Messines - Tunnellers and Mines
Tunnellers – Hill 60
The Battle of Messines was fought along a wide frontage. Australian infantry fought on the southern end of this line near Messines village, while to the north at Hill 60 near Ypres Australian tunnellers played a vital role in the detonation of part of a series of huge mines beneath the enemy’s trenches. The 1st Australian Tunnelling Company had worked there since November 1916, extending shafts for the mines while sometimes encountering German underground works. Finally, along the whole British front, 19 mines were exploded with a devastating effect and an impact that some said they felt in London. Many of the enemy were killed, and the survivors demoralised, even before the infantry attacked.
Read more: 'Phantom soldiers: Australian tunnellers on the Western Front, 1916-1918' by Roy MacLeod
Australian Official War Artist Will Dyson visited Hill 60 where the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company had already operated for months counter-mining German tunnellers, prior to the opening of the Battle of Messines. Below are some of his impressions of that visit in drawings and lithographs.
The result was particularly deadly, for the mine was stated by the Germans to have taken up with it a whole company of Wurtumbergers...
The ground round about was strewn with pieces of iron, timber, concrete and wire ... rifles, equipment and ammunition were scattered about. The unburied bodies, rags and human bones, told tales of a series of battles... (Frank Hurley, Official Photographer)