Battle Beneath the Trenches

The Cornish Miners of the 251st Tunnelling Company, RE

Robert Johns

Date Published :
April 2015
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
100 illustrations (approximately) integrated
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781473827004
Pages : 208
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Undermining the positions of the enemy is one of the most ancient activities. For almost 3000 years even before 1914, it was a popular siege-breaking technique. During the Great War arguably the greatest siege the world had ever seen, it presented a conflict environment that perfectly favored the skills of the military miner. During 1915, the Western Front was established as a static line that grew into a huge network of defense-in-depth earthworks. Siege conditions demanded siege tactics and as the ground was everywhere mineable, the Western Front was a prime candidate for underground warfare.

Royal Engineer tunneling companies were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War. The Cornish Miners were one of these specialist units recruited from the tin mines of Cornwall.

In February 1915, eight Tunneling Companies were created and operational in Flanders from March 1915. By mid-1916, the British Army had around 25,000 trained tunnelers, mostly volunteers taken from mining communities. This is their story.


"A well written account of one of the specialist tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers; the 'Cornish Miners Battalion', who put themselves at risk every day by burrowing beneath the earth on the Western Front to undermine the enemy's positions. This is a vivid and well researched unit history of men who were recruited from the tin mines of Cornwall to play their part below the trenches and no-man's-land, often in appalling conditions, as they sought to give an advantage to their infantry brothers fighting above them. Highly recommended."

- The Great War Magazine

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