The South African Engineering Corps (SAEC) provided a variety of specialised units to assist the
Allies during the Second World War. These units performed outstanding work in the East and North
African theatres, as well as in Italy. Through their concerted efforts, they were able to provide much
needed assistance to the troops on the ground. South African engineering troops, however, served in
lesser known territories as well. The likes of 61 Tunnelling Company, under the auspices of the Mines
Engineering Brigade (MEB) SAEC, was but one of these specialised units called upon to render
services to the Allied forces in the Middle East. The company, representing a cross-section of miners
from the Witwatersrand, was tasked to dig a series of tunnels that continued to the completion of the
Haifa-Beirut-Tripoli (HBT) railway line. Upon completion of the task, the unit further carried out two
more tunnelling tasks in the Middle East, namely at Ras Bayada and at the Kasmieh Irrigation Scheme.
Due to the specialised nature of this unit, its exploits during the war only received minimal attention in
the written histories of the South African forces. This article thus explores the history of 61 Tunnelling
Company’s exploits in the Middle East during the Second World War.