The Hawthorn Ridge mine was the northern-most of the ten mines dug by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies. The Hawthorn Ridge mine was detonated at 07.20 on 1 July, one of the three large mines, the other two being the Lochnagar mine and the Y Sap mine at La Boisselle.
The Hawthorn Redoubt was the location of one of the most famous pieces of film footage of World War I when the Hawthorn Ridge mine was detonated. The film was shot by British cinematographer Geoffrey Malins who was filming the 29th Division's attack. He had his camera set up about half a mile away, trained on the ridge and waiting for the explosion.
Geoffrey Malins later said "The ground where I stood gave a mighty convulsion. It rocked and swayed. I gripped hold of my tripod to steady myself. Then for all the world like a gigantic sponge, the earth rose high in the air to the height of hundreds of feet. Higher and higher it rose, and with a horrible grinding roar the earth settles back upon itself, leaving in its place a mountain of smoke". Watch the video...
The plan was to detonate all the mines at 07.28, two minutes before zero hour when the infantry advance would begin, but Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, whose VIII Corps was holding the Hawthorn Ridge sector, favoured blowing the mine hours before the main attack, believing this would give his 29th Division time to capture and consolidate the crater.
However, the Fourth Army commander, Lieutenant-General Henry Rawlinson rejected this proposal on the grounds that the Germans would probably take possession of the crater. In this stance he was supported by General Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. As a compromise, Hunter-Weston was allowed to blow the mine ten minutes before zero, rather than two minutes.
Once the debris subsided, two platoons of the 29th Division were sent forward to occupy the crater. However, the German defenders succeeded in holding the eastern lip of the crater. The early detonation alerted all Germans in the vicinity that the long-expected attack was now imminent. By the time the infantry went over at 07.30 the German machine guns were sweeping no man's land and artillery fire was falling on the British trenches.
The attack on Hawthorn Ridge redoubt ended in failure. By 08.30 the only gain by the 29th Division was one company clinging to the western lip of the crater but by the end of the day this too was lost.