|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
The Caves of Arras.
Thames Star, Volume LVIII, Issue 18363, 9 June 1917, Page 6
THE CAVES OF ARRAS
SHADOWS ON THE WALLS.
(By Phillip Gibbs). War Correspondents Headquarters.
This is King Street,'' said a voice in the darkness this morning, "The third to the left is India street", We were in the caves of Arras, tunnelled out centuries ago. They are very deep and wander in a maze far below the ruins of the Cathedral and out in the open country. In these caverns the people of Arras cowered under the first bombardments, bringing down their bedding and cooking utensils, waiting for the hour of escape. When the enemy stopped for a while the destruction of the city above them, some of them did not try to escape old women and young girls and small boys, who, ever since and until the new battle of Arras, which again made a flaming hell above them have dwelt down here, making their homes in the rock cellars, coming into light when the shells ceased and bolting again at the first scream of a heavy.
On Sunday night last, before our advance across the German lines, thousands of our soldiers waited in the caves for dawn, and before dawn marched down the tunnels, pressed close, a long tide of life streaming forward for an affair of death. Hour after hour supporting troops followed the first waves of the assault and from the world above came down the first of the wounded.
Today the caves are still inhabited by small groups of British soldiers.
On each side of King street, the longest tunnel of all, were big chambers cut out of the chalk rocks, lofty as the vaulted crypts of a great cathedral. Loose boulders of chalk were heaped about them. The men used them for resting places, lying on the high ledges, and sleeping on their blankets; or as card tables for their games of chance. Rifles and bayonets were stacked against the rough walls, and the blankets were tied across the openings to keep out draughts from the main tunnels. The men groped about with lighted candles, which cast a flickering light upon them, flinging back shadows fantastically upon the white walls. Strange odors of ancient dampness, of moist mud, of cooking and oil and gas, reeked out of these high caverns.
The long tunnel was only dark at its entrance. Further along was the glimmer of electric bulbs. I passed on the long way and heard a throbbing down in a deep pit and felt a sudden warmth come up to me. Here was a power house for an electric light plant. Further still I looked down tunnels, leading away to unknown places, and then slouched down them. I had the sense of being in a subterranean world, inhabited by men doing uncanny work.
"I have been thirteen months on this job," said one man. "Came all the way from New Zealand to do it."
I turned down India Lane, climbed a long flight of chalk stairs; felt the wind blowing in my face and heard the infernal clang of the great guns. Before one stretched the battle fronts of Arras.
Down across the battlefields came walking the wounded. They were not in a company, which makes suffering more tolerable, as in the early hours of Easter Monday when they came back with a grim cheerfulnessthose who were only lightly touched. These were single figures, having been hit by chance shells up by the village where the fighting was then in progress.
They walked very slowly, avoiding the litter of brickwork dug up by the shell fire, drawing their breath very, sharply when their tired feet stumbled against a stone, hesitating with a look of despair, when they came to the edge of the broken trenches. They were "light cases, the lucky ones, but their way was a Via Doloroso."