Memorial Details

Artist's impression of the memorial. Drawn in 2005 by Andy Gammon

Artist's impression of the memorial. Drawn in 2005 by Andy Gammon

To the right is the original artist’s impression of the memorial. Like the Tunnellers themselves, the structure was planned to be understated. It commemorates the endeavours of the men of all nations who served underground.

The dimensions were designed to match the standard interior proportions of mine galleries constructed by Tunnelling Companies in the Flanders clays; they precisely match those in which William Hackett and Thomas Collins were working in June 1916 – 120 centimetres (4 feet) high, 80 centimetres (2’ 6”) wide. The construction material is ultra-durable Lakeland slate – Brathay blue-black for the outer ‘frame’ representing the timber ‘sett’, and Kirkstone sea green for the engraved interior. Visitors can thus envisage the cramped and claustrophobic nature of the Tunnellers’ working life and the scale of the environment in which Hackett and Collins laboured, lost their lives, and lie still. The circular base engraved with the trench map reference has the same dimensions as the Shaftesbury Shaft which served the gallery. The Memorial is precisely orientated so that the view through the central axis of the yellow glass T – representing the Tunnellers’ shoulder title – will take the visitor’s gaze exactly to the site of the original shaft head close to the place in the landscape beneath which the two men still lie. An illustrated explanatory panel describing the work of the Tunnelling Companies is located adjacent to the memorial.

Plans for the Memorial design manufactured and engraved by Kirkstone, Skelwith Bridge, Near Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9NN.

With William Hackett’s courage exemplifying the Tunnellers’ work, the new memorial stands in celebration not only of his self sacrifice, but the endeavours of all his military mining comrades from around the world; men from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa whose critical but clandestine role in the Great War has been long overlooked. Although heroes of obscurity, with their names featuring only marginally on the great lists of dead, wounded and missing, their contribution to the surface war was integral and vital. Few have spoken or written of their ways in the last nine decades, no monuments had been erected to their memory, and yet fewer poets have immortalised their hidden and selfless endeavours in the most secret, personal and savage battlefield of the war – the battlefield beneath No Man’s Land.

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