BATTLE OF MESSINES AND THE UNDERGROUND WAR

THE ABANDONED MESSINES MINES

At 3.10 am on the 6th of June 1917 the Messines Ridge was rent by nineteen huge mines with a combined explosive loading of 937,450 lbi, just over 416 tons. Combined with a stupendous artillery barrage of about 2,266 guns along the 8 mile front - roughly one gun to every 6½ yards - the greatest mining attack in history totally demoralised and shattered the defence. This story is well known and often told. Much less well known is that 25 mines were actually laid. The Petite Douve mine was lost to enemy counter mining, another charge was lost at Peckham through collapse of a galleryii, and four prepared at Birdcage on the southern flank were not required for the initial attack. All remained sleeping - a total of 182,000 lb of explosive - until one detonated at Birdcage during a thunderstorm in July 1955. This is the story of those missing mines.

 

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The strategic pros and cons of General (later Field Marshal) Sir Douglas Haig’s preference for the main BEF offensive effort to be applied in Flanders are a matter for discussion elsewhere. What is certain is that removal of the Germans from the Messines Ridge was an essential preliminary to an offensive out of the Ypres salient. Stretching approximately 8 miles from Hill 60 in the north to Ploegsteert in the south, this modest eminence commanded the communications and southern approaches to the Ypres salient.

 

In July 1915, whilst the first of the newly formed Sapper Tunnelling Companies contested the underground encroachments of the German miners, the concept of a deep mining offensive against the Ridge was conceived in the fertile mind of Major Sir John Norton-Griffiths the presiding genius in the gestation of the new underground fighting arm. Work on a number of deep galleries was set in hand in December 1915, but it was not until a month later when General Sir Herbert Plumer, commanding Second Army, was instructed to prepare for a summer offensive, that the resources were made available for a mining offensive on an unprecedented scale. Six and a half Tunnelling Companies were committed immediately plus a further two at a later stage, nearly 4,000 British and Dominion tunnellers at peak, supported by a roughly equal number of attached Pioneers and Infantry.

 

By mid August 1916 nineteen mines were in place. However events elsewhere led to progressive postponement of Haig’s Flanders aspiration, notably the grinding attritional battles of the Somme, followed by the obligation to support the French spring offensive on the Chemin de Dames in early 1917 with a BEF offensive at Arras. This resulted in the miners battling underground to protect and conserve the charges they had already laid, and to develop further mines. Of the twenty five, with slightly over 1,100,000 lb of explosive that were placed and primed, 19 were fired at 3.10 am on the 6th of June, all within a space of 27 seconds. The roar of the mines, and the accompanying barrage, were heard clearly in London. Of the effect General Ludendorff wrote: “We should have succeeded in maintaining the position but for the exceptionally powerful mines used by the British which paved the way for the attack. The results of these successful mining operations was that the enemy broke through on the 7th of June. The morale effect of the explosions was simply staggering”.

In his official reportiii Lt Col Stevenson, Controller of Mines, Second Army wrote:- “In connection with the offensive of 7th June, nineteen mines were fired. In addition there were ready a further group of four just outside the right flank of the attack which were not used. In addition a mine was placed below PETITE DOUVE but it was cut off by an enemy blow and owing to the difficulties of the situation above and below ground no attempt was made to recover it". [Notably he omitted mention of a mine abandoned at Peckham]. So what happened to the six mines that were laid but not used?

THE PECKHAM MINES

 

250 Tunnelling Company initiated work on the PECKHAM mines on 15 Dec 1915. From the beginning, at the bottom of a 65 ft deep tubbed shaft, followed by a second auxiliary shaft, the drive encountered problems. The blue clay swelled more rapidly than generally experienced elsewhere crushing the ordinary mine timbers. With difficulty stronger ‘sets’ had to be manufactured and placed, whilst the floor wracked so badly that the wooden tramway laid for spoil removal had to be periodically uprooted and replaced.

For a short time, in March 1916, No 3 Section of the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company took over but soon afterwards No 2 Section of 250 Tunnelling Company resumed work under the determined leadership of 2/Lt Haydn Rees, a quiet spoken Welsh coal miner. It needed all his drive and leadership to sustain the morale of his section. Several times the entrance shafts were blown in by trench mortars and on one occasion the tunnellers had to man the fire step, fumbling with unfamiliar rifles, to repel a German raid. There was though one positive factor, Peckham was the only offensive mining site along the Ridge where German countermining was wholly absent.

By late May 16 ‘A’ branch of the gallery at 1,750 ft, was under Peckham Farm and a month later the charge, 87,000 lb of mostly ammonal, was in place and primed. A new branch was then broken out to the north of the main gallery (‘B’ branch). At 370 ft from the Y with ‘A’ branch it ran into bad ground, and the face caved in causing an inrush of sandy clay and water nearly engulfing the shift at the face. With no prospect of recovering the gallery a dam was put in place and the tunnel abandoned. But Rees’s section persevered with ‘C’ gallery started just to the right of the abandoned ‘B’ gallery. However at 1,341 ft it too ran into bad ground and also had to be abandoned. It needs little imagination to understand the frustration of the tunnellers. In early 1917 the company were pressured (according to one account against their better judgement) into trying again and they broke out another ‘C’ gallery to the right of the earlier one. Initially the clay kickers made good progress. Electric lighting was installed, although this meant temporarily disconnecting the firing leads at the junction with the ‘A’ gallery mine and tramming of spoil back to the shafts avoided by using the spoil to tamp the existing charge. The clay kickers made good progress. Then this drive ran into bad ground but nevertheless several chambers were constructed and a 20,000 lb charge laid and primed under the target. It seemed that all was ready but then the pumping system failed, the whole mine flooded and a catastrophic collapse resulted in the disconnected leads being the wrong side of a mass of wet sand and slime. There was only one way to recover the main charge, that of driving a parallel tunnel to pick up the ‘A’ gallery mine beyond the tamping, a complex survey problem with time of the essence.

Tunnellers at the face in a Messines gallery. The galleries were generally lower and more confined than indicated in the illustration.

Acknowledgement Alex Turner

An article regarding survey work in the Tunnellers Old Comrades journal of 1936 vividly describes the complications of the recoveryiv. The writer having described the complexities of accurate survey in the tunnels “The writer found that the most satisfactory support for his theodolite, while observing underground, was a short, flat board placed on a couple of sandbags of clay, beaten flat and laid on the solid ground between the timber sets supporting the gallery. While working by himself on the instrument, he had to observe in one direction, and then endeavour to climb over the instrument without disturbing it - no easy feat in a gallery with 3 feet 6 inches or less clearance - and observe in the other direction”.

 

He continues “the writer had reason on more than one occasion to be thankful for the extra care taken in surveying the galleries. The most note-worthy occasion occurred in the gallery running to a mine placed under Peckham Farm in front of Wytchaete. The gallery was completed and the mine laid in 1916, but early in 1917 the authorities decided to branch off from the gallery just beyond the 800 feet mark, and drive for another objective on the left. The Company was very much against this course, as it was seen that the new gallery would run dangerously close to an old crater blown by the enemy about a year earlier, which, if tapped, would certainly flood the gallery and endanger the mine already laid. It was considered, however, that the new gallery would be too deep to be affected, and instructions to proceed were given. The fears of the Company proved to be only too well founded. Electric light brought from a neighbouring mine was being used in the new gallery, and to avoid the risk of a short occurring between the light wires and the mine leads, and so prematurely firing the mine, the leads had been disconnected at the point where the new gallery had been broken away. A sudden rush of sludge at the face forced the miners from the gallery, giving them no time to connect the leads, and in a very short time the whole gallery was flooded. Frantic efforts were made to clear it, but it collapsed completely before this could be done. The Company was thus faced with one of its most important mines, all charged and ready to be fired, with the leads lost over 800 feet from the shaft.

 

It was decided to make an attempt to pick up the lost leads by breaking away from the shaft about 10 feet above the old gallery and driving a fresh one. The new gallery had to be kept well clear of the old one until the point at which it was to be picked up was approached. This had to be beyond, the tamping of the charge or there would be a risk of, flooding the new gallery as soon as the old one was breached.

 

The new gallery was broken away at right angles to the old one and driven for 20 feet or so to get well clear of the old gallery. It was then set on an approximate course to bring it to a, point about 10 feet to the right of the spot at which it was desired to pick up the leads. The pressure of the clay was so great that 5 inch by 3 inch steel girders set on edge had to he used for the " timbering " of the gallery, and although the clay was continuously cased out behind them, even these bent under the strain. The use of steel girders put a magnetic bearing out of the question, and the problem was to find means to set the correct bearing for the new gallery.

 

The second shaft had some time before being put out of action, owing to a. direct hit by a "big minnie''; and the main shaft had also suffered to some extent, having been knocked somewhat out of the perpendicular. The maximum length that could be obtained between lines dropped down the shaft was 2 feet 3 inches, and from this the bearing for the drive had to be taken. A bearing was-laid across the shaft with the greatest care and carried to the face as before described. The correct bearing was set and maintained until it was calculated that the required point had been reached. A push pipe was then inserted in the side of the gallery and forced out in the direction of the old. This was probably the most anxious time the writer has ever experienced, and his relief can be imagined when the first effort located the old gallery just over 6 feet away. No time was lost in breaking into the old gallery and picking up the leads which were at once connected to new leads brought up the new gallery in readiness. Some very anxious faces watched the needle of the testing set when these leads were tested for the first time, and the sighs of relief as the needle was seen to respond were deep and heartfelt. If memory is not at fault, this was accomplished within a week of the time set for the attack”. v

 

THE PETITE DOUVE MINE

A 'tubbed' mine shaft at Messines. Acknowledgement Alex Turner

The PETITE DOUVE mine was the only one on the Messines Ridge to be lost to enemy countermining. Started by the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company in March 1916 they sited the first (Q1) shaft in trench 135 north of the River Douve, a small stream running from west to east across No Man’s Land. This was a tubbed shaft 5½ feet in diameter, and difficulty was experienced getting it down to the underlying blue clay. The War Diary of 171 Tunnelling Companyvi, who took over from the Canadians shortly after, records that at 80 feet they broke away and despite frequent trouble with flooding, by 16 August had completed a 875 foot drive and placed a 50,000lb charge, predominantly ammonal, 70 feet below the ruins of Petite Douve farm. The explosive would have been wholly in sealed tins, possibly with a gelignite booster.

 

In July a left flanking gallery was started as shown in the plan, a bold enterprise given that the tunnellers were already under the German lines and close to known defensive tunnels. By 23 August another explosives chamber had been established 80 feet below the surface at the end of a 390 foot drive and work on loading started. General Harvey wrote of subsequent eventsvii:- “Our mine had been successfully placed under the Farm Buildings and a branch gallery driven to one flank, when the enemy was discovered working so close to us that there was the most imminent risk of his breaking through. There was now a choice of two alternatives, either to fire the mine and do what damage we could, or to camouflet the enemy with as large a charge as possible and wreck his gallery beyond recovery - as the ground was known to be very unreliable and wet. (Sic - thus flooding the enemy system). It was decided that as the mine could not be used at that time as part of an isolated Infantry enterprise, there was no advantage to be gained by forming a crater which could be readily converted into a strongpoint by the enemy, when by doing so the fact that we were engaged on a deep mining offensive would be definitely established, and would certainly lead to a systematic search for and serious interference with the mines already completed and under construction".

The second alternative was chosen and on 24 Aug a 1000 lb camouflet was fired about 100 feet up the branch gallery. In Tunnellers Greive and Newman stateviii: - Observers in our trenches saw a large cloud of grey smoke rise in the enemy lines in the vicinity of Petite Douve Farm. This indicates that the force of our blow exerted itself along the enemy gallery. They also remark that at this stage the Germans had entered “our gallery.” In War Underground Barrieix , quoting from a Germany Army reportx, goes further and states that the German miners broke into a mine chamber and an officer and eight men went down to investigate. “They removed some of the timber and found themselves staring at a huge mine chamber. It was packed tight with 35 tons of ammonal in tins. The officer gave orders for work on hauling out the charge to begin at once and remained in the tunnel to supervise. As the heavy tins went out, the firing wires became exposed. In his last seconds of life, the officer went forward to cut them. At that moment, Lieutenant Peter King, of 171 Company, excitedly rammed down an exploder handle and blew a second charge, a heavy camouflet. The German officer and all eight men were killed.”

 

It is however unclear whether the Germans actually accessed the main charge under the farm at the end of the right hand gallery as indicated by Barrie, or the charge that was in the process of laying at the end of the left hand gallery? The GHQ Mining Summary for the week ending 25/8/16xi is explicit:- ‘PETITE DOUVE. We had to fire a charge as enemy was breaking into the left hand gallery”. Furthermore the camouflet had been carefully tamped to avoid any damage to the main charge; had the German miners been in that chamber it is probable they would have only suffered a severe fright rather than being killed outright. Whatever the case, with immediately subsequent events, it is most improbable that the 50,000 lb charge was cleared by them.

 

The Germans struck back on 28 August with a large camouflet that completely shattered 400 feet of the main gallery, wrecked the firing leads, damaged the high level defensive galleries and killing four Tunnellers. With the enemy fully alert it was decide that recovery would be excessively perilous and might betray the overall plan. The Petite Douve mine was abandoned and so far as can be determined remains quietly slumbering, along with whatever was placed at the head of the flanking gallery.

 

Nevertheless the Petite Douve mine galleries did play some further part in discomforting the Germans. Grieve and Newman wrote “In order to deny the enemy access to our lost gallery all pumping ceased and the gallery was allowed to flood. Surface water from the trench was also drained into the shaft, then percolated through the loose ground into the enemy workings, and his Companies were fully employed in pumping alone. The Tunnellers appreciated the joke - the Germans pumping the water from our mines! Consequently, each time the water level was lowered in our shaft, a fresh volume of water, specially stored for the purpose, was released into it.” According to the GHQ Weekly Mining Summaries this was a situation that appertained until 24 Feb 1917 at which point there is a cryptic comment “Enemy ceased pumping”.

 

Nor was it intended that the Petite Douve Farm be left intact. In November 1916 the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Companyxii initiated a drive from Seaforth Farm (Trench 135), South of Petite Douve. Progress was however slow as the blue clay at depth swelled and steel ‘I’ beams with reinforced castings had to be installed for support. However it became evident in May 1917 that the target was beyond reach in the time frame and the gallery was abandoned after it had been carried 720 feet at a depth of 120 feet.

 

THE 'BIRDCAGE' MINES AT PLOEGSTEERT

 

Whilst the Petite Douve has been almost entirely forgotten and Peckham overlooked, the presence of abandoned mines in the Birdcage mining area, on the Eastern side of Ploegsteert Wood, has often been remarked, not least because one revealed itself dramatically in July 1955 when it exploded in the course of a thunderstorm. Of a stormy day, as thunder pealed over the tiny hamlet of Le Pelerin just north of Le Gheer, there was one great blast that made the earth tremble and shattered windows in some of the houses. As the storm cleared the people of Le Pelerin were startled to find, within a couple of hundred yards of their homes, a crater about 250 feet in diameter and nearly 60 feet deep. Lt Col Stevenson would have been proud of the thoroughness of his miners!

 

The Birdcage was a notorious mining sector. The cut and thrust of camouflet and mine can still be seen in the hollows and duck ponds in the smaller fields between Ploegsteert Wood and the road through Le Pelerin to Le Gheer. For the most part these were sprung from short and shallow galleries in the surface clays. In examining the plans of the deep offensive mines it has to be remembered that above them there was a ‘gruyere cheese’ of British and German galleries between 15 and 30 feet below the surface.

The crater at La Pelerin following the explosion of mine No 3 during a thunderstorm in July 1955. Fortuitously no one nor animals were in the field at the time. Copyright A. Prada.

The first Tunnelling Company in the area was 174 and by June 1915, they had already forced the German miners onto the defensive. Shortly afterwards they were relieved by 171 Tunnelling Company. By December 1915 a sound defensive complex had been engineered and 171 turned their attention to sinking and driving four deep offensive mines. Their War Diary reports that despite considerable difficulties with water and running sand the M1 shaft off Trench 121 was at 84 feet by January 1916 and the drive started. 100 yards out sounds were heard indicating that the enemy were above them. To protect against being outflanked they silently they put out a right branch gallery incline up to 60 foot depth below Le Pelerin. A 34,000 lb charge (No 1) was placed here by mid April 1916. The other three charges followed in rapid succession, No 2 (32,000 lb) at the end of the main drive from shaft M1, No 3 (26,000 lb) in a chamber just up the branch incline to Le Pelerin, and No 4 (20,000 lb) at the end of a separate gallery from shaft M3 also sunk from Trench 121. Later they sunk yet another shaft M4 from further in the rear and connected this to the others.

In September 1916 the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company took over maintenance and defence of the Birdcage but on 9 November switched fronts with the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company who had become seriously debilitated by the ceaseless conflict in the odious underground conditions at Hill 60. The 3rd Canadian War Diary entry of 9 November refers to the change of locality and remarks of their tasks “chiefly listening and pumping and repair work”. But dehabilitated or not they don’t seem to have lost anything of their aggressive spirit for on the very next day the War diary reads:- “New offensive work started at Seaforth Farm, Trench 130”. Potential ill fortune dogged their move for on the 28th of November Sapper J Bromley, an officers’ batman, deserted to the Germans, hastened on his way over No Man’s Land by a machine gunner who spotted him crossing. For several weeks the 2nd Army Miners held their breaths least Bromley betrayed the mining effort, but in the event little harm was done.

 

On the surface the Birdcage was a lively spot. The War Diary refers to frequent raids and bombardments, but the problems were not entirely of the enemy’s making:

 

3 April - At Trench 121 one of our batteries dropped 30 rounds short near our sap head.

18 April - At Trench 121 sentries fired on our working parties by mistake at 9.20 pm.

26 April - We are having a lot of trouble with our artillery as they persist in placing trench mortars near our

shaft head at Trench 127.

 

Underground most of the problems were with water and swelling blue clay but the enemy were close. There are numerous reports from listening post No 8 of the sounds of walking and talking and an electric buzzer from a German dugout. Then after arduous months protecting and cosseting the four charges came the disappointment. The War Diary of 27 May 1917 reads:- It has been decided not to blow the mine at Trench 121 in the coming offensive. Consequently the galleries are being strutted to withstand the shock of the other mine blows [the nearest being the 40,000 lb Trench 127 charge]. This will ensure that the system is intact in case the offensive is not wholly successful”. General Harvey states in his post war report on Mining in FrancexiiiAt midnight 6/7 June there were 23 mines laid and ready for use. Of these 4 were under the Birdcage opposite to Ploegsteert, which was not within the front of the attack. These 4 mines were not fired”.

 

Two weeks after the attack the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company reported :- “At Trench 121 we are still pumping and keeping the upper levels open. The blow at Trench 122 on 7 June wrecked the Canadian interior shaft and most of the deep workings. However the leads to the charges are still intact and we are keeping the lower levels dry by bailing water through the RF shaft. These charges will likely not be used again”. The results of an electrical continuity test show the circuits to all four mines are in good order with readings between 10 and 29 ohms. By this date the system had already been placed on ‘care and maintenance’ with a sub section of ten men allocated and frequent reference thereafter is made to them in the Canadian Company’s Weekly Mining Reports until on 1 September 177 Tunnelling company took over. The last reference found in the War Diaries to Birdcage is a note by 177 Company on 1 November 1917 “No 2 Section pumping Birdcage”. On 25 November they handed over to 184 Tunnelling Company, but at no stage thereafter does the Birdcage feature. Then on 9 & 10 April, in Operation Georgette, the second of the great German offensives of 1918, the Messines Ridge and Ploegsteert passed into German hands.

 

In an unpublished 1932 manuscriptxiv Major HR Dixon MC wrote of the Birdcage mines: “For the rest of that year and well into 1918, we were in correspondence with the Belgium Government over the question of the removal of these mines. Now it is one thing to put a mine down into blue clay, but it is even more difficult to recover the mine and charge months afterwards, when the heavy pressure experienced in such ground would have broken up all the timbering. It was therefore agreed that a careful survey should be made of the position of the shafts and that the charges would be removed later on, when the pressure of work on the Tunnelling Coys would be less heavy. Neat concrete benchmarks were erected, and everyone was happy. But when the Germans made their great drive on Hazebrouck in 1918, we naturally took the opportunity of declining any further responsibility for the twins, as we called them, and as far as I know these babies are still beneath the sod, and may they remain there.”

 

It will be observed that Dixon refers to “the twins” - not a term that occurs in any of the war records - and preceding the above he writes of “two mines of 30,000 lb each”. It may be surmised that this is the origin of the often quoted statement that two mines were laid and left, an error surprisingly perpetuated in Barrie’s well researched ‘War Underground’. A possible explanation is that as there were two principle shafts and galleries, the four mines might be interpreted as two sets. Even so the total closely grouped explosive power was 112,000 lb, not 60,000 lb as cited by Dixon and had the mines been fired, the overlapping craters would have transcended anything else on the Ridge.

 

The possibility that two of the four were actually removed appears remote. As observed by 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company, the powerful Trench 122 mine just to the north (40,000 lb of ammonal) wrecked the deep workings. It would have taken much more than a sub Section to keep the tunnels pumped dry and also attempt the hazardous task of clearing a way through the damage. Works on this scale would almost certainly have been logged in the Army and GHQ Weekly Mining Summaries. Equally pertinent, the mine that blew in 1955 was No 3, located almost at the junction of the galleries to No 1 & No 2. It is inconceivable that the Tunnellers would have omitted to clear No 3 first before tackling the others.

 

We can only speculate why No 3 exploded in 1955. When the Durand Groupxv accessed the Broadmarsh mine chamber at Vimy, the armoured firing cables, leading back almost to the surface, were found to be in excellent condition. Such cables would certainly have been used at Messines, and if any came close to the surface, the build up of static in a thunderstorm, or a lightening strike could induce sufficient current to initiate the detonators. Subsequently, when the Durand Group neutralised several other mine charges at Vimy, much of the ammonal was found to be in good condition. The fulminate of mercury in the detonators was crystallising, though it has not certain whether this rendered them more or less sensitive.

 

What are chances of any of the remaining mines at Messines unexpectedly detonating as with that at Birdcage in 1955? Excavation in Flanders by ABAF (Association for Battlefield Archaeology in Flanders) has shown that in flooded subterranean works the water and silt, in the absence of free oxygen, acts as an almost perfect preservativexvi. Wood, metal, leather, even fabrics, largely remain in their original condition. It therefore probable that the explosives, usually contained in rubberised bags sealed into metal containers, remain in pristine condition as also the detonators and primers. But initiation would require an electrical stimulant along a firing cable. This implies the cables being close to the surface. At Petit Douve and Peckham the circuits were broken deep underground, at Birdcage the 1955 explosion would have shattered any cables leading to the other charges. The prospect of any of these mines now detonating is infinitesimally small unless induced by a human agency. Nevertheless there are numerous abandoned charges along the line of the Front still in place, very few on the scale of the big offensive mines, but many sitting camouflets placed ready to ambush the enemy miners. On the Vimy Ridge alone there are know to be two German and possibly four British mines at the northern end and others unaccounted for in the Berthonval sector extending into the Canadian Memorial sitexvii. Could something still trigger any of them or others? The probability is low, but the possibility remains.

 

 

THE SITES TODAY

 

The Peckham mine. The crater formed by the 87,000 lb charge, now a fish farm pond, is in the foreground. The abandoned 20,000 lb charge is situated under the present farm buildings, approximately as indicated.

The Petit Douve mine slumbers below the farm of that name on the left hand side of the road from Ploegsteert to Messines, about one km south of Messines.

La Pelerin in 2000. Photo taken from the position of the 1955 crater looking towards the Hamlet with Ploegsteert wood in the background. No 1 mine is situated to the left under the road with the cars, No 4 out of the picture to the right. No 2 is behind the camera position.

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i The exact explosive loadings vary slightly with the source. All figures here have been taken from the post attack report by the Lt Col Stevenson, Inspector of Mines, 2nd Army.

ii AUTHORS NOTE. I am much indebted to the Historian and Author Simon Jones. Until about six years ago it was understood that five mine charges had been lost or abandoned and I produced an article covering these for the now defunct Battlefield Review. It was Simon who established that yet another, a subsidiary mine at Peckham, had also been abandoned. With his kind permission I have used some of his research material.

iii Second Army C.M. 1189 dated 21-6-17. PRO WO 158/152 with copy held at the RE Library.

iv Some Notes on Surveying for the Deep Offensive Mine Galleries in Front of the Messines-Wytchaete Ridge by “Tunneller”. The Tunnellers Old Comrades Association – Bulletin No 11 – 1936. [Regrettably “Tunneller” has not been identified].

v Grant Grieves and Bernard Newman state that the connection was accomplished in March 1917.

vi 171 Tunnelling Company War Diary. PRO WO 95/335 and duplicate at the RE Library.

vii GHQ MINING 3/f/5 dated 19/7/17. PRO WO 158/150 with copy held at the RE Library.

viii Tunnellers by Captain W, Grant Greive and Bernard Newman first printed in 1936 by Herbert Jenkins Ltd, reprinted recently by Anthony Rowe Ltd - no ISBN given.

ix War Underground by Alexander Barrie, (1962) published by Tom Donovan London ISBN 1-871085-00-4

x Report to the Staff, 4th German Army, Lt Col Füsslein, Commander 4th Army Pioneer Miners.

xi Inspector of Mines GHQ Weekly Mining Summaries, PRO WO 158/135 with copy at RE Library.

xii 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company War Diary - Duplicate. PRO WO 95/336

xiii Mining in France, Maj General Harvey, Inspector of Mines at GHQ, PRO WO 106/387 with copy at RE Library.

xiv The Lighter Side of a Tunnellers Life, Major HR Dixon MC RE, Assistant Inspector of Mines at GHQ 1916 to 1919, copy available at the RE Library.

xv The Durand Group for the investigation of subterranean military features.

xvi See Beneath Flanders Fields by Peter Barton, Peter Doyle and Johan Vanderwalle, probably the most extensive and definitive account of military mining to date.

xvii See The War Underground – Vimy Ridge to Arras by Nigel Cave and Phillip Robinson.

 

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Article courtesy of Lt Col Phillip Robinson, friend and member of the DURAND Group.

 

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