Today sees the one hundred and first anniversary of the disappearance of the 13th Battalion of the Pennine Fusiliers from the Somme. Popular myth has it that they were transported to another world although few today, outside of the community the battalion came from, have heard the story.
Repeated representations have been made to the government by the Joanne Donovan, M.P. for Broughtonthwaite South, but the official response remains the same, ‘It is not in the national interest to release documents relating to the Harcourt Event.’ Relatives and descendants of the missing have been waiting over a century to find out what happened to their family members and loved ones that fateful day.
- Broughtonwhwaite Mercury, November 1st, 2017
The Harcourt Crater is one of the greatest mysteries of World War One, along with the Angel of Mons, the Phantom Archers and the Crucified Canadian. At nearly half a mile wide, it was reputed to be the largest man-made crater on the Western Front. The official explanation was that German mines dug under the British positions in the Harcourt Sector of the Somme were filled with an experimental high explosive before being detonated on the morning of November 1st 1916, resulting in the loss of over nine hundred men of the 13th Battalion of the Pennine Fusiliers.
Indeed this was the accepted explanation until a decade later, when, in the mid- 1920s, a French farmer ploughing his field, dug up, amongst the unexploded shells, several mud-encrusted old film canisters and a package of documents. Inside the canisters were reels of film which, when developed, revealed silent, grainy footage of British Tommies seemingly on an alien world. The film itself was shown to great acclaim in Picture Houses around the world and it became a minor sensation. Although there were those who claimed they could identify faces in the footage, in the end most felt it to be it a hoax.
The success of the film nevertheless engendered an appetite for Space Fiction among the general public that persisted for decades; the film’s grainy, iconic images inspiring thousands of lurid pulp sci-fi magazine covers and stories.
The government of the day… officially declared the whole incident to be a “meticulously planned hoax” and it was consigned to the annals of British folklore. But the myth refused to die. In subsequent years, men occasionally came forward claiming to be survivors of the battalion, returned with fantastic tales to sell, but none were believed. The story inspired the film Space Tommies, released in 1951, featuring Richard Attenborough and Richard Todd and was the basis for a short-lived adventure strip in the boy’s comic Triumph.
However, it has become apparent from extensive research that the mystery of the Harcourt Crater and the true fate of the men of the lost 13th Battalion constitutes one of the biggest cover-ups in British military history.
No Man’s World is an attempt to set the record straight.
-No Man’s World Book 1: Black Hand Gang, Preface “There was a Front, but damned if we knew where...”
Find out what happened for yourselves: