Brought to life: (Above) The poster for the movie Beneath Hill 60, telling the story of the miners of the First Australian Tunnelling Company and their daring exploits in World War I.
Brought to life: (Above) The poster for the movie Beneath Hill 60, telling the story of the miners of the First Australian Tunnelling Company and their daring exploits in World War I.

Father played role in war story

NO-ONE is looking forward to seeing the new Australian movie Beneath Hill 60 more than Pat Harper.

For Pat, from Lower Southgate, the movie will provide new insight into the World War I experiences of her father, Thomas Henry Smith, an Australian sapper on the western front.

Harry, as her father was known to family members, was part of the First Australian Tunnelling Company, whose role in one amazing WWI incident – where they tunnelled under German lines in Belgium in 1917 to allow for the explosion of 19 mines with devastating results – is the subject of the movie.

It is a little-known part of our nation’s war history and was as much a mystery to Pat and her family until recently.

“My father never talked about his war experiences, other than to say how cold the mud was and that nothing like it should happen again,” Pat said yesterday.

“We’d ask him about the war but he’d just say ‘you don’t want to know’.

“It’s upsetting to learn so much about it now – I wish we’d known when he was alive.”

Harry’s large family – he fathered 15 children, 13 of whom survived infancy – had never heard about the explosion at Hill 60, which was then claimed to have been the largest man-made blast in history and was reportedly heard in London.

Pat, the seventh of the surviving children, had heard about a different Hill 60.

“Growing up at Casino there was a tussock in the back yard and my father said ‘I think we’ll call it Hill 60’ but that was as much as he said about it,” she said.

The movie was shot near Townsville and two of Pat’s sisters will be at its premiere in that city this week.

Pat will wait for the movie to come to the Clarence.


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