Time Team

Season 18 Episode 0

TT Special 47 Mametz, Somme, France

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Aired Sunday 5:45 PM Apr 14, 2011 on Channel 4
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TT Special 47 Mametz, Somme, France
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The Somme's Secret Weapon

In the half-light of dawn, on the frontline of the Somme battlefield on 1 July 1916, a small metal nozzle pushed its way up through the ground in No Man's Land to point at the German front line.

On the signal, a terrifying stream of burning oil shot out of the nozzle, drenching the German trenches in flaming diesel. The soldiers that didn't flee would have burned alive.

It was the day the British army launched an all-out assault in northern France. Along the 16-mile front, tens of thousands of soldiers died and the only ground that the British forces captured was around the village of Mametz, where historian Peter Barton believes that a top-secret and terrible weapon, known as a Livens Flame Projector, was deployed.

Although there are plans and secret war diaries, not one piece of this weapon exists in any museum in the world.

Tony Robinson joins a unique dig near Mametz, delving into the past to find out whether or not this weapon really was deployed and, if so, whether it really worked in the way that was described. And, employing the skills of the Royal Engineers, a replica Livens Flame Projector fires up for one last, terrifying, time.

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