Going Underground – Tunnellers of WWI

This is a past Exhibition that is no longer showing – see a list of our current Exhibitions here

A series of uniquely captured photographs by Brett Killington provide a poignant insight into the underground city of World War I tunnels at Arras, the site of a significant and bloody battle 100 years ago.

Over 500 experienced miners from all over New Zealand made up the New Zealand Tunnelling Company based at Arras during World War I. These soldiers created these tunnels from existing sixteenth century quarries discovered under the old French city.

Photographer Brett Killington spent hundreds of hours underground exploring the hidden spaces: the tunnels, caves, and sewers associated with the men who built, lived and died here in the First World War. He has followed their footprints and documented the evidence of their lives as soldiers.

The Battle of Arras began on 9th April 1917 as a mock attack to draw German attention away from the major French offensive further south. According to Military Historian Christopher Pugsley, “after the first day’s attack which was a stunning success by the British armies it became a battle of bloody attrition which involved hundreds of thousands of men on both sides resulting in 300,000 British, Dominion and German casualties.

Official records indicate 937 men served in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company and more than 62 did not return home.