100 years ago: The battle underground

Publish Date : 01 Apr 2016
The battle underground
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. AWNS-19151021-37-2

On 11 October 1915, the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company assembled at the Avondale Racecourse en route to the Western Front.

Comprising gold miners, bushmen, public works staff, farmers, surveyors and engineers, the company had been formed to wage a secret underground war in the fight for Europe.

During the engagement, the New Zealanders tunnelled at three times the rate of their German adversaries. Only once did the enemy detonate a mine before the New Zealand contingent could lay a counter mine.

March 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the tunnellers’ arrival in France. They were the first New Zealand contingent to reach that theatre of conflict.

A memorial to the company was unveiled at Waihi in January. The Avondale Racecourse, where the engineers assembled, is on Auckland Council’s First World War Heritage Trail, which commemorates sites important to the Great War across Auckland.

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