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Author Topic: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnellers  (Read 1091 times)

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Offline Kentishwolf

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnellers
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2018, 20:33:57 »
The Royal Engineers (before the officers and other ranks were amalgamated) were called the Royal Sappers and Miners. An age old tactic of breaching an enemy fortress was by digging a zig-zag trench, known as a sap towards the enemy wall, then tunnelling beneath the wall and filling a chamber with wood. Setting the wood alight which would eventually bring down the wall. This was later changed to some form of explosive material which is what is portrayed in the photo. The technique had largely fallen out of use by the Great War because it was felt that modern artillery was powerful enough to breach any fortress wall, so the British Royal Engineers had no real tunnelling expertise when the war started. The Germans used tunnelling first and the British had to respond. Around February/March 1915 Major John Norton-Griffiths (a real life boys own type character) gained permission to form Royal Engineers Tunnelling Companies. He took some of his 'clay-kickers', tunnellers from his own company who were engaged on a sewer digging project in Manchester, and I think within four days they had been signed up, given uniforms and shipped over to France, (it was recommended that they were not given weapons as they had not had time to train them!). (Norton Griffiths travelled to Manchester on 18 February and closed down one of his tunnelling contracts, making 18 staff redundant. The following day the War Office gave its approval to the Royal Engineers tunnelling company scheme. On the same day, 18 formerly redundant Manchester men turned up in Chatham to be enrolled, clothed and turned into Royal Engineers. One of the most rapid acts of the First World War, men who were working underground as civilians on 17 February, were working underground on the Western Front a mere 4 days later). (Wikipedia)They formed the nucleus of the Royal Engineers Tunnelling Companies. Miners from various parts of the UK were signed up and together with other tunnelling companies from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, comprehensively defeated the German tunnellers, by digging deeper (undermining them) and faster. It was a very dangerous and lonely form of warfare, at risk of being blown up (counter mined), buried by falls or gassed. They were real unsung heroes.
The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath.

Offline kyn

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnellers
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2018, 12:02:36 »
There was a lot of this training around the Lower Lines, with evidence found when building the university.  There is a fair amount of information on here somewhere.

Offline smiffy

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnellers
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2018, 22:37:02 »
Those around Medway weren't the only ones:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmerston_Forts

Cost a fortune to construct and were out of date before they were finished.

Offline smiler

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnelers
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2018, 21:18:53 »
     Thanks smiffy know all of them but never heard them called Palmerston

Offline smiffy

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnelers
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2018, 21:15:10 »
Forts Horsted, Borstal, Bridgewoods, etc.

Offline smiler

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnelers
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2018, 20:46:10 »
     Never heard of the Palmerston forts. Where were or are they?

Offline smiffy

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Re: Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnelers
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2018, 13:42:16 »
"Royal Engineer practice mines being blown as part of a training exercise near Chatham, Kent in 1887".

It would be interesting to know where this location was - it was at this time the Palmerston Forts were being constructed, perhaps there is some connection.



Offline conan

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Pre WW1 Royal engineers tunnellers
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2018, 23:52:57 »
Prior to the first world war the royal engineers were training tunnellers to lay mines and blow enemy positions.The war itself gave plenty of opportunity to develop this tactic

http://www.tunnellersmemorial.com/tunnelling-companies/
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

 

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