|We will remember them
(Extracts from ANZAC Day presentation, 2008)
Miners at War
written for Quarrying & Mining magazine
A Tunneller's grandson tells his story
Committee member Mike Roycroft tells the story of his grandfather
The Caves of Arras
Thames Star 1917
Good War Service
Evening Post 1919
Most Frightful Fight Ever Seen
Wanganui Chronicle 1917
The New Zealand Tunnelling Company
Maori Television 2010
Unit War Diary, Arras
Nov 1916-April 1917
We Will Remember Them.
Extracts from the ANZAC Day Address, Waihi 2008
Researched & presented by members of Waihi Heritage Vision
The New Zealand Tunnelling Company were the first New Zealanders to reach the Western Front. By the end of the war, 49 Tunnelling Company men are recorded as having enlisted from Waihi and Karangahake.
The vast majority of the Tunnelling Company left New Zealand shores one week before Christmas 1915. Two McAneny brothers from Rosemont Road were among the specially recruited group of men arriving in France, March 1916. The first local Tunnelling Company casualty was Sergeant Claude Pownceby, married, age 39. He was killed in September 1916 in the Somme.
In November 1916 the Tunnellers moved to Arras in France. Over the next five months the New Zealanders extended the two existing underground systems and created new tunnels. They constructed a complex system of facilities capable of housing 20,000 men.
The underground war was a deadly affair, which hinged on the speed of the digging. Tunnellers would dig a long shaft under the enemy trench system and carve out a bigger cave at the end of the tunnel. They would then pack the end cave with about 3000 pounds of explosives and detonate it. When an explosion of this size went off underground, everyone in nearby tunnels, even unconnected to the explosion, was killed by carbon monoxide created by the blast. As they dug, the tunnellers would listen to the digging sounds of the enemy. When digging stopped you could hear the enemy packing explosives and knew that if you weren't ready to blow, youd lost the race. The New Zealand tunnellers dug at three times the rate of the German tunnellers and won the race virtually every time. Only once during the war did the enemy blow a mine before the Kiwis were able to counter-mine.
The Tunnelling Company finally left the Arras area in July 1918. Eleven of the total of 49 Tunnellers from Waihi/Karangahake died as a result of wounds, disease or action in the field. Several died on their return to New Zealand.
Sapper George Davies of Rosemont Road never came home to his wife. Age 29, he was killed in action in France. He was buried at Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras. Also buried in Arras is Sapper Robert Jones, age 31. Sapper Walter Tatham of Haszard St was aged 23 and died of disease. Sapper Colin Adams, married, died of wounds. Both died in France.
Sapper James Taylor was aged 38 when he died of disease on his way from New Zealand to France. Sapper George Trenberth died in France from wounds in January 1918. He was aged 33. One of two brothers who fought in World War 1, 26 year old Sapper William Mannix died in February 1919. Sapper Sylvester Dargan, married of Mataura Rd died age 43 in 1920. Both are buried at the Waihi cemetery, as is Sapper James Taylor.
A number of Waihi and Karangahake Tunnellers were the recipients of military honours. Lance-Corporal F G McClymont received the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field and died of wounds December 1917. He was buried in Etrun, Pas-de-Calais. He was one of eleven to receive this award. Captain R.H Daldy was awarded a Military Cross, one of four to receive this award. Waihi tunneller, Lance Corporal J R Norris, who is buried in the Waihi cemetery, was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was one of six to receive this award. Sapper Walter George Dean was awarded with a Meritorious Service Medal. He was one of three to receive this award.
By knowing the stories of those who served, our Waihi community has an opportunity to learn more about itself, what it means to be a New Zealander and especially what it means to say you come from Waihi.