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The Mushroom

The Mushroom https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/the-mushroom Here, the New Zealanders were within 60 metres of the German frontlines. Ngā Tapuwae Trails https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/sites/default/files/stop/media/Western%20Front-Plugstreet-The%20Mushroom-Wairarapa%20Archive-11-042-003.jpg

Here, the New Zealanders were within 60 metres of the German frontlines.

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The Mushroom

You are at the point on the New Zealand frontline known as the Mushroom. The Mushroom salient, was a trench system that jutted out towards the transmission lines that you can see in front of you in the centre of the field. The New Zealanders were within 60 metres of the German frontline and the trenches in this area were built up by breastworks, above ground, because - as you can see from the ditches - the water table is very high in these parts.

The wet, muddy conditions resulted in soldiers suffering from the dreaded ‘trench foot’, where their toes and feet started to rot and become infected. It was a constant battle, fought by rubbing copious amounts of whale oil onto the feet to protect them. The inexperienced New Zealanders suffered many casualties in the wet conditions, and trench foot, and diseases such as trench fever - which was caused by lice - were some of the most common ailments.

Behind you, a kilometre back towards Armentières was the support line. Life in the trenches there was the continuous repairing of the breastworks with sandbags and wood. There was constant artillery fire, German snipers dominated the area, and their machine guns wreaked havoc. The enemy gunners were generally known as ‘Parapet Joe’ and at night, when the sentry was looking over the top, they would have their machine gun fixed on the New Zealand frontline and would fire along the breastwork sandbags, keeping everyone’s heads down and sometimes wounding or killing anyone unlucky enough to be looking over at the time. By 1916 after two years of warfare, the methods of trench fighting had evolved. Both sides now wore steel helmets and had gas masks, grenades, shorter rifles and bayonets. Light Lewis machine guns were introduced that could be carried by one man, as well as all manner of crude home-made trench weapons for close-quarter fighting.

There were intense raids by both sides. The New Zealanders initially mounted a series of raids in June and July. Some were successful, and would end with prisoners taken, documents and maps stolen, and minimal casualties. Others were failures, with stiff resistance, resulting in many casualties and a bloody retreat. On 3 July, the Germans raided the Mushroom where you are standing now, and at the time it was held by the 1st Canterburys. The Germans began with an intense artillery bombardment and destroyed the breastworks, burying men in their dugouts. They then attacked. Their first wave was repulsed, but with their second attack they got into this area, took three prisoners and caused another 116 Canterbury casualties. This was an example of the type of warfare going on at the time the New Zealanders first went into the trenches - and the casualties were part of the cost of learning how to fight on the Western Front. The New Zealanders would come back here again in October after the first Somme offensive, but over May, June, July, and August 1916, this was their home, and their introduction to trench warfare.

How to get here

Getting there

Go back the way you have come along Avenue Roger Salengro and turn left onto Rue Jules Lebleu past the hospital on your right and continue until you reach the intersection. Turn right onto the D933 following the signpost to Lille. Continue on the D933 following the signs towards Lille. You will cross a bridge over the railway tracks. After the railway tracks, continue to follow the D933 through two roundabouts. After the second roundabout, continue along this road for about 1 km. At the roundabout take the second exit onto the D933 towards Lomme.

Continue along this road for about 1km and you will come to the turn onto Ruelle de la Blanche, the first left. Continue down this road until it takes a sharp left turn.  

Where to stand

Stand on the corner and face away from the road looking out into the fields.

GPS
50°40'11"N
2°55'38"E
Decimal GPS
50.66998
2.927455
  • Lieutenant Mawley at Armentières, cautiously making his way through no-man's-land.
    Lieutenant Mawley at Armentières, cautiously making his way through no-man's-land.Credits

    Wairarapa Archive, Reference Number: 11-42/3

  • A trench in Armentières. A sandbag, mess tins and drinking panniers sit atop the corrugated iron while a soldier sleeps below. 1916.
    A trench in Armentières. A sandbag, mess tins and drinking panniers sit atop the corrugated iron while a soldier sleeps below. 1916.Credits

    2001.4451 National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/9163

  • Soldiers looking for lice in their clothing.
    Soldiers looking for lice in their clothing.Credits

    1992.760 National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/6090

  • Medics at an advanced dressing station, Prowse Point, Armentières, 1916.
    Medics at an advanced dressing station, Prowse Point, Armentières, 1916.Credits

    1992.760 National Army Museum, NZ http://nam.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/6115

  • A map of the Armentières sector, 1916, showing German trenches in red, British in blue.
    A map of the Armentières sector, 1916, showing German trenches in red, British in blue.Credits

    CC BY-NC 2.5 CA McMaster University Library 

  • New Zealand anti-aircraft guns in action in the Armentières Sector, April 1916.
    New Zealand anti-aircraft guns in action in the Armentières Sector, April 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 50758)

Stories & Insights

As a young New Zealand officer, serving in the British army, Beauchamp was ‘full of beans’.

An example of the type of weapon used during a raid - a German trench club studded with nails.

Even in a quiet sector, raids were still conducted to keep the men aggressive and to obtain intelligence.

A postcard from Bill Jenkins, Armentières, 19 October 1916.

The YMCA aimed to make soldier's lives more bearable.

Because of his German heritage, Nimot was treated terribly by his fellow New Zealand soldiers.

A group of unidentified Australian and New Zealand soldiers with French civilians "somewhere in France".

New Zealanders often experienced culture shock when interacting with French locals.

McColl was excited to be leading a raid against the German lines.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Arras. Proceed to La Carrière Wellington.
Link to the first stop

Decimal GPS:
71.00230776692428
-108.03456274999996
Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS:
72.8024499076606
-102.48248137500002
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS:
76.30009933657021
-90.4421890625
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3
Decimal GPS:
62.84465695507049
-48.31402806250003
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS:
55.75279326711145
-54.39751418750012
Sequence:
5
Decimal GPS:
69.4024499074282
-15.595494218749991
Sequence:
6

Stop Images

Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.73929
2.883406
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.74214
2.898378
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.74951
2.9416
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4
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.68663
2.882261
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5
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.68626
2.863228
Sequence:
6
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.66998
2.927455