WW1 soldier sketched tree under fire replaced it with fake

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WW1 soldier sketched tree under fire replaced it with fake

Camera technology must have been pretty bad back then. A soldier in WW1 sketched a dead tree so well it was copied and replaced with a steel replica and a solider inside it.

In the days before satellite surveillance provided detailed images from the sky, Private Smith would creep behind enemy lines - and draw.

His sketches were so accurate they could identify exact enemy numbers, the type of weapons used and the geography of the land ahead.

In one mission, the sapper with the Royal Engineers Special Branch crawled to within a few yards of an enemy HQ and drew a tree so accurately that his comrades were able to create a hollow steel replica.

The real tree was then removed under cover of darkness and replaced by the replica - with a soldier stationed inside who was able to report back on German activity.

Describing his Vimy Ridge mission, Private Smith wrote in his diary: 'The Hun's shelling was almost incessant.

A diary entry by the artist, known as 'Smithie', recalls risking sniper fire to crawl behind enemy lines in Arras, France, in 1915 to draw a tree positioned just 20ft from enemy barracks.

After it was replaced by the steel replica, a network of tunnels gave soldiers access to the 'tree'.

Private Smith wrote in his diary:
... Quote:
One special job would be to go a stipulated section of the front line trenches, and by means of a carefully drawn map, find the exact spot indicated where an observation post or listening post was needed (always as close as possible to the enemy).

In this case it was a tree, which was standing among the Hun's barbed wire.

I would make a careful sketch showing all the detail, which when completed would be sent down the line to the workshops, where they would proceed to make a facsimile tree in iron and steel hollow, with a ladder running up the centre to the top.

'This would then be painted in natural colours and dispatched to its destination The old tree would be brought down, the new steel one take its place, all in the darkness of one night.

'If all went well, a man would be able to go through the short tunnel the miners had made previously, climb up the ladder and sit among the tangled branches up at the top seeing much, hearing plenty and coming in at night full of information.

Much more on this amazing person in the link

Len Smith's drawing of this battle-damaged tree near German trenches allowed British army chiefs to replace it with a hollow replica with a soldier inside

ww1-war-tree.jpg - 38.79kb
By netchicken: posted on 9-10-2008

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