The Australian Tunnellers
The Great War 1914-18
By the time the first Australian troops arrived on the Western Front the tactic of mining enemy positions was well established. The object of mining was to dig a tunnel which terminated at a specific point under a strategic position, pack the end chamber with explosive charges which, when detonated, would destroy the target. It took men with great strength, skill and determination to see such a 'Herculean' task through and all the while in great secrecy. Mining was undertaken by all armies on the Western Front and this tour will focus on the role of the Australian Mining Companies.
You will hear about men such as Lieutenant (later Captain) Oliver Woodward, Military Cross and two bars, whose real-life experiences on the Western Front formed the basis for the award-winning 2010 film production 'Beneath Hill 60'. You will also hear about Welsh-born Edgeworth David, a professor at Sydney University before WWI, who served as a Major with the Australian Mining Companies and whose organisational skill in mining was instrumental in the success on the Western Front and Major Leslie Coulter, commanding the third company, whom Major Edgeworth David described as 'the Flower of Chivalry'
The creation of the Australian Mining Companies will be explained, including the specialist Australian Electrical Mechanical Boring and Mining Company, known to the troops as the 'Alphabetical Company', which was responsible for the maintenance and repair of equipment. The tools, equipment and the conditions will also be looked at in detail and some of the personal experiences of the men who dug the tunnels will be related.
The importance of the tunnels beneath the Western Front is only beginning to be appreciated and further understood. This tour explains what, for some, is an unknown part of the war, by walking the ground, discussing the men who fought this subterranean war we will reveal this hidden dimension of the First World War.