Whilst on a visit to WFA member Geoff Gamm, we were looking at his father's papers when we came across the following extract from a diary written by Major Cowan R.E.

As you will see the tunnelers were a breed apart…

…After the usual dinner in 'B' Mess I wrote my report which Gen Allenby signed, inquiring as usual when I meant to go on leave. There was no further development of Col Wilson's scheme, much to my relief, and so home to bed about midnight.

25th August 1915. I couldn't sleep and felt that there was something coming and sure enough a Motor Cyclist arrived with the news that Firebrace had definitely located Fritz under our own trenches at a new corner on Hill 60 and Brig Gen Kemp wanted my advice at once. I was very sleepy and was arguing the matter out with Harris when Col Philip Game, GSO 1 46 Div, rolled up in a car, duplicating the alarming news. A car in much nicer than a sidecar so we agreed I should come on with him, see Gen Kemp and phone Firebrace.cowan-diary

We got on all right, and I had my talk, winding up with instructions to F. to put an 8 inch borehole down on top of the noises and await our arrival. Then Philip and I made record time from "Shrapnel Corner" along the railway and up to 60. On arrival we found that F. had only got down 7 feet instead of the 10 I wanted and that alas not over the very loudest noise which was in a dugout about 15 feet back from our front. I felt we had to "MAK SICCAR" so we very soon had the roof off the dugout. Its funny how quickly men work when exposed from the knees upwards with Fritz about 60 yards away and dawn just breaking ! Then we started the hole and were stopped like F. by a layer of flinty pebbles about 7 feet down.

Luckily we found an iron bar and were able to punch the pebbles loose and collect them with the boring tool, making enough noise to be heard in Berlin but it had to be done. When the hole was 12' down I left them to put 50 lbs of stuff in, tamp and fire but to my horror nothing happened. It was a time fuze (which by the way I don't like). We pulled it out and found it had burnt to the end all right and the horrible idea forced itself on me that the Germans had found our charge and removed the stuff.

The only thing to be done was to remove the tamping and see so the borer was set to work again and at last we saw the upper end of our zinc cylinder. Query was there anything in it or not? Once more our iron bar came in handy and we drove its point through the zinc and it came up covered with Ammonal to my relief. We then put 3 electric detonators in a 5 lb tin which we bedded down with about 20 lbs more and replaced the tamping and withdrew about 30 yards round the corner and let her go.

And she did go - we were busy dodging earth and sandbags for nearly a minute and then had to creep back to see the result which was a hole about 30 feet across and 12 deep. Now 75 lb could never do that so the only conclusion was that our charge had succeeded in blowing up a much greater German one under our feet - luckily for us at our time of choosing not at his. It was a stroke of luck but all the same I don't think any of us exactly hope to have to do it again !

Philip and I walked slowly home to breakfast with the Brigadier after which I went back to Vlamy and slept the sleep of the half dead. I wrote a report later on and recommended 3 of the men for the DCM which I am glad to say they received while I was home on leave. I dined with General Kemp and it was a much pleasanter night than the one before. He fully agreed that we had got Fritz badly.

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