The War Underground on the Western Front - Pontypridd miners in the RE Tunnelling companies by Keith Jones
07 Jun

Undermining the positions of one’s enemy is one of the most ancient of martial activities. For almost 3000 years before 1914, and even after the invention of gunpowder and the inexorable development of artillery, it was a prime siege-breaking technique; indeed tunnelling is still employed across the world to the present day. The Great War, however, produced the greatest siege the world had ever seen, and its four years of stasis presented a conflict environment that perfectly favoured the skills of the military miner. By the end of May 1915 a continuous trench line, effectively an unbroken pair of fortress walls with no vulnerable flanks, stretched from the North Sea coast to the Swiss frontier. It was to grow into a huge network of defence-in-depth earthworks. With both sides equally well dug-in and deploying comparable troop numbers and armaments, neither was to prove strong enough to force a decisive breakthrough. Siege conditions demanded siege tactics: as the ground was everywhere mineable, the Western Front was a prime candidate for underground warfare.

Keith Jones, a local historian, tells the story of the Pontypridd miners who swapped their coal mines for tunnels on the Western Front.

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Fairwater Conservative Club, 61 Ely Rd, Cardiff CF5 2BY
07 Jun 2024 19:30