The story of Ballarat is tied to the story of mining, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking there in the 1850s to seek their fortune. The few lucky ones became wealthy, but most were faced with the harsh reality of needing a regular income. The Ballarat School of Mines was established in 1870 to train men in all aspects of mining.

When the First World War was declared in 1914, thousands of Ballarat men enlisted. Many of these men were miners who had trained at the Ballarat School of Mines and worked in the town’s mining industries. Their skills were recognised, and tunnelling companies were created to utilise them in strategic and secretive ways. Underground (literally) campaigns were designed where the men tunnelled underneath enemy lines to lay explosives. The intention: to cause significant destruction from below. It was dangerous and cramped work, not for the faint hearted.

One hundred years on, local collecting organisation Victorian Interpretive Projects, in conjunction with Ballarat Ranges Military Museum, is asking local residents and relatives of former Ballarat miners to share their photographs, objects and stories.

This is the story of the miners who left Ballarat to fight in the First World War. It is also the story of the people seeking to commemorate them through research and family history, enabling an ongoing legacy through contributions to the public record.