Members of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company on board the troop ship Ruapehu, on Christmas Day, 1915. The troops had left New Zealand on 18 December and arrived in Plymouth, England, on 3 February 1916. A month later they became the first New Zealanders to reach the Western Front in France.
The Tunnelling Company was largely made up of quarrymen, gold miners from Waihi and Karangahake, Railways and Public Works Department labourers, and coal miners from the West Coast of the South Island. They gave their commander, Major J.E. Duigan, some disciplinary headaches, but their experience was crucial in the underground war around Arras.