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Remembered Today:

171st Tunnelling Company. R.E.


Nigel M

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My GG Uncle Francis Meek served with the 171st Tunnelling Co. Monmouthshire Regiment, Royal Engineers which I understand was a Territorial Regiment. I have read some interesting details on the activities of the Tunnelling Companies on the site.Would any experts out there have any specific information as to the activities of the 171st.He was KIA in 1917.

thanks

Nigel

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Hi there

This is from the Parent site, and is an excellent account of the tunnellers work

"171st Tunnelling Company

Formed of a small number of specially enlisted miners, with troops selected from the Monmouthshire Siege Company,RE. First employed in March 1915 in the Hill 60/Bluff areas at Ypres. Moved to Ploegsteert in July 1915 and commenced mining operations near St Yves. April 1916 saw a move to the Spanbroekmolen/Douve sector facing the Messines ridge. Forced to move from camp at Boeschepe in April 1918, when the enemy broke through the Lys positions and were then put on duties that included digging and wiring trenches over a long distance from Reninghelst to near St Omer. "

Well worth a look

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In June 1917, Francis Meek and the 171st tunnelling company were firing mines on the Messines-Wytschaete ridge. I think 171st were involved with the famous Spanbroekmolen mine. These were set off on the 7th June and Francis died on the 13th - at least he had the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of his labours before he went.

Cheers,

Ian

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Nigel

I recommend Les Hughes & John Dixon’s Surrender be Damned A history of the 1/1st Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment 1914-18 CWM Press 1995. As well as being a detailed history of the Battalion it also includes much about 171st Tunnelling Company. 2365 Rfn Francis Reginald Meek is listed on a Nominal Roll.

171 Company had indeed blown several of the mines on 6/7/17 including those at Spanbroekmolen, Peckham and Factory Farm.* They also laid and maintained the four so-called lost mines at the Birdcage. For an account of these mines see Beneath Flanders Fields by Peter Barton et al.

Regards

Simon

* Correction: They blew Spanbroekmolen, three at Kruistraat and one at Ontario Farm. They were involved in the placing of others which they handed over other companies.

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Ian

Thanks for the inormation.Are records held on how he may have died?

Nigel

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Hi Nigel,

I think this will be down to luck. I see the Monmouth war diaries are not yet available on-line so a trip to Kew may be necessary. Even then, war diaries vary tremendously in the detail of their content. I have seen casualty lists of other ranks which specify whether bullet wound or shell fragment but other diaries simply don't mention anything so lowly as a private soldier. I would go for the book which Simon mentions and start your search from there. Oh yes, don't neglect the local newspapers of the time which often carried quite a bit of detail and a photograph.

Good luck,

Ian

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Look in the War Diary of 171st Tunnelling Company RE.

Simon

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  • 7 years later...

Hi

I am seeking information on Thomas Ellis, 66946, K.I.A 13th May 1916, while serving with 171st Tunnelling Company.

I have all Thomas's details, Born 23rd October 1885, Cwmparc Glamorgan, enlisted Cardiff 9th Welsh Regiment, 15225, entry France 25th Feb 1915,transferred to 171st R.E. rank Sapper, Thomas was a Coal Miner before enlisting. Would like to reveal cause of

death.

This information was requested through the Forum by two school boy's from Cwmparc after a WW1 Memorial was discovered in a skip

The local school was contacted to research the names on the memorial, Thomas Ellis was one of them.

One of the only things missing is how Thomas died. This and any other relevant information would be very much appreciated and

pasted on to the school children.

I think you will all agree how good it is that they are seeking information on local hero's almost 100 years on.

Regards

Tony.

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The Unit War Diary would be your best option.They are at Kew unsure if 171 TC has been digitalised yet for download

Ady

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Thanks Ady

Don't know if the school would know how to access Kew.

If I don't get any information through the Forum, I may do it for them.

Thanks again

Tony

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Tony

The war diary only states: 'No 66946 Sap Ellis, T killed in action. 1 RF [ presumably rank and file] wounded to hosp[ital.].'

I'm afraid there is nothing else to suggest where or how he died.

Kind regards

Colin

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Thanks very much Colin.

Did it say where the company were at that time. I am led to believe they were in the Spanbroekmolen/Douve section opposite the Messines Ridge, and

wondered if this information is correct.

Must have died later in hospital.

Thanks again, I will pass it on to the school children.

Regards

Tony

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By coincidence I've just come back from visiting Spanbroekmolen and the surrounding area and the work of 171st Coy was mentioned - I believe the 175th and the 1st Australian TC were also involved in this sector in spring/early summer 1916. As the 19 Messines mines were exploded in June it is quite possible that Sapper Ellis died as a result of tunnelling works in preparation for one of these. Some of 171st's mines were handed over to other companies and if the construction and handover dates are known from the diaries, it might reduce the number of possible shafts and tunnels Ellis was working on at the time of his death. Of course he may have been killed while on other duties and through other causes!

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Hi Trevb

Thanks for your response and your very good information. I was lead to believe that Sapper Thomas Ellis was in the Messines area at the time of his

death your information now confirms this. As you say Sapper Elis could have been killed tunnelling, or when he was completing other duties. I believe

that the sapper's doubled up as Infantry men when under attack.

I had information posted above that he was injured (or wounded) and taken to a near by Clearing Station and then possibly to hospital, but again nothing

concrete.

Thanks again Trev, the school kids will be chuffed.

All the best

Tony

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Tony

The war diary doesn't state - the previous month has them at Ploegsteert. They were in the area of there and Wulverghem in late April. Ultimately the tunnelling companies were fairly sedentary but covered a wide front - the diary mentions supporting both 9th and 24th Divisions in late April. Ultimately the diary will not be of much help in narrowing down location or manner of death.

Kind regards

Colin

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Hi Colin

Thanks for the information, the more I find out about Tunnelling Company's, the more complex they seem. When they are not involved with tunnelling they

are repairing trenches, laying telephone cables, or fighting alongside the Infantry.

If I check the positions of both the 9th and 24th Divisions at the time of his death, then I may have a better idea of where he was, which will

probably be where you say Wulverghem, as he died 13th May.

I think your information "wounded taken to hospital" is as good as it will get. Thanks for that.

I will pass the information on to the school boys.

Many thanks again

Regards

Tony

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Morning Colin,

Would you, by any chance, have the War Diary for 171TC for

Sunday 20 June 1915

Looking at Sapper 102066 Thomas Archer

Many thanks (as always),

Regards,

Graeme

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Tony

I don't know if this can be filed under any other relevant information but I had a look through the photos I've taken of the area discussed above and these may be of use. The first is the Messines ridge from the edge of Whitesheet on the left to Messines on the right taken from Nieuwkerke (Neuve Eglise). Wulverghem church just breaks the horizon in the centre of shot. This gives an indication of the dominance of the ridge but makes Wulverghem look closer to Messines than it really is. There are a series of spurs off the ridge which don't show on this one. The uploader has cropped the shot so you just see the tower of Messines church on the right.

The second shows the same area but taken from the edge of the crater at Spanbroekmolen looking back towards Wulverghem and Nieuwkerke. Again the uploader has just cropped the new church at Nieuwkerke on the right of shot. This one shows the dominance of the German positions looking over the valley in which Sapper Ellis would have worked. It doesn't show on the photograph but on the day I took it last September you could see the slag heaps on the Double Crassier site at Loos and the Notre Dame de Lorette rige though the haze.

Pete.

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post-101238-0-07861900-1404404248_thumb.

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Tony

One more to complete the set. This was taken on a dull day from beside the German pillboxes in front of the NZ Memorial on the edge of Messines village with Ploegsteert Wood on the right horizon and the road leading to the Ploegsteert Memorial running across the shot. The red roofed buildings in the lower ground to the right are Le Petit Douvre Farm which still has tons of high explosive underneath it as the mine here was flooded when the Germans discovered it. The spires of Armentieres are just visible on the horizon in the middle of the photo.

Hope these are of some use; let me know if you would like the larger versions.

Pete.

post-101238-0-03086000-1404404716_thumb.

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Graeme

I'm very sorry - I've only got the diary from December 1915 to March 1917 for a specific project I was working on. I intend to 'collect' copies of the diaries for all of the tunnelling companies through future visits to Kew - I cannot guarantee when that might be though.

Many apologies

Kind regards

Colin

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Hi Pete

Thanks very much.

This will be a tremendous help to the school boys in their research into the service and death of Sapper Thomas Ellis.

They can now know Thomas's whereabouts around the time of his death.

It's nice to know that Sapper Thomas Ellis is not forgotten in the village / town that he grew up in over 98 years ago. Its one thing reading about a

place its completely different seeing it as it is to-day. No doubt the photographs will add a sense of reality to their research.

On behalf of the school and as specially the two boys doing the research I thank you.

Best regards

Tony

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  • Admin

Evening Colin,

Many thanks for replying, appreciate it,

Regards

Graeme

Colin

I have the diary for that period. If you'd like the parts you don't have, PM me.

Graeme....

Vlamertinghe

20.6.15

Casualties: 2 R&F transferred off strength.

At 5.30AM an enemy camouflet in end of G.3.B. Whole gallery wrecked. All mining postponed till 1PM owing to gas. At 1.30 enemy noises reported in G.60.A[?] but not confirmed.

Casualties: 3 R~&F killed, 2 R&F gassed and wounded.

Glen

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