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I am looking for information on where the 171st Tunnelling Company, The Royal Engineers were situated during the month of April 1917. If any member as a copy of the War Diary for this period it would be most helpful.

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I have a general idea that they were at Spanbroekmolen/Hill 60 in 1917.I think this was part of the 19 mines set off at the Battle of Messines in Jun 1917.
A good reference book to get a look at might be in your Library there in Congleton. "Beneath Flanders Fields - The Tunnellers War 1914-1918".

The War Diary for 171TCRE is under reference WO95/335 and is not yet digital.

Do you have a specific soldier you seek for this time period ?

I have noted that a Sapper John Atkins from 171 died of wounds on 25 Apr 1917 and is buried at Wulvergem in Kandahar Farm Cemetery,which is quite close to where I deduce the unit was operating.

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As Sotonmate has said, they were working on the Spanbroekmolen mine and that area in general. The war diary is pretty sparse and doesn't mention much more than the movements of men joining and leaving to Coy and temporary attachments of infantry for working parties.

This is the Summary provided at the

end of the month:

2 Lieut AE PAINTER RE wounded and died of wounds.

2 Lieut AW HAMMOND RE transferred to Royal Flying School

2 Officers and 146 R&F (rank and file) 36th Div Infantry joined for temp duty and rejoined Regts

2 Officers and 133 R&F 16th Div Infantry joined for temp duty and rejoined Regts

113 R&F 25th Div Infantry joined for temp duty and rejoined Regts

52 R&F New Zealand Rifle Brigade rejoiend Regt

1 R&F joined from No1 Wing RE Base Depot

12 R&F joined from No4 Infantry Base Depot, 3 R&F transferred to 3rd Pioneer Coy

1 R&F wounded 2 R&F died of wounds 12 R&F to Hospital gassed

3 R&F died of gas poisoning.

Another good book to look at in addition to Beneath Flanders Fields in "Undergroud Warfare 1914-1918" by Forum member Simon Jones.


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  • 3 months later...

I am hoping to find some information on members of the 3rd Australian Division who from around Feb 1917 started supplying detached troops to the 171st Tunnelling Coy Engineers. The 3rd Division's Administrative Staff War Diary for Feb 1917 states that all up approx 214 personnel were 'Detached on mining and tunnelling duties'.

Specifically I am hoping to find out some information on what these attachments may have found themselves doing e.g. moving spoil/general labour and fatigues or possibly even force protection for the tunnel shafts / below ground?


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If it's anything like the Durham Light Infantry then a lot of the men they provided for tunneling work were actually miners rather than for any sort of protection/labouring work


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As I understand it, whilst the tunnelling effort was in its formative stages in 1915, many miners from infantry units were used in Brigade Mining Sections, many of these men then transferred to the newly forming tunnelling companies, Royal Engineers. By 1917 I think the attached infantry were mainly used for labouring, although much of this may have involved underground work. Moving the bags of spoil back along the tunnel systems and away to covered dumps, manning pumping systems to keep the mine from flooding. I have read a couple of quotes from attached infantrymen who told of the conditions underground and how hard the work was, they preferred manning the trenches! I do not think there was a great deal of security/protection work, the mine entrances were often hidden or disguised and the protection of them was down to the troops working in the mine at the time. There are a couple of tunnelling experts on here who may be able to give you a more definitive answer.


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