend so much time looking, just trawling through information and finding nothing and getting really fed up with yourself and then suddenly you find something and it’s just such a great feeling,” confessed Ms Woodbridge.

Lesley’s search began in 2005, when she found out that William A. Lloyd’s name was on the Thiepval Memorial, among other 70,000 men killed during the Somme battle.

However, her search wasn’t quite as successful until she met Mr Simon Jones of University of Birmingham, an expert on WW1 tunneling. He was the one who confirmed to Ms Woodbridge the fact that her great grandfather, together with other 4 men, was killed during a counter-tunneling operation.

On Sunday, Lesley Woodbridge and a team of archaeologists, embarked on a journey through the La Boisselle tunnels below the Somme, 24 metres underground.

“We’ve just made the very last journey that he ever made and now we’re standing where he actually rests,” said Ms Woodbridge. “I never even thought I would even find out what part of France he was in, so to be standing here, just a few metres away from him, is just incredible,” confessed the great granddaughter.

As she went down the tunnels, Lesley left an urn containing soil from “home”.

It seemed like the underground war was hugely unrecognized and the La Boisselle archaeologists hope this will change, although the gallery where the 5 men had died is not to be open too soon.

Ms Woodbridge’s journey has given her a unique experience and insight into Sapper William Arthur Lloyd’s war days, his last moments and his death. She wishes more of her relatives were still alive so she could share this amazing experience with them.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE