Leslie J. Coulter

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Les Coulter, student of the Ballarat School of Mines", 1909. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection


Leslie Coulter was born in Ballarat in 1889, the son of Irvine Coulter. Leslie studied at Ballarat College[1] and then undertook Chemistry, Mining Management and Drawing at the Ballarat School of Mines in 1907 and 1908.[2] He worked at Catherine Reef Mine in Bendigo, and later at the Mount Lyell Mines, Tasmania as a draughtsman and engineer. Leslie Coulter was presented with colours of the Mt Lyell Company for bravery in rescue work on the occasion of a disaster. He was a member of the Australian Institute of Mining Engineers.[3]

Military Experience

Leslie Jack Coulter was a 26 year old, single mining officer, living in Ballarat when he enlisted.[4] Coulter had already seen previous service with the 91st Infantry Regiment, CMF, where he held the rank of Lieutenant (provisional). In September 1915, Coulter's application for a Commission in the Field Company Engineers was recommended by the District Commandant based at Claremont, Western Australia.</ref>

Major Les Coulter was the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Tunnelling Company.[5] In November 1916 Major Coulter, Captain Sanderson and five men were wounded near the 'push-pipe' operations at Laventie, Loos. When the push-pipe failed to explode Coulter went out under shrapnel and machine gun fire and blew up the exposed section of the push-pipe. Later, when leads were cut by hostile shell fire he went out to light a fuse further down the sap. Although wounded he refused to be removed until the push-pipe was exploded. For this he received the Distinguished Service Order.[6]

On 28 June 1917 Major Leslie Coulter was involved in ‘a little stunt to blow up some enemy saps on Hill 70, near Loos’ when he was shot and killed. Captain Victor West wrote, ‘...The death of Major L. J. Coulter DSO was a great blow to us all and to myself particularly. The poor fellow was shot by a sniper and fell dead without uttering a word. He was buried with the fullest military honours which we could give him. The whole Company turned out, as all were so fond of him. He was buried in a Soldier’s Cemetery and a cross was erected over his grave...’ (Captain West) [7]

Coulter won the Distinguised Service Order and was mentioned in dispatches.[8] The citation reads : ‘...During the operations against the Boars Head, one of the Push Pipes used to form communication trenches, having failed to explode properly became exposed. In order that the enemy might not discover after daylight the method of forming communication trenches, he accompanied by a Cpl, went out under heavy shrapnel and MG fire and blew up the exposed portion of the Push Pipe. Push Pipes had been laid to cut communication trenches previous to the operations of the 19th July at Fauquissart. During the operations, and about the time when the pipes should have been exploded, the leads were cut by the enemy’s shell fire. In spite of the very severe bombardment, he at great personal risk, ran out to the head of the sap outside the parapet to attempt to light the fuse further down the sap, where he was exposed to heavy shell fire. He was wounded before he reached the fuse, but refused to be removed to the Aid Post till he had seen the Push Pipe successfully exploded. The trench formed by the explosion was of great assistance to the assaulting troops...’[9]

Les Coulter and the Ballarat School of Mines Students' Association Committee", 1909. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection
Back row left to right: T. Sim, A. Campbell, Reginald Callister, S. Leathes, V. Tucker, Mitchell, C. Corrie
Seated left to right: L. Middleton, W. Geldard, Mr Whittington, Prof. Alfred Mica Smith, A.C. Hesselmann, W.T. Sayer, Les Coulter
Les Coulter, member of the Ballarat School of Mines Football Team", 1907. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection
Back left to right: Beaumont, Norman Buley, Charles, Elliott
2nd back row left to right: Crossley, Robin, Pearce, Stanger-Leathes, Treloar, Leslie J. Coulter
2nd front row left to right: Bieske, Davenport, Seward, Robert A. Clinton
Ditchburn, Dawson, Campbell


Coulter received a Distinguished Service order (DSO) for his actions on the night of 15/16 July 1916.


COULTER.-Killed in action in France, 29th June, 1917, Major Leslie Coulter, D.S.O., Australian Mining Corps. [10]

COULTER.-On the 29th June, 1917, in France, Leslie, the dearly loved youngest son of Irvine and Mary Coulter, Ballarat, aged 27 years.[11]

COULTER.-On the 29th June, 1917, killed in action, Major Leslie J. Coulter, D.S.O., Australian Mining Corps, beloved brother of Mrs. P. R. Sutherland, Brighton Beach.[12]

COULTER.-On the 29th June, 1917, killed in action, Major Leslie J.Coulter, D.S.O., the much loved brother of Mrs. H. H. Hopton, The Rectory, Auburn, South Australia.[13]


Leslie J Coulter had made a name for his bravery during the fires in the North Lyell Mine in 1912. It wasn't long before he took similar risks on the battlefield trying to detonate a push pipe which failed to explode. It earned him a DSO. Not long after the Unit's most successful action in June 1917 Coulter was killed - he was just 28.[14]

Mining Methods - Catherine Reef United, Bendigo
By L. J. Coulter, Associate Ballarat School of Mines
Les Coulter, student of the Ballarat School of Mines", 1907. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection
The following is a method of mining a wide firm lode without definite walls. The ore consists of quartz and quartz spurs, in slate, and sandstone, and is 'good hanging ground," with exception of parts of the east side, where the ore consists of quartz spurs in slate, associated with a "lava."
The crushing material is taken for a width varying up to 40 feet, and practically all goes to the battery. The formation was first struck at the 2200 feet level, or No 27, and stopped over the level to No. 26. operations are being directed to the stone over the latter level now, but the great bulk of crushing materials obtained from the stopes over No. 28, or 2300 feet.
In the No. 27 level, and over it, the method of mining was to put main level north and south in the stone, and crosscuts at frequent intervals, i.e., block out the ground, and then to stope out the blocks. Costs were high, owing to the difficulty of handling mullock, timber, etc., also on account of high temperature.
The present method is to sink winzes from No. 27, rises going up to meet them from No. 28. These winzes are approximately 100 feet apart. Stoping is carried on from these, and when the stope is beaten out, mullock is tipped down and rilled, trucked and shovelled, till brought up sufficiently. Ore passes are arranged at 24 feet intervals, and are brought up in the same way.
The ore is won by -
1. Driving and side stoping to 40 feet, in total width, and 20 feet in height.
2. Ordinary flat-back stoping, as shown (Fig.1).
3. Taking out the ground immediately below No. 27 level and old stopes.
Catherine Reef United, Bendigo,by Leslie Coulter, c1908. Courtesy Federation University Historical Collection (Cat. No. 538)
1. The levels, as now driven, are timbered with a single set, and a double set, with a block of mullock between. For about 500 feet from the main crosscut a single set was used as width of crushing material was not so great. Sole pieces are used and the legs have a fly of 6 inches each. Sets are slabbed over-head, and, if necessary, at the sides, and packed with mullock. Large sized timber is used on account of the weight of stopes and the importance of the level, as there is yet another 1100 feet to the north boundary. The sets are packed with mullock to the back of the drive, i.e. the roof, when possible, but not too high; stacks as described later, are built on the block of mullock left in between the sets.
2. The ground stands well as a rule, and is "big" that is to say, when any falls, it comes in large pieces. Consequently stacks are sufficient. these are put where necessary, and are either skeleton or filled with mullock. The skeleton stacks do not stand any large weight, and are not much good. The stacks are built of 5 feet or 7 feet logs, of about 6 inches diam., sometimes they are 5 feet one way and 7 feet the other, or connected to other stacks by long poles. the logs are the same as used for both ends. On the east side of the formation spurs in slate form the crushing material, and on account of the "lava" making the ground rotten, it is taken out on sets with collared legs, usually 8 feet long and 6 inches diam. A bridge is used on the cap, and also slabs driven ahead and up to the face for protection. The sets are mullocked up behind the face, and hand-packed to the caps and slabs, and over then to the back, as in the diagram. (Fig. 3) Sometimes stulls or backing pieces are used, for instance, where a lava makes a portion of the back bad and on either side there is good standing ground.
3. In taking out the ground immediately below the level and old stopes, the first thing is to secure the timber of the level. The stability of this level is most important, as on it depends the safe working of the stopes below, it being the means of access for mullock, timber, etc., also for ventilation purposes. The sets are 5 feet apart, and two "stringers" or booms of about 9 inches x 4 inches each side. These are 15 feet long, and thus extend the length of four sets. They are attached to the lowest part of the legs by coach screws, as shown in diagram (Fig. 5). The sets are also braces diagonally, as shown. the ground is then taken out as shown, i.e., the sole pieces being taken up by collared legs as they are exposed.
Winzes are mostly sunk without any timbering being required; if needed, logging is used, the sets being built up from bearers hitched into the walls at intervals.
In rises, what is known as the "box" style is used. the excavation has to be considerably larger than the finished rise. Stulls are put in, in pairs, at intervals of about 6 feet, 6 feet slabs being generally used for the closing in between the stulls. If sawn timber be used, the stulls may be further apart. The distance between one stull and its mate varies according to the dimensions required, say 6 feet.
The slabs or sawn timber are spiked or screwed to the stulls from pair to pair, thus forming a box-like structure. Slabs are usually laid across the bottom pair of stulls, so that the dirt that falls into the space between the stulls when firing, remains and gives a firm base to work upon, and also forms an air-tight partition, so that the air current can be diverted, so as to ascend one side and descend the other, by means of a stopping in the level below. Ladders and pipes, etc., are outside the box. When completed, the slabs on the bottom can be shot out, and the dirt trucked away. The two sides may be filled with mullock from above; ladders and air-pipes, etc., are out in, or the rise may be left as a three compartment once of the ground is good standing. (Fig. 6.)
Another method is to start in a similar way with two stulls, slabbed over, and then build up with logging, as done with ore passes, travelling ways. etc. this gives the same advantages of a firm base to work on, and good ventilation, and the previous method. (Fig. 7)
A large amount of mullock is necessary for filling. For a means of handling large quantities a rise was put up from the 92 feet level, under the edge of the mullock heap, and a shoot put in at the foot of the rise. the mullock first rilled into the pass, but now shovelled and trucked. From the shoot the mullock is trucked and sent down to No. 27 level, where it is tipped down the various winzes to the stopes.
All boring is done with rock drills, the stopes being large enough to use the large machines. For "popping" large rocks, and also for sinking winzes, Ingersoll-Rand jack hammers are used. They are very handy tools, and easily manipulated by one man, as they weigh only 40 lbs. For rises and for stoping where the large machines would be awkward to rig, the telescope air-hammer type of drill is used. This also is an Ingersoll-Rand product, and does very good work. it is self collaring and feeding, and can be worked from an improvised stage.
Ventilation is natural. The main shaft is down-cast, and air goes to the bottom level, NO. 28, all the other levels having air-tight doors. the air circulates through the stopes, being directed by doors, etc. the upcast is through rises, winzes, etc,m to the south shaft, and the shafts of adjoining mines. Temperatures are somewhat high, but the legal maximum (83 deg. wet bulb) is not exceeded, except in rises and winzes, where the six hour shift is then adopted.
Rises and winzes are ventilated by a stopping in the level, and thus diverting the air current, or by means of a jet compressed air, causing a draught.[15]
A Trip to Castlemaine and Bendigo by L.J. Coulter
Bendigo, though the sister city of Ballarat, and possessing more and larger mines, is not well-known to the student of this School of Mines, mainly because of the long journey, as it takes almost ten hours to do the trip of 80 odd miles.
Having some ours to wait in Castlemaine, we paid a visit to Thomson's Foundry, which is recognised as the most up-to-date engineering works, though not the largest, in Victoria.A feature of this shop is the ease with which the heavy materials are handled and loaded. Electric travelling cranes are used, and these load direct on to railway trucks. This method is far cheaper, for if the works were in Melbourne, and had to utilise horse-drawn vehicles to take to the station or wharf, as the Austral Otis Co. do, the difference in rates would be approximately 5/ and two pounds per truck respectively.
This firm is the only one outside Great Britain that turns out high-speed engines, not even excepting the U.S.A. At the time of the visit several high-speed engines, to run at 350 to 750 revs., were being made. A promising state of affairs is shown by the fact that this firm is sending engines to England; it seems like a case of "carrying coals to Newcastle," but it evidently pays. The engines being sent are attached to centrifugal pumps for tin sluicing in Cornwall. Centrifugal pumps are also being made in large numbers for the Malay States, and various other parts of the world. Another interesting piece of work consisted of the tumblers for the largest dredge in Australia, these each weighed about 8 tons. The dredge when completed will be used for working gold and tin-bearing material, and will be the property of the Breisis Co., Tasmania. A set of compound engines were almost nearing completion. a description of the shop which is thoroughly up-to-date, would take up too much space.
On arrival at Bendigo, the thing that strikes a visitor is first the number of mines, and then, most of all, their neat appearance, which is due to the use of steel poppet heads, and a sufficient amount of paint. Several mines were visited, the one working on the largest scale and, more important to the shareholders, paying the largest dividends, being the Virginia. The work carried on in the part of the mine visited was on a very large scale and, more important still to the shareholders, paying the largest dividends, being in Virginia. teh work carried on in the part of the mine visited was on a very large formation. This was the usual saddle reef, but instead of the country between the two legs being slate or sandstone, it was auriferous quartz; the reef extends fro about 1,200 feet to the boundary of the claim, so that an idea can be got out of the immense formation. The method of timbering is the "pigstye," as lately used at Mt Morgan. At Bendigo it is called "cheap frame," on account of the cheapness. When nearing the cap of the reef no timbering is used, and the men are withdrawn as soon as the of sounds bad. The stone shaken bu nearby explosion comes down of its own accord, and also provides an ore reserve, something in the manner of a shrinkage stope, for example, in a stope we inspected there were about 3000 tons that had fallen without help.
At the Victoria Quartz mine, which is the deepest gold mine in the world, the bottom level being at 4,380 feet, and a winze down another 400 feet, they are sinking with the intention of going down another 1000 feet.
The saddle-reef formation is characteristic of the Bendigo field. These reefs follow the anticlines, and are essentially bedded reefs, associated with carbonaceous slates. The anticlines pitch to the E. and W., and consequently the legs of the saddle are called the east and west legs respectively. these legs, starting from an inch or so in thickness, run up, getting thicker, till they meet at the cap, where the buck of the quartz is. Usually between the legs is country rock, with the exception of the above reef at teh Virginia. On sinking in what is called centre country, other reefs are met with. Surs run out from thelegs, and in some cases these carry better gold than teh reef proper. A frequent term used in "lava." This is limburgite, and is usually found in the centre country. The bed rock is Ordovician. There are about twelve lines of reef, three main, and the rest are called side lines, and much attention is now being paid to these latter.
Several batteries were visited, including the "Big Blue," otherwise the Red, White and Blue. This battery has 105 head of stamps of 1000 lbs.; the drop is 8 inches, and 80 drops a minute. Mercury is added to the box, but there are no inside plates. There is a deep riffle cast in the sill of the box into which the splash boards dip, and there is another just before the copper plates. these are stated to save most of the amalgam. The Wilfrey tables are made at the mill. Blankets are used, but the blanketing are not treated. The riffles are skimmed at intervals, and ground in an Arrastra pan; the slime washed off is sold at 20 pounds per ton; the amalgam is retorted and sold direct.
A visit was paid to the Bendigo School of Mines where the chief object of interest was the plant of the horwood process. this is an adaption of existing flotation processes, and seems to be proving successful, the object s to separate the zinc from the lead contents of concentrates - if such are being treated - to such a temperature that the lead is converted to sulphate, but the zinc sulphide remains unchanged. When this is accomplished it is just a case of ordinary acid-oil flotation process, floating off the metallic zinc sulphite, and leaving lead sulphates. if the tailings are being treated they are concentrated by being put through the process, and thus getting the lead-zinc concentrates, then roasted as before, and put through again, and the lead and zinc separated. The plant in operation consists of a vat containing boiling water, a well, an elevator, mixers, spitzkastens, and vats for products. The tailings are dried, ground in a ball mill, added to the first mixer, and oil to the second, in the approximate proportions of 30lbs, and there respectively to the ton of ore. Any oil may be used, kerosene, benzene, &c., but aleaic acid is preferred. The mixture passes in all through four mixers, and then in turn through three Spitzkastens. The zinc sulphide flows off at the top of the first, and the lead sulphate falls to the bottom, and thence to the second Spitz., and from this the lead sulphate is over. The amount of zinc with the lead depends on the roast, two and three per cent. being the amount obtained with a good roast. The plant is still being experimented with, but enough has been done to warrant the erection of a plant in Tasmania for treatment on a large scale.[16]

See also

3rd Tunnelling Company

Awards & Honors

Ballarat School of Mines

Norman Buley


  1. McCallum, M.M., Ballarat Citizens and Sports at Home and Abroad, McCallum Press and Publishing Company, 1916.
  2. Ballarat School of Mines Enrolment Database, Federation University Historical Collection.
  3. McCallum, M.M., Ballarat Citizens and Sports at Home and Abroad, McCallum Press and Publishing Company, 1916.
  4. Research by Damian Finlayson
  5. Research by Damian Finlayson
  6. https://www.awm.gov.au/sites/default/files/phantom-soldiers-tunellers.pdf, accessed 05 January 2014.
  7. https://www.facebook.com/GreatWarBallarat/posts/1607826812596921, accessed 17 August 2017.
  8. Research by Damian Finlayson
  9. https://www.facebook.com/GreatWarBallarat/posts/1607826812596921, accessed 17 August 2017.
  10. The Argus, 29 June 1918.
  11. The Argus, 14 July 1917.
  12. The Argus, 14 July 1917.
  13. The Argus, 14 July 1917.
  14. Branagan, David, The Australian Mining Corps in World War I, http://www.tunnellers.net/files/transcripts_to_corp_history_branagan_1987_paper.pdf, accessed 14 July 2013.
  15. Ballarat School of Mines Students' Magazine, Fourth Term, 1911, p10.
  16. Ballarat School of Mines, 1910.

Other links


--Cgervasoni (talk) 23:01, 29 April 2014 (EST)

Can you assist this project by supplying photos or more information on Leslie Coulter? We are looking for copies of photographs and memorabilia relating to tunnellers from the Ballarat Electorate. If you can help, please drop us a line: miningmudandmedals@gmail.com