Hill 63

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Hill 63 protected the broad entrance from all gunfire other than long-range howitzers.[1] It was constructed by the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, who gave it the name Wallangarra. It was a series of chambers with connecting galleries, exits and entrances. It's chief claim to fame was that it was officially declared open, and the Army Commander performed the opening ceremony.

Little bunches of gaily coloured bunting relived the sombre green in the triumphal arch. Nor was the sawdust a symbol only - it was a necessity - a liberal application was essential to mop up water and conceal the mud on the floor of the entrance.
A band helped to enliven the proceedings, and with the presence of no less than twenty generals and their staffs ensured that the function was not lacking in dignity. ... Fortunately the ceremony passed off without any molestation from the enemy. Had a searching gun got busy, then promotion would have been accelerated. [2]

The 1st Tunnelling Company were responsible for constructing a large dugout to accommodate men called The Catacombs beneath Hill 63 in Ploegsteert Wood.[3] The shelter was a massive system of underground bivouacs dug out in the spring of 1917. It was closer to Ploegsteert (Plugstreet) in Belgium than to Messines.[4]

According to Oliver Woodward

The Prowse Point Dugout System was completed on 18th August and was immediately occupied in the Infantry, No. 2 Section was then given the task of erecting a large Dugout System on Hill 63 near Hyde Park Corner. The contour of the Hill lent itself to the erection of the Dugouts which had a minimum Head cover of 25 feet. The location of the Dugouts was such that only Howitzer shells could reach us although our position was within a quarter mile from the Front Line Trenches.[5]

Particulars of the work accomplished included:

Number of working days to complete - 63
Average number of men employed -197

Cubic feet of earth removed - 192,588 Average cub. ft. earth removed per man per day - 13 Total footage of Gallery 8ft. x 7ft. in clear - 2,399 Aggregate footage of Galleries - 2,722 Total sets of timber used - 3,435 Super feet of timber used - 520,000 Sleeping accommodation in bunks for - 1,200 men[6]

The clay removed was used to cover steel-framed dugouts which gave extra accommodation for 150 men and 50 officers.[7]

See Also

1st Tunnelling Company

Battle Fields

Ploegsteert Wood

External Sites




Messine Ridge from Hill 63 - http://warart.archives.govt.nz/node/491


  1. http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ART00169/,a ccessed 04 January 2015.
  2. Grieve, W. Grant & Newman, Bernard, Tunnellers: the Story of the Tunnelling Companies, Royal Engineers, during the World War, Herbert Jenkins Limited, London, 1936
  3. Finlayson, Damien, Crumps and Camophlets, Big Sky Publishing, N.S.W., p. 42.
  4. http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ART00169/,a ccessed 04 January 2015.
  5. www.tunnellers.net/bits___pieces/hill_63_dugouts.doc, accessed 04 January 2015.
  6. www.tunnellers.net/bits___pieces/hill_63_dugouts.doc, accessed 04 January 2015.
  7. www.tunnellers.net/bits___pieces/hill_63_dugouts.doc, accessed 04 January 2015.