Dark, more than damp and incredibly dangerous, the work of driving tunnels to set mines under enemy lines in World War One was undertaken by miners on both sides.
As author and historian Yvon Davis describes it, it was a 'silent and savage war.'
"Silent as to ensure the enemy wouldn't be able to hear where they were tunnelling, and savage as being discovered close to enemy lines could mean death by mustard gas, close combat fighting or simply being blown up by enemy mines," Ms Davis writes of Mining, Mud & Medals, a new book which examines the service of School of Mines students of the region during the Great War.
Yvon Davis was the project manager on the book, one of several projects currently being undertaken by members of Victorian Interpretive Projects Inc, based in Ballarat.
"We often forget that the hostilities weren't just above ground. Underground the fighting took place in closed and cramped spaces as both sides had embarked on mining operations," Ms Davis says.
"Members of the Australian Mining Corps were commonly known as 'tunnellers'. They worked continuously in wet and often muddy conditions, under constant enemy threat. Pneumonia and bronchial illnesses, including getting gassed and wear and tear injuries from hard physical work in closed conditions also took their toll. They fought on many battle fronts - from Gallipoli, to France and Belgium."
Ms Davis says the book had its genesis in conversations she shared with Belgians during her time working for SBS.
"I kept hearing about these tunnels from the people I spoke to and the idea stuck."
In 2013 Ms Davis began to research the history of the Schools of Mines alumni from Ballarat, Clunes, Creswick, and Daylesford and their work in the War.
"Some were miners, engineers, carpenters, electricians all working together to support tunnels under France and Belgium," Ms Davis says.
"There was tunnelling at Gallipoli which also gets a mention in our book, but the tunnelling companies were officially formed after Gallipoli to fight in France and Flanders. Many talented members of the School of Mines alumni from across the Central Highlands Region enlisted during WWI and history shows these men added significant levels of experience and the expertise of the Australian Mining Corps."
Around 170 'Tunnellers' from the Ballarat electorate have been identified and given a short biography, including some photos supplied by family members.
Mining Mud & Medals is available in bookshops around Ballarat and on-line. It will be launched on Saturday December 14 at 2pm at the New Ballarat Cemetery, Sovereign Chapel 1250 Doveton Street North. RSVP to Yvon Davis, Mining Mud & Medals project manager on 0438 140 756 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mining Mud & Medals is partially funded by an ANZAC Centenary Grant received through the Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs, Canberra.