Review of the DVD ‘Beneath Hill 60’By Travel
This years motion picture ‘Beneath Hill 60’ tells the real experience of several troops with the 1st Australian Tunnellers headed by Captain Oliver Woodward CMG MC and 2 bars. In the film, Woodward is played by Brendan Cowell. He had been a miner and metallurgist from Australia and had not joined up like a large number of other men from the region had done. He was seen to be needed to stay at home to support the war effort and thus, he had been sent many white feathers. It had been normal in those days for folks to present white feathers to people whom they believed to be cowards.
Hill 60 can be found in the southern area of the Ypres Salient and it wasn’t a natural feature. The hill was made with earth dug out to create a local railway cutting. Various serious actions happened at Hill 60 in both World War I and World War II. On one night in 1915, four Victoria Crosses were granted as a German attack was successfully fought off.
The motion picture concerns the action at the beginning of the Battle of Messines in 1917. 19 mines with approximately half a million kgs of explosives were detonated prior to the start of the attack. The storyline centres around the exploits of Woodward and his company showing just what the tunneller companies were required to endure, an element of warfare that draws little exposure.
Woodward is placed in command of a company and sets an example throughout the build-up to the assault near Ypres. The action starts in the early hours of the morning when Woodward fires the mine his men have spent the previous weeks putting in place and defending.
Immediately after the war, Woodward returns to Australia to get married to his young girlfriend who had pleaded with him not to join the army.
‘Beneath Hill 60’ is a fantastic movie which explains the story of certainly one of the most frightening aspects of the Western Front. The tunnellers on both sides had to operate in horrible conditions understanding the enemy could be simply feet away preparing to either blow up their tunnel or break in and start shooting.