Divine courage below the ground (The RE Tunnel Moles)

#1
SOMEWHERE beneath this golden field of wheat lies the body of a remarkable hero of the First World War. Sneinton-born William Hackett was too old to fight but he had a skill few could match, a skill the Army needed. William Hackett was a miner who knew how to dig tunnels.

That persuaded the war chiefs to give him a job and so, although past his 40th birthday, William Hackett marched off to war, leaving behind his wife Alice, a small attractive woman, son Arthur, 14, and pretty daughter Mary, 12.

Small and stocky with a handsome moustache and a piercing gaze, Hackett left his Mexborough home in 1915. He had a few words of fatherly advice for young Arthur. "Don't go down the pit son, it is too dangerous."

Hackett knew all about the dangers. He had worked down the mines of Nottingham and south Yorkshire before joining 254 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers. He had seen men maimed and killed.

But he wanted to do his bit for King and Country and was prepared to put his life on the line.
Click here!

And that is just what he did.

Hackett, and four other miners, were digging 40 feet below the shell-pocked landscape of Givenchy in northern France, driving a gallery towards the enemy's front line.

On that same June night in 1916, the Germans had already completed a tunnel of their own and packed it with explosives.

In the early hours of June 23, they detonated the mine... right underneath a battalion of Welch Fusiliers.

A huge crater approximately 120 yards long, 70 yards wide and 30 feet deep was torn out of the ground, tons of rubble and earth cascading into the night sky and then back to earth, burying more than 45 soldiers. They were never seen again.

The violence of the explosion caused a roof-fall in the tunnel being dug by William Hackett and his comrades. The five men were trapped in a narrow passageway 40 feet below ground.

A rescue party was hurriedly formed and began clawing through the earth and broken timbers.

Hackett and his team waited in their tomb, listening for sounds of help. All they could hear was the German shells landing above, each explosion shaking more soil and stones into the tunnel. How long before the roof would give way again and bury them forever?

It took many hours for the rescuers to get to them and, with Hackett's help, three men were dragged clear.

Hackett could have got out as well, but he refused to leave 22-year-old Thomas Collins who was seriously injured.

"I am a tunneller," he said. "I must look after the others."

They tried to get Collins out, but the shelling repeatedly forced them to withdraw. On the fourth day, the tunnel finally succumbed. Hackett and Collins were entombed.

For his selfless act of courage, William Hackett was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – the only sapper to receive the ultimate medal for valour. After his widow Alice had collected the medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace in November 1916, Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood described Hackett's bravery as "the most divine act of self-sacrifice".

Sapper William Hackett's VC is in the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham.

Today, more than 90 years on, soldiers who now wear the uniform of the Royal Engineers are bidding to raise £20,000 to have a permanent memorial erected in that corner of northern France to remember Hackett, Collins and the other 1,514 'moles' who died in the First World War.

They are a quarter of the way towards their target and hope to have the money in time to unveil the memorial towards the end of next year.

Warrant Officer Phil 'Moff' Moffitt, who is based at Chetwyn Barracks in Chilwell, said: "It is an inspirational story."

One man taking a keen interest in the appeal is city architect Jeff Hackett, the VC winner's great-great-nephew.

"I only got to know about William Hackett through my research into the family history.

"Because of his age, and experience, I think the men at the front must have looked upon him as a father figure and he selflessly gave his life for a colleague."

Mr Hackett also revealed two heartbreaking details of the story.

"William couldn't read or write. All his messages to his wife were written by someone else.

"He didn't want his son Arthur to go down the pit.

"A month after William was killed, Arthur lost his leg in an underground accident. It is easy to imagine, with the breadwinner gone, the family must have faced hard times."

To make a donation towards the memorial appeal, cheques made out to Tunnellers Memorial Fund should be sent to WO2 Moff Moffitt, c/o 521 SGRE, Chetywyn Barracks, Nottingham NG9 5HA.

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/n...-hell-soil/article-439167-detail/article.html
 
#5
Sebastian Faulkes on writing Birdsong appears to have used diary extracts from past tunelling Company officers diaries held at the RE museum and Library. I certainly wouldnt pay £155 odd pounds for the book. For those that are interested in the Tunelling war:

Beneath Flanders Fieds by Barton Vandewalle and Doyle
The War undergound by Alexander Barrie
Tunellers by Grieve and Newman

Tghe above books are fairly easy to come by and are very interesting. These next books are quite rare and well worth a read if you can get hold of them:

The life of a Tunelling Company by Capt Graham (1927)
The New Zealand Tunelling Company by JC Neill (1922)

The following official publications can be browsed at thr RE Library and Museum at Chatham:

The work of the Royal Engineers in the European War 1914 -19 - Military Mining, Chatham 1922

The work of the miner on the Western Front 1915 - 1918 by Standish Ball (he was the late Assistant Inspector of Mines, GHQ, France)

I am currently doing an in depth study of 177 Tunelling Coy with the aim of writing a book on the Company. I advise anyone with an interest in Military minig to go to the RE museum and Library, an excellent resource.

Regards

FM
 
#7
pandaplodder said:
SOMEWHERE beneath this golden field of wheat lies the body of a remarkable hero of the First World War. Sneinton-born William Hackett was too old to fight but he had a skill few could match, a skill the Army needed. William Hackett was a miner who knew how to dig tunnels.

That persuaded the war chiefs to give him a job and so, although past his 40th birthday, William Hackett marched off to war, leaving behind his wife Alice, a small attractive woman, son Arthur, 14, and pretty daughter Mary, 12.

Small and stocky with a handsome moustache and a piercing gaze, Hackett left his Mexborough home in 1915. He had a few words of fatherly advice for young Arthur. "Don't go down the pit son, it is too dangerous."

Hackett knew all about the dangers. He had worked down the mines of Nottingham and south Yorkshire before joining 254 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers. He had seen men maimed and killed.

But he wanted to do his bit for King and Country and was prepared to put his life on the line.
Click here!

And that is just what he did.

Hackett, and four other miners, were digging 40 feet below the shell-pocked landscape of Givenchy in northern France, driving a gallery towards the enemy's front line.

On that same June night in 1916, the Germans had already completed a tunnel of their own and packed it with explosives.

In the early hours of June 23, they detonated the mine... right underneath a battalion of Welch Fusiliers.

A huge crater approximately 120 yards long, 70 yards wide and 30 feet deep was torn out of the ground, tons of rubble and earth cascading into the night sky and then back to earth, burying more than 45 soldiers. They were never seen again.

The violence of the explosion caused a roof-fall in the tunnel being dug by William Hackett and his comrades. The five men were trapped in a narrow passageway 40 feet below ground.

A rescue party was hurriedly formed and began clawing through the earth and broken timbers.

Hackett and his team waited in their tomb, listening for sounds of help. All they could hear was the German shells landing above, each explosion shaking more soil and stones into the tunnel. How long before the roof would give way again and bury them forever?

It took many hours for the rescuers to get to them and, with Hackett's help, three men were dragged clear.

Hackett could have got out as well, but he refused to leave 22-year-old Thomas Collins who was seriously injured.

"I am a tunneller," he said. "I must look after the others."

They tried to get Collins out, but the shelling repeatedly forced them to withdraw. On the fourth day, the tunnel finally succumbed. Hackett and Collins were entombed.

For his selfless act of courage, William Hackett was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – the only sapper to receive the ultimate medal for valour. After his widow Alice had collected the medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace in November 1916, Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood described Hackett's bravery as "the most divine act of self-sacrifice".

Sapper William Hackett's VC is in the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham.

Today, more than 90 years on, soldiers who now wear the uniform of the Royal Engineers are bidding to raise £20,000 to have a permanent memorial erected in that corner of northern France to remember Hackett, Collins and the other 1,514 'moles' who died in the First World War.

They are a quarter of the way towards their target and hope to have the money in time to unveil the memorial towards the end of next year.

Warrant Officer Phil 'Moff' Moffitt, who is based at Chetwyn Barracks in Chilwell, said: "It is an inspirational story."

One man taking a keen interest in the appeal is city architect Jeff Hackett, the VC winner's great-great-nephew.

"I only got to know about William Hackett through my research into the family history.

"Because of his age, and experience, I think the men at the front must have looked upon him as a father figure and he selflessly gave his life for a colleague."

Mr Hackett also revealed two heartbreaking details of the story.

"William couldn't read or write. All his messages to his wife were written by someone else.

"He didn't want his son Arthur to go down the pit.

"A month after William was killed, Arthur lost his leg in an underground accident. It is easy to imagine, with the breadwinner gone, the family must have faced hard times."

To make a donation towards the memorial appeal, cheques made out to Tunnellers Memorial Fund should be sent to WO2 Moff Moffitt, c/o 521 SGRE, Chetywyn Barracks, Nottingham NG9 5HA.

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/n...-hell-soil/article-439167-detail/article.html
My bold, is this true? Im sure there was a few more than one Sapper VC in the First World War. Or does it mean he was the only Sapper to win a VC tunnelling?
 
#8
16 (if you include Lanoe Hawker)...must be the only tunnelling VC?
 
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