Hot on the heels of my review of Underground Warfare 1914-1918 by Simon Jones, I’ve been doing some research into the only Portsmouth tunneller that I have discovered so far.
Sapper Charles Cuff was 22 and from 22 Chance Street, Landport. He was serving with the 250th Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers. He was killed on 17 June 1916, and is buried at Lindenhoek Chalet Miliary Cemetery in Belgium, a few miles South West of Ypres.
The 250th Tunnelling Company was formed in Rouen in October 1915, and dug the deep-level mines (Petit Bois, Peckham and Spanbroekmolen) under the Messines ridge in the winter of 1915 and Spring of 1916. Its hard to tell whether Cuff was killed in action, by an accident or illness. There are documented collapses in 250th Company’s tunnels in Jones’s book. If Cuff has been killed in a collapse, its probable that he would have no known grave.
Out of almost 1,000 men I have analysed so far, Cuff is the only Sapper-Tunneller I have found from Portsmouth. Does his suggest that most of the tunnellers came from traditional mining areas? It should be interesting to find out.