1st Tunnelling Company

From Mining Mud & Medals
Jump to: navigation, search
Will Dyson, Dead Beat, c1918.

1st Australian Tunnelling Company

The 1st Australian Tunnelling Company went to Ypres and went on to relieve the Canadians at Hill 60. [1] Led by Captain Oliver Woodward they relieved the Canadians in November 1916, and maintained the mines throughout the winter and spring. At 03:10 on 7 June 1917, 19 mines filled with 450,000kg of explosives, were detonated underneath the German lines. Although two mines did not explode, the blasts created one of the largest pre-nuclear explosions in history. It was reportedly heard in London over 160km away and demolished a large part of the hill while killing more than 10,000 German soldiers.

By June 1916 the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company was operational near Armentieres. Under Major J. Douglas Henry they took over the tunnels and mines at Hill 60 on 9 November 1916.[2]

In the first week of November, the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company relieved the Canadians on the Hill 60 front.
The two mines had been intended for immediate firing, but the change of policy meant that they would not be fired for some time to come. It was then decided to sink a vertical steel-lined shaft to replace the long incline, as the latter was more likely to be put out of action than a vertical one.
Started by the Canadians just before leaving, the Berlin Shaft, as it was termed, 6 feet in diameter, was sunk to 94 feet deep by the Australians, and from the bottom a gallery was driven to the foot of the incline. Along this all the water was drained back to a large sump and pumped up the shaft by power. The new shaft effected a great saving in labour and also greatly improved the ventilation, which had continuously been bad, From this shaft also, a deep level defensive system was put in, and an offensive gallery pushed out towards a strong point called the Snout, but lack of time prevented its completion[3]

They were also responsible for constructing a large dugout to accommodate men called The Catacombs beneath Hill 63 in Ploegsteert Wood.[4]

By the end of World War One the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company had lost 5 officers and 62 men from their assigned strength of 1220. 166 had been wounded and 37 invalided.[5]

Enlistments in 1st Australian Tunnelling Company from Ballarat and Surroundings

Arthur Elton Tandy". Courtesy of the Tandy Family


Ernest S. Anderson; Wilfred P. Avery


David W. Bonar; Richard B. Boyce; J.F.Burke


Robert A. Clinton


Albert Davey; George H. Day; E. J. Delaney


Glyndwr David Evans


William Gilbert


Charles Hames; Oscar A. Hamerston; George T. Hewetson; Stanley Hunter


Edward H. McGregor; George McLarty; William F. Murphy


John W. Saxton


A. E. Tandy; John Thompson


John T. Veitch


C.W. Warren

Also See

Australian Mining Corps

2nd Tunnelling Company

3rd Tunnelling Company

4th Tunnelling Company

5th Tunnelling Company

6th Tunnelling Company

Hill 60

Hill 63

Ploegsteert Wood

General Area of the British Offensive at Ypres, 1917 Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection

Also See

Hill 60

Will Dyson

Other Sites

1st Australian Mining Corps, 1915 - http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A05272/

Memorial to the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P00735.017/


Officers from the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company who fired the mine under Hill 60 - http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02333.002


  1. http://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/portal/news/australian-mining-corps-david-lees, accessed 22 November 2014.
  2. http://fffaif.org.au/?p=7495, Accessed 28 September 2014.
  3. Grieve, W. Grant & Newman, Bernard, Tunnellers: the Story of the Tunnelling Companies, Royal Engineers, during the World War, Herbert Jenkins Limited, London, 1936
  4. Finlayson, Damien, Crumps and Camophlets, Big Sky Publishing, N.S.W., p. 42.
  5. https://www.awm.gov.au/sites/default/files/phantom-soldiers-tunellers.pdf, accessed 05 January 2014.

--Cgervasoni (talk) 21:05, 19 April 2014 (EST)