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Translated Jeff Matthews

The term 'mine' is probably of Celtic origin, from which we have the French word mine. It is used here in the general sense of a gallery or tunnel and, by extension, in the military sense of such a structure dug against a fortification in order to demolish its defences. There are two kinds of mine attack:<

- Surface; that is, the approach to the part of the wall to be attacked (undermined) takes place on the surface;

- Depth; that is, the approach to the target takes place underground. A tunnel is dug; if the tunnel will not support itself, it is rigged with support structures, usually wooden or prefabricated.

With the use of incendiaries or explosives such as, for example, gun powder, the dimensions of the mine chamber, itself, are reduced and explosives are loaded in that space. Mines are also used to penetrate beneath and into a fortification to allow entrance by armed men; also, mines are used by those under siege to tunnel out and break a siege.

During the First World War mines and counter-mines were used to break the static nature of the front, itself, which was largely based on the three-part system of barbed-wire, trenches and machine guns as well as on the use of artillery. A broad and tragic use of mine/counter-mine tactics took place primarily on the Italian-Austrian front.


Padovan Gianluca (ed. ), Archaeology of the Subsoil. Lectures and studies of artificial cavities. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1416, Oxford 2005.

Basilico Roberto et alii, Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities. Part 1. (Including introductory comments and a classification), B.A.R. International Series 1599, Oxford 2007.

Gianluca Padovan (Associazione S.C.A.M. – Federazione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali)

Click on images to enlarge

Barton P. et alii, Beneath Flanders Fields

Wiggins K., Siege Mines

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18 January 2019

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