Tunnelling Companies of WWI 

My Australian Grandfather, Charles Henry LEAVER, was by occupation a miner and prospecter. He put his age down to 45 ( he was born in 1867)  to join up.

He was in the 3rd Tunnelling Company and returned home in 1919.

I have several articles including Phantom soldiers - Australian tunnellers  on the western front 1916-18 published in the journal of The Australian War Memorial in 1988. Google will find some great stuff; my favourite by Gail Dodd of Perth, Western Australia (Centre of the Known Universe), which includes transcripts from the WWI diary of Hughie Dodd of the 6th Tunnelling Coy. A great website is http://www.tunnellers.net/pages/indexpag.html  

"On the Western Front during the First World War, the military employed specialist miners to dig tunnels under No Man's Land . The main objective was to place mines beneath enemy defensive positions. When it was detonated, the explosion would destroy that section of the trench. The infantry would then advance towards the enemy front-line hoping to take advantage of the confusion that followed the explosion of an underground mine.

On occasions miners accidentally dug into the opposing side's tunnel and an underground fight took place. When an enemy's tunnel was found it was usually destroyed by placing an explosive charge inside.

Mines became larger and larger. At the beginning of the Somme offensive, the British denoted two mines that contained 24 tons of explosives. Another 91,111 lb. mine at Spanbroekmolen created a hole that afterwards measured 430 ft. from rim to rim. Now known as the Pool of Peace, it is large enough to house a 40 ft. deep lake.

In January, 1917, General Sir Herbert Plumer, gave orders for 20 mines to be placed under German lines at Messines. Over the next five months more than 8,000 metres of tunnel were dug and 600 tons of explosive were placed in position. Simultaneous explosion of the mines took place at 3.10 on 7th June. The blast killed an estimated 10,000 soldiers and was so loud it was heard in London."