The Great War Part 201, June 22nd 1918

322 The Great War Meanwhile great mines had been made by British, Canadian and Australian mining companies. The battle was the prelude to the greater offensives designed for the Ypres front later on for it was necessary to clear the Messines Ridge before the ridges alongside it could be attacked. From this ridge the Germans had dominated the Ypres salient for nearly three years they had been able to look down into the streets of the city and mark the movements of every living thing. How easily therefore could they with enfilading fire and flank counter-attack holdup and bring to naught the heavy offensive which Sir Douglas Haig intended to make the greatest British stroke of the year. The left of the Messines battle-front actually touched that from which the Ypres assaults were launched later. It was here that an Australian mining com­pany blew upHill 60 and a neighbouring height called the Caterpillar. The achievement was that of a moment but it required eight laborious months of pre­paration. Galleries had been laid by the Canadians. The Anzacs’ part was to complete and defend them. And defence meant a deep network of tunnels and mines on both sides of the line as quick diggers and in making one defensive tunnel six feet by three feet they averaged twenty-nine feet a day for seven days. All such work had a special tincture of heroism. It was laborious warfare in the bowels of the earth in vitiated atmosphere in darkness under conditions that restricted movement and made noiselessness imperative. The tunnellers secured electric power from their comrades the Australian Electric Company who installed fans and pumps. But in the main there could be no relief from strain of war-mining on the western front. Such mines would be inclosed Great Britain or Australia by the Troops from Australia in training in England marching onto the parade ground at an inspection by King George. CADETS FROM “DOWN U N R”ATED CAMBRIDGE. Australian cadets in training at Cambridge being inspected by Major-General the Hon. Sir James W. M'Cay K.C.M.G. C.B. V.D. who was accompanied by the Right Hon. Andrew Fisher High Commissioner for Australia. Sir James M'Cay commanded the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade at Gallipoli. driven under perilous conditions. In this counter-mining and camouflage mining the Germans were as active as the British. They knew that somewhere in the neighbourhood great mines were being made. They drove in this way and that and it was the Australian mining companys duty to lead them off the track trap them and “blow them before they could damage the vital works. The long struggle beneath the ground had its aspects as hard and dangerous as anything on the earth orin the air. It had its surprises its sudden gusts of explosion its disappearance of men. There were ninety-eight “blows ”before the final explosion that shattered whole companies of Germans and strong defensive positions. Many of these were German mines that threatened the system. Scores of thousands of pounds of ammonal were lying ready in the mine chambers for the offensive at anytime the Germans might have discovered them and rendered the system harmless. A few days before the great day they did indeed destroy a gallery and record digging was required to restore it. The Australians had a reputation inspectors of mines and the directors would be rebuked. War conditions necessitated absence of ventilation muffling of sound, and removal of all spoil at night. Yet above the general high level of soldierly work shining deeds arose. Donning life-saving appa­ratus when gas was badmen went down into the worst places to rescue or to encourage. The listeners stationed for lonely vigils where even whispering was not allowed lived under intense strain interpreting the sounds into the picking trucking timber­ ing or tamping of neighbouring Germans. Their listening instru­ments were not unlike the tin cans and medical stethoscopes improvised by the Anzacs at Gallipoli. There were cases of Australians meeting Germans underground with spades or picks as weapons. Atypical case of gallantry was that of Sapper T. Earl of New South Wales who Australian miner’s was buried by a German explosion at great gallantry the end of an Australian gallery. The Germans were within six feet of him and he could have saved his life by letting them know. But such a craven course was not for an Australian miner. Though wounded, he dragged himself into the best position for listening and here he lay for forty hours with little hope of rescue but with grim determination to leave by him a clear story of what the Germans were doing. When his mates reached him they found a complete record of what he had heard, with the time of each sound. He himself was exhausted and died. Among the first to climb the parapets on June 7th were volunteers from the tunnellers. Many had begged permission to“go over ”with the infantry. The scheme
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