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This wiki is a project of Victorian Interpretive Projects Inc. and highlights the role of the ‘tunnellers’ in World War One with an association with the Ballarat Electorate.

Imagine digging a tunnel. For many who had a mining background this was not a big ask, however, digging under enemy lines was a different issue.

During World War One mining engineers, miners, electricians, carpenters and soldier miners tried to drive tunnels under no man’s land. A silent and savage war; silent as to ensure the enemy wouldn’t be able to hear where they were tunnelling. Savage, as being discovered close to enemy lines could mean death by mustard gas, close combat fighting or simply being blown up by enemy mines. The hostilities weren’t just above ground, underground the fighting took place in closed and cramped spaces, and the hunters could also be hunted.

Members of the Australian Mining Corps were commonly known as ‘tunnellers’. They worked continuously in wet and muddy conditions, under constant enemy threat. Pneumonia and bronchial illnesses, as well as wear and tear injuries from hard, physical work in close conditions also took their toll. They fought on many battle fronts – from Gallipoli, to France and Belgium.

The men belonging to the Mining Corps were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War. They worked in guarded silence, with the constant threat of being found and killed by the enemy, in extremely claustrophobic conditions. Both sides had embarked on mining operations, with a determined struggle for tactical superiority.

The mining companies sought ways to direct mines to enable the destruction of enemy positions and developing measures of detection of the enemy mine systems. When detected, an enemy mine would be destroyed by the explosion of a camouflet, often at the cost of severe damage to their own systems.

The Ballarat Electorate has enjoyed a long history connected with mining and its three Schools of Mines (Ballarat, Clunes, Daylesford). Many talented members of their alumni from across the Central Highlands Region enlisted during World War One, and history shows these men added significant levels of experience and the expertise of the Australian Mining Corps.

‘Lest We Forget’.

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