15 June 1915

ANZAC - Sapper Cyril Lawrence, 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers, AIF - Lawrence was working with the 2nd Field Company in building tunnels out in the Lone Pine area of 400 Plateau. These would later be used in the attack launched on 6 August.

Map of B Group Tunnels, Lone Pine.

"Up at 7.15am. Weather still simply glorious. There is a furious bombardment on as I am writing this - shells everywhere. Down the coast there is a monitor firing at 'something' and I can see the earth dying up by the ton. Really these high explosive shells are terrific. Am going to have a little snooze. Went to work about 3.45pm and found that the Turks had placed eighteen 8-inch shells all around our tunnel mouth. They must have tumbled that it is there. Later as we were having tea two shells passed just over our heads and burst just under the muzzle of Warren's gun. We were watching these when a man came up with a shell - a high explosive one - and asked for a hammer to open it up. I explained what a risk he was taking and gave him a hammer. He started to hammer away right amongst us. We immediately shooed him off and forgot all about him. By this time shells were bursting everywhere round us and all of a sudden a terrific explosion took place just a few yards from us. A great cloud of dust rose up and we all thought that we were shot, but as it subsided we saw sitting in the middle of it the man with the shell. He was black from head to foot and groaning. Running over, we found that he had blown his leg to pieces up near the thigh. Thank God he got many from us. His mate did the same thing for himself last week. Some of these men will never learn sense. About 11pm tonight a Turk shoved his hand down the air hole in the drive just opposite me. It scared the wits out of us all. We could hear them crawling around above us all night. The men in the tiring line evidently shot one as we could hear him groaning just above us."

Lawrence also explained why and how the tunnels were dug.

"It had been decided to establish our line in closer proximity to that occupied by the Turks. The idea was to sap out communications a sufficient distance and then to join them up with the new firing line. With this end in view a start was made on the 27th and 28th May with what ultimately became B6 and B5 tunnels respectively. These two tunnelled exits were pushed through under the parapet with the intention of opening them out into saps as soon as they were some little distance out. Before this opening out process took place, however, it was considered possible to do the whole of the work underground and in comparative secrecy, including the recessing of fire bays and the living recesses for men occupying the trench. In regard to the actual fire bay it was intended to leave only four inches of soil overhead as camouflage, and then, when all was ready to break through the whole line in one night. Accordingly B5 and B6 went ahead as tunnels and were the commencement of the B group system which afterwards assumed quite decent proportions. All the B Group were shallow tunnels with an average of 18 inches of earth overhead. Except in rare cases, such as passing through shattered ground, timbering was not considered necessary, as the soil stood remarkably well, even under the strain of the various mine explosions. Tunnels were of an average size of five feet nine inches to six feet high and two feet six inches to three feet wide. In the case of the main tunnels, these were widened slightly just previous to the attack upon Lone Pine as they were to be used as communications for stretchers etc. As I am not an expert in the soil line, I cannot classify the different varieties met with, but I do know that they ranged from black earth to clay and from a hard kind of sandstone to coarse loose sand. At various times too, we came across pottery of a deep red colour and very fine and close in consistency. Another time I remember we came across strata of sand which a Sapper expert informed us was very similar to stuff in which rubies were found. Of course progress varied and would be anything from 4 feet to 8 feet in an eight hour shift. Work was continuous in three shifts of 8 hours each from l2 midnight until 8am, 8am until 4pm, then 5pm until 12 midnight. For the first few weeks, the actual picking was done by the sappers with Infantry to remove the soil, but later the Infantry did the whole job whilst one Sapper would have two drives under his supervision. The spoil was placed in sandbags in the tunnel and then carried by the Infantry party to the dump. This was usually situated some distance down a communication trench and away from the tunnel mouth. Illumination was by the use of candles only. These, when wax ones were issued, served a double purpose both as light and as an addition to the rations; the Infantry especially looking upon them as a delicacy. At times the supply of candles ran out, and mining had perforce to cease whilst a search was made for candles amongst the dugouts of the staff on the beach and the ships off the position. Ventilation was effected by the poking of a hole through to the surface every 15 yards. This was generally accomplished by means of an old bayonet on the end of a rifle. Owing to the presence of so many dead Turks in the ground through which we were tunnelling, these holes were very necessary. They also served to keep the drives at one level. At night time, great care had to be taken that they were blocked with sacking or something to ensure that no light was visible from above."

SOURCE:
C. Lawrence (edited by R. East) The Gallipoli Diary of Sergeant Lawrence of the Australian Engineers, 1st AIF, 1915, (Melbourne, Melbourne University Press 1981), pp.30-31 & 153-154, Map, p155