November 2008 was the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.
 We all remember images from that war, of massive artillery barrages and soldiers crossing shattered landscapes towards certain slaughter. Beneath these killing fields of the Western Front, however, another war was taking place, a deadly game 30 meters down, played between thousands of troops. These were not infantrymen… but miners. Their mutual goal was to tunnel beneath 'no man's land', under the opposing lines and destroy the German enemy from below. Unfortunately, the Germans had the same idea and were digging in from the other side.

Over 4585 Australian miners took part in this secret subterranean war, fighting under stress and conditions that terrified even the most hardened infantryman on the surface. Their extraordinary story has never been told on screen.

BENEATH HILL 60 is the action packed story of Australia's cat-and-mouse underground mine warfare - one of the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and mystifying conflicts of WW I. It was secret struggle BENEATH the Western Front that combined daring engineering, technology and science. Few on the surface knew of the brave, claustrophobic and sometimes barbaric work of these tunnellers.

Our story surrounds the 1st Australian Tunneling Division who were responsible for the mines set under 'Hill 60', a high point that dominated that part of the killing fields of Belgium. They were led by Captain Oliver Woodward who had started his mining career in Charters Towers, Queensland. His bravery in guarding those underground mines and their subsequent massive explosions broke the gridlocked trench warfare of the past 3 years.

BENEATH HILL 60 is a new Australian FEATURE FILM directed by renowned actor/director Jeremy Sims and written by screenwriter David Roach. It will shed light on this untold story of the Australian miners with a finely tuned dramatic script and the finest actors, working in underground sets built in association with the mining community in North Queensland.

In order to stay alive, it was vital to keep track of the enemy's activities and to remember that they were also listening. The first listening devices were simple, an ear against the walls or the floor, stethoscopes and even listening sticks, until they concocted the geophone, a very primitive electrically-connected microphone.

Hill 60 was only slight hill made from the diggings of the railway line to the city of Ypres in Belgium. It had a German machine gun bunker on top but all efforts by the British to take it out had proved costly in lives and had failed. The order was given to take the struggle underground. The Miners began from an entrance in the bank of the railway cutting - to pass 90 feet below the surface.

Finally Hill 60 was charged with 53,500 lbs of high explosive. The gallery under 'The Caterpillar' was charged with 70,000 lbs of explosives. Captain Oliver Woodward and the Ist Australian Tunnelling Company were assigned the task of holding this mine until the order was given to go. This entailed endless fighting above and below ground to keep the enemy from discovering the galleries and charges.

For 7 months the underground system was held by the Capt Woodward and his Tunneling Company and the underground warfare reached a tension which was not surpassed anywhere on the Allied front.

Finally, at 3.10am precisely on June 7, 1917 Woodward's mine and 18 others were exploded, with a tremendous shock, similar to that of an earthquake. It was felt in London, some say even Dublin. Immediately after the mines were fired the entire artillery force of the Second Army opened a three-pronged, 10km barrage on the German lines and opened a road to Berlin. 10000 Germans died instantly. The German line which had stymied the Allies for two and a half years was taken in six hours.

Hill 60

Flooded Trench

Canaries were used to alert the miners of the presence
of carbon monoxide in underground tunnels.


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