Australian Tunnelling Companies on the Western Front
Below the shattered ground that separated the British and German infantry on the Western Front in the First World War, an unseen and largely unknown war was raging, fought by miners, `tunnellers' as they were known. They knew that, at any moment, their lives could be extinguished without warning by hundreds of tonnes of collapsed earth and debris. These men were engaged in a desperate duel with their German opponents to destroy their opposing front lines by blowing mines, carefully placed in dark, treacherous tunnels under no man's land. At the same time, the tunnellers worked to defend their own front lines from the German miners, intent on the same deadly task. It was a war within a war in its most literal sense. The secret war culminated in the simultaneous blowing of nineteen huge mines, with a combined payload of almost 450,000 tonnes of high explosives, beneath the Messines Ridge. Over 4,500 Australians served on the Western Front in three Australian tunnelling companies and their unique support unit, the Alphabet Company. Around 330 men did not return. The remains of most lie in carefully tended military cemeteries spread along the entire length of what was the British sector of the front, from the Belgian coast at Nieuport Bains in the north, to Bellicourt in the south. Some lie on German soil where they died in captivity. Others are lost in the dark, silent embrace of the earth and whose resting place is known only to God.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 10 / 2010
- 155 x 230mm