Contrary to some local misconceptions the Wallangarra Dugouts are not, in fact, in Wallangarra, either behind the pub or behind the school to provide shelter during potential WWII air raids.
Rather it was the name given by the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company of the Australian Imperial Force back in 1917 when it constructed the tunnel system under Hill 63 in Ploegsteert Wood on the Western Front in Belgium.
The Company was led by Tenterfield-born engineer Oliver Woodward, which may give some clue to the name’s origin. His life story can be found in a display cabinet at the Tenterfield School of Arts.
According to Captain Woodward, ‘the following particulars of the work accomplished will show the section did not abuse its fortune in having a cushy job’.
“The contour of Hill 63 lent itself to the erection of the Dugouts which had a minimum Head cover of 25 feet. The location of the Dugouts was such that only Howitzer shells could reach us although our position was within a quarter mile from the Front Line Trenches.”
The Wallangarra Dugouts took 197 men removing a total of 192,588 cubic feet of earth to construct an 8x7 foot gallery stretching 2722 feet. It provided sleep accomodation in bunks for 1200 men, and took just 63 days to complete in atrocious conditions.
A section of the dugout was recreated last November in Tenterfield Memorial Hall to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, attracting more than 1700 visitors.