This article aims briefly to describe the significance and evolution of military mining as a battlefield tactic during the Great War, with special reference to the role these underground operations played in the greatest success of Canadian arms—the capture of Vimy Ridge.

No military historian’s visit to Vimy Ridge, this country’s most symbolic and emotion-laden battlefield, would be complete without a stop at the Grange Tunnel, an infantry subway dug during the winter and spring of 1916–1917 by the soldier-miners of the 172 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. They were ably assisted by work parties from all four veteran battalions of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division’s 7th Brigade: The Black Watch (42 Battalion), The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Edmonton Regiment (49 Battalion).

Tunnel guides explain how this cool, humid, subterranean passage, hurriedly burrowed into the compacted flint and chalk of an Artois hill, was part of a 13-tunnel underground labyrinth. It protected the assaulting infantry battalions of the Canadian Corps from the terrible and ever-present dangers of German bombardment as they made their final move from their reserve trenches in the rear, forward to their assembly trenches in the very front of the Canadian line.