|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 New Zealand Tunnelling Company
Evening Post, Volume CIV, Issue 85, 7 October 1922, Page 17
" The New Zealand Tunnelling Company." By J. C. Neill, A.O.S.M.
Whitcombe and Tombs, Wellington.
Much was heard of the " Tunnellers" when they were formed in 1915, but not much afterwards. They did much splendid work out of sight, and that in more ways than one; now their record of services is told, and it is one of which they have good reason to be proud. As their historian, Mr. Neill has done them justice. They were a fine body of men, recruited from probably the most independent class on earthbushmen, miners, navvies, and prospectors. They were unaccustomed to military discipline, yet, recognising the necessity for it, they accepted it, and "buckled to" with a will to make themselves proficient. Fortunately they had as officers engineers, from the Public Works Department and mining engineers who knew men and how to handle them, who were endowed with the almost divine gift of tact, and were generally conspicuous for their commonsense.
The splendid work of the Tunnellers was testified to by General Godley, who said: "You have carried out your work in a spirit of devotion to duty, creditable in the highest degree to all concerned." He added: '"'I consider that the Army was most fortunate in having at its disposal such a skilled body of officers and men, accustomed to work underground, and that no unit of equal size did more towards the ultimate success of the Allied cause"
Mr. Neill tells a remarkable story of the work of the Tunnellers in the mines, and his writing in all seriousness of the adaptation of the vast network of cellars under Arras, hollowed out of the chalk, generations ago, back indeed to the days when the Spaniards occupied Northern France and the Netherlands. The Tunnellers had the task of linking up these, cellars into a sort of underground city. Troops marched in their thousands through these cellars or caves, all connected by regular routes, with street names. Electric light was installed everywhere, and underground streams were canalised. Accommodation was provided for 20,000 men. Only about half that number was ever actually in residence in them at one time, but in the aggregate probably 30,000 men slept one or more nights in the caves, and many times that number passed through them. Mr. Neill adds to this description of the subterranean city: " Considering the nature of the ground and the difficulty of getting timber, it is a great tribute to the mining ability, of the company that beyond one or two small knocks not a single man of the thousands was hurt by falling chalk." But the Tunnellers were not always working like moles. They did some splendid bridge work in timber and steel and in reinforced concrete; they built roads, as well as mined beneath enemy strongholds, with great results. No navvying work ever came amiss to them. One of their most agreeable experiences was their hospitable reception by the residents of Falmouth whey they arrived. Mr. Neill has an attractive style of writing; he wastes no words, and he has a story full of incident to relate. It is for the reader to fill in with some rather startling detail the pictures that Mr. Neill so modestly outlines. The book is fully illustrated with half-tones, maps, airplane views of trenches and a number of working drawings of works actually carried out.