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Robert Adam Clinton – 1st Australian Mining Corps

Robert Adam Clinton – 1st Australian Mining Corps, was a mining engineer from Ballarat. He enlisted at the age of 36 in September 1916. Born 25 October 1879 at Taradale, near Ballarat, Victoria, Robert was the son of Adam Donaldson and Wilhelmina (nee Cameron) Clinton. The Electoral Roll of 1906 records him as a miner at Laverton, Western Australia.

He was one the team of officers from the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company who were responsible for firing the massive explosive charge in a mine under Hill 60.

He died in Melbourne East at the age of 46 in 1936.
More on Robert Adam Clinton:

Outdoors group portrait at a rest camp of the team of officers from the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company

who were responsible for firing the massive explosive charge in a mine under Hill 60

which completely destroyed the German front line at the northern end of Messines Ridge on 1917-06-07.

The officers are (left to right): back row: Lieutenant (Lt) John MacDiarmid Royle; Lt James Bowry;

Lt Hubert Henry Carroll, MC. Front row: Captain (Capt) Oliver Holmes Woodward, MC and two bars;

Major James Douglas Henry, CO, OBE, DSO; Capt Robert Adam Clinton, MC. Capt Woodward

was responsible for closing the main electrical switch and Lts Royle and Bowry the two auxiliary switches

that detonated the explosives. Capt Clinton had been in charge of the digging of the advanced tunnels

under the German trenches, while Major Henry was responsible for synchronising, by means of a stopwatch,

the detonation at Hill 60 with the detonation of other explosive charges all along Messines Ridge.

(Donor J. MacD. Royle) (Original print held in AWM Archive Store. Formerly 3DRL 3852)


MINING MUD & MEDALS Facebook and WIKI page:

MINING, MUD & MEDALS Facebook page is designed to highlight the role of the ANZAC tunnellers in WW1 – especially those who hailed from the Ballarat Electorate as well as many other WW1 related information.  The Facebook page connects with similar groups on many levels, for example, it is regularly updated with news items, hyperlinks to handy research websites, specialist information, photos, and advance notices about ANZAC related events. Anyone interested in the history of WW1 will find a plethora of interesting items on this site which is aptly named: Mining Mud & Medals.


…as they say there’s more……

Mining Mud & Medals are working hard on a Wiki page, with information on:

The Mining Corps, the Battlefields, biographies, miners, maps and repatriation.




If you have WW1 ‘Tunnellers’ in your family, please contact us via:





Major General Harold Edward ‘Pompey’ Elliott

Major General Harold Edward ‘Pompey’ Elliott.

‘The War that changed us” is the story of Australia and the First World War revealed through the lives of six Australians.

Brought to life through personal testimony, dramatic reconstruction, expert analysis, location filming and colourised archive.




One of the people highlighted in the documentary was Major General Harold Edward Elliott, better known as “Pompey”.

On ABC TV this week, the last episode of: ‘The War that changed us”. If you’ve missed the last episode (or would like to see the series again)

you can still see it via this link:





Historian Ross McMullin, spoke in the series about ‘Pompey’, but has also written a book about him:

‘Pompey’ also had a strong link with Ballarat. He was born near Ballarat in 1878 and he obtained his early education at Ballarat College.

In the central part of Ballarat, on Sturt street, there stands a special statue dedicated to him. It was unveiled in 2011.




Sapper Harold Evelyn Baxter

Harold Evelyn Baxter – place of association: Snake Valleybaxter

On his enlistment papers, he has his father living in Snake Valley.

PHOTO: An Australian cemetery on the beach at Anzac Cove.

The grave at the far right is of 182 Sapper (Spr) Harold Evelyn Baxter,

2nd Field Company Australian Engineers. A telephone mechanic from Melbourne,

Victoria, prior to enlistment, he embarked on HMAT Orvieto on 20 October 1914 for Gallipoli.

Spr Baxter was killed in action on 3 June 1915, aged 23 years. (Via AWM)



Wartime memories of Ballarat – at the Gold Museum

Wartime memories of Ballarat – at the Gold Museum in Ballarat.

2014-09-06 10.17.53



A special exhibition showcasing part of the Gold Museum’s collection of military history.



Items such as WW1 honour boards, various displays of WW1 and WW2 memorabilia,2014-09-06 10.36.23

including photos and costumes.






For more on the Gold Museum and it’s collection: 




We are very proud to share a video about the Mining Mud & Medals project called

Directed and Edited by Joel Checkley and Produced by Belinda Ensor
for Museums Australia (Victoria), 2014

Photo: Hill 60 in Flanders


Corporal Martin George Dunn – member 2nd Australian Tunnelling Coy & POW

Martin George Dunn (543) a 43 year old married Railwayman who was living at Ballarat when he enlisted on the 16th July 1915.

He was taken prisoner in 1917 and returned to Australia in 1919.

More on Martin George Dunn:

Photo: Ballarat Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial, where Martin George Dunn is listed.


A digitised copy of M.G. Dunn’s POW Index Card (Red Cross archives, Switzerland) recently became available for viewing online. Access via

The Nominal Roll of British Prisoners of War who arrived in Switzerland from Germany on 31 August 1918 (Red Cross archives, Switzerland) shows Corporal M.G. Dunn was accompanied by Sgt C.H. Angus, 2nd Aust Tunnelling Company, along with others from the AIF and Scots or Canadian units.



Another ANZAC Tunneller from the Ballarat Electorate:

Captain Percy William Wagstaff, born in Daylesford, was a miner. In 1896 he was the Mine Manager for the ‘Last Chance Mine’ at Yandoit. He married music teacher Florence Wilkinson.

According to his records, he served with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Australian Infantry Regiment and the 67th Australian Infantry before WW1. Captain Percy William Wagstaff - Copy (300x415) (300x415)

He applied and became a member of the No 5 Tunnelling Company and later transferred to the 2nd Tunnelling Company.

Besides the British medals awarded after the war, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre (France) for conspicuous services. As a result of an explosion,

2 French deputies and some soldiers were buried. Wagstaff at his own personal risk, and under difficult circumstances, directed the rescue work day and night,

resulting in saving some soldiers as well as recovery of the Deputies.

Percy William Wagstaff returned to Australia and died in September 1941 at age 60.

For more information check



A ‘Ballarat Tunneller’.

Thomas Rhys Williams was not born in the Ballarat Electorate, but he did attend the Ballarat School of Mines, graduating as a Mining Engineer and a First Class Mining Manager in 1909.

He assumed command of the 2nd Field Company. In 1916, when the Third Australian Division was formed, Williams commanded the 9th Field Company of the Royal Engineers in France, leading the company through campaigns at Messines and Third Ypres. He became commander of the 3rd Division Engineers.

Thomas Rhys Williams was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Companion or the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) and the Croix de Guerre (Belgian).

He served in World War 1 and 2.



Every Aussie’s got a soft spot for Wombats!

Kiwi Tunnellers in France used Wombat drilling machines as part of their mining operations. In the Australian Tunnelling Corps, Captain Stanley Hunter was the drilling expert and the inventor of a drilling machine called the ‘Wombat’. The Corps took 36 of these with it and the NZ Tunnellers would also use the machine to their advantage. The Wombat would play an important part in the underground opening scenes of the Battle of Arras.

The Wombat was named after the Australian animal, said to be the fastest borer known. The Calyx cutter attachment of the drill was made of hard steel. In a 1919 NZ newspaper article on the use of the borer at Messines, the Wombat was reported to be ‘eminently suited to boring in the chalk and flints of the country and did wonderful work.’

It was reported that at Messines the value of the Wombat was in its great adaptability to conditions. It could be used for a straight-down bore, or for horizontal drilling, and was effective in all directions, except boring round corners — it would not do just as it was asked to when an angle had to be negotiated. The special value of the Wombat was in drilling horizontal holes into near-by enemy trenches — 100ft or more away.

The 6in hole was drilled from the Allied trench, the power being men on the handles of the driller. When the hole was far enough, the ammonal cartridges were inserted and pushed very carefully with the drill into the end of the bore, each cartridge being pushed up so that it fitted into the end of the preceding one making a chain of high explosive. No tamping was necessary. Owing to the explosion being instantaneous with the firing of the charge, the air in the bore supplied the resistance needed, and the effect of the blast was all that was desired. A big charge of ammonal, under these conditions, would blow out an open cut of 20ft wide and 14ft deep, and all that had occupied the space previous to the explosion would have been distributed upward and cross-wise. Where an enemy trench was, there was the open cut —unoccupied.

In early October 1916, while still working on underground defences at Chantecler, the NZ Tunnellers proposed to get near enemy lines and blow a communication trench using a tube of ammonal exploded in a hole by a Wombat Borer. Lieutenant McMeeking and a party of eight men were duly despatched for a course of training in use of the Wombat drill at the 1st Army Mining School. On the 19 October, the Tunnelling Company War Diary records McMeeking and his boring team had returned, having also broken all records.

On 6 November the War Diary reports, ‘Trying Wombat borer in J sector – too hard for great success.’ Shortly afterwards the Tunnellers started work on connecting the underground quarries. Here they would use the Wombat again, this time more successfully.

On 18 February 1917 the War Diary records; ‘An experimental wombat chamber, made and started boring a 6in hole today.’ The next day it was recorded that a wombat hole had been bored 70 feet from the experimental chamber. A couple of days later the wombat hole was charged and blown with good results.

Closer to the opening of the Battle of Arras, the War Diary records further use of the Wombat and its part in the Battle of Arras opening proceedings.




22/3/17 Top of Wombat Chamber ran into bottom of a shell-hole and the latter had to be filled which was rather ticklish job as it was well under Hun wire. This Chamber is required to give room to the use of the Wombat drilling machine

4/4/17 Wombat hole from I.54 is in 150 feet. Drilling has been stopped and preparations for loading in hand

5/4/17 Loading I.54 borehole continued. Loading in I.56 finished; it was loaded with 9lbs Ammonal per foot run continued in sheet iron cylinders. The length charged was 19 ft, the last 2 feet of the hole being tamped. The arrangement of firing was by two electric circuits with three detonators in series in each, placed in the last cylinder. The cover over borehole in I.56 and I.54 galleries was about 4 ft 6 in.

6/4/17 Borehole in I.54 loaded with 9lbs of ammonal per foot run contained in sheet iron cylinders, the hole is loaded for 144 feet the last 6 feet being tamped. The arrangement for firing is by 2 electric circuits, with 6 detonators in series in each; 3 detonators being in the middle of the charge and 3 at the back end.

9 April. The Battle begins with another entry in the Unit Diary.

9/4/17 At zero hour (5.30 am) the Mine in I 70 and boreholes in I 56 and I 54 were blown. The explosions of these Mines was taken as the signal to attack by the Infantry in the Neighbourhood.
At 156 the explosion produced a crater of about 10 ft deep, 30 ft across and 50 ft long…In 45 minutes a trench was opened from the crater to the Hun trench and 200 ft of Gallery Roof about 2 in thick removed, a clear trench way being established from our gallery and the Hun front line…In 154 the explosion produced a crater about 12 feet deep 44 ft across and approx 160 feet long…A communication trench was established from our gallery to the crater and to the Hun Line in 2 hours. These Communication trenches were never used as the attack was so successful that about a 4 and a half mile advance was made that day.

Image; Courtesy Australian War Memorial ID number EO1689. Date made 30 January 1918.

Image caption: Boring a hole with a ‘Wombat’ drill for the ventilation of a dugout at the Headquarters of No. 2 Section, 3rd Australian Tunnelling Company, in the Cite St. Laurent. The “Wombat” boring machine was designed by Captain Stanley Hunter of the Australian Mining Corps, and adopted by the British Army. Shown: Lieutenant J. Robertson (left) and 4368 Sapper C. G. Jolley, at work.


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