Mining, Mud & Medals
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 – even Mexico.
During WW1 mining engineers, miners, electricians, carpenters and soldier miners, tried to drive their, often narrow tunnels, under no man’s land. A silent and savage war; silent [as] because of the vital need to ensure the enemy couldn’t hear where ANZACs were tunnelling. Savage, because discovery close to enemy lines often meant death by mustard gas, close combat fighting or simply being blown up by enemy mines. The hostilities weren’t just above ground; fighting also took place in closed and cramped spaces underground where the hunters were also being hunted.
Members of the Mining Corps belonged to specialist units: for example, of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army provided skilled men who dug 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 Ballarat Electorate enjoys a long history connected with mining and its three Schools of Mines at Ballarat, Clunes & Daylesford. Many talented members of their alumni enlisted during WWI, and history proves these men came with significant levels of experience which then enabled them to deliver vital expertise to the Australian Mining Corps.
Members of the Victorian Interpretive Projects Inc (VIPs) recently created a facebook site designed to highlight the role of the ANZAC tunnellers in WW1 – especially those who haled from the Ballarat Electorate. This facebook site now 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.