RACTD or base depot at Abbassia, near Cairo please

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by GraemeRowland, Apr 24, 2020.

  1. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Does anyone know anything about the RACTD or base depot at Abbassia, near Cairo please? My uncle 3768768 Sgt Dennis Henry Rowland 7 RTR was there from 12 NOV 40 to 21 JUN 41 when he was posted to 3 RTR. He might have been a Cpl then but what did he do for that over six months??

    Best wishes to all
     
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  3. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Many thanks TD, this certainly helps as it starts to give me a feeling for went on there. Perhaps I will learn more when I receive his long awaited service record which might say what he actually did there.

    Graeme
     
  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    As well as a training centre for tankers the base also hosted the Camouflage Experimental Section under the illusionist Jasper Maskelyne, RE units and the 3rd Armoured Car Company.
     
  5. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Robert,more usful information and much appreciated

    Graeme
     
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    It was amusing that, I think I read somewhere the hospital in 1947 or 1949, was used for the mentally ill. The TNA rersearch throws up some intersting titles showing what went on there - be interesting to see what else happened, presumably the WD's of your Uncles unit will explain more

    Good hunting

    TD
     
  8. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Robert and Thanks TD

    Queen Mary very interesting and more useful information

    Roll on TNA reopening

    Graeme
     
  9. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Abassia Barracks was a huge garrison complex on the edge of Cairo. It housed everyone and anyone. The answer to "what went on there" is equivalent to asking what went on at Aldershot, or Tidworth or Catterick Garrison.

    More specifically, the RAC Training and/or Base Depot within the complex were places of educational and training of troops on armoured vehicles and equipment as well as trialling new equipment and devising local SOPs and manuals.

    Stab in the dark suggestion. He was an instructor.
     
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  10. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    MarkNote: having just seen and read your other recent post...

    Or, if he had only just arrived in Egypt, perhaps he was one of the students.
     
  11. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Mark, a good point but he had already been to Arras with 7 RTR and back through Dunkirk to Scotland. I am itching to get his service record to find out which trades he had. He might also have been sent there as an instructor. Frustrating lock down!!

    Graeme
     
  12. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    You previously wrote that it was "likely" he went to France. I perceived uncertainty or lack of confirmation in your words.

    7RTR went out to Egypt and was immediatly thrown into Op COMPASS. You may wish to ponder why he left the Battalion just as it was about to go into action. And then was posted to another one using different equipment for a different role.

    Not trying to suggest anything sinister, on the contrary, it could be all rather positive, but it is something worth bearing in mind. Remember, he started in the infantry and transferred to the tanks at an unknown date.
     
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  13. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Mark, you are right to question and I am still not certain that he went to Arras.The reason I think he did is that he got married with a special licence on 27 APR 40 and the advance party left on 6 May with the main party going on the 10th. Also have one of those acknowledgement cards signed by him on 10 May which may well have been his last letter to his new wife before going. The wife's family said that they only had a little time together before he went overseas but then his wife went to Scotland in a B&B to be near him when the 7th returned. None of this is yet proof but just strong circumstantial evidence.

    From what I know of him, I suspect that he did not get on too well with authority so you may well be right that he was moved on because he upset the officers. There are mixed reports about his time at Pembroke College, Oxford where he completed only five terms. Some of his fellow undergraduates lured him out and then debagged him, etc. causing him to have to walk back and knock up the porter's lodge as it was after hours when he arrived. Despite getting a scholarship in Greek/Latin to go to Pembroke, he failed to get his honours degree. I do know that some were jealous of him because he was good at all games. He was something of a family black sheep!!

    I so want to know what his trades were. I was a driver/operator and trained on the 19 Set. Perhaps he also had the same trades. He certainly was mad about cars and had a sports car when he got married. He had had a car accident and was missing a top front tooth which he used for his pipe. If he was a driver/operator he may have gone to instruct on the 19 set???

    BUT you could be right, there must be a story here for leaving before Op Compass.

    I NEED more information but thanks for the questioning. It is most helpful and is good for the perspective.

    Graeme
     
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  14. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I'm glad you brought it up first. But the timing of his stay at Base Depot is the sort of time frame naughty boys had to spend in detention. Amongst many things, Abbassia was also home to the Army's main detention barracks in the ME. It is also the sort of time frame somebody could be posted as an instructor.

    I bring up the specific timings you mention because commanding officers are loathe to get rid of their best chaps just before a battle. It's that time they try to ease out the chaff. Sometimes they are overruled if somebody with specialist skills is needed elsewhere.

    Then we have the June 1941 date. 7RTR had just been given a resounding thrashing during Op BATTLEAXE. They would have been desperate for good troops they knew to fill the many gaps in their ranks.

    But he was posted to 3RTR who had just arrived at Abbassia en masse to regroup and retrain. It's true they were also desperately short handed after Greece, but they were very much in the backwater for a lengthy period. They only started to reequip in early September on American tanks.

    Now, all that could mean just about anything. Lacking evidence means all speculation is on the table. He could have been sent to Abbassia in disgrace or he could have been sent there to be one of the first to learn about the American tanks (a major feather in his cap) or any number of possibilities.
     
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  15. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    and his service records - you will be watching for the postman with anticipation

    Interesting thread

    TD
     
  16. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Mark and TD, I could be wrong, but six months is a long sentence even in war time and would have been handed down by a DCM for something very serious. I was part of the prosecution of one of our L/Cpls in Germany and he got six months in Colchester for killing a German civilian but it was peace time and there were perhaps understandable circumstances. Very frustrating not having more information but he appears not to have lost his rank in this period. I think the trouble with Dennis was that he was too clever by half and this is even shown by the cheeky response to a Brigadier reported by Tom Canning and Sgt Bill Jordan which caused some amusement around the regiment. Page 151 of Patrick Delaforce's book on 3 RTR refers. Also I found an amazing entry in the 3 RTR war diary saying Sgt Rowland had been absent for two weeks 21 FEB to 8 MAR 43 thereby missing Monty pinning on his MM and yet he had been on a Junior Offrs, W.O.s and SNCOs course starting 1 FEB 43. I think he was a bit of a character around the regiment and probably would not have been liked by the officers which he could well have been one had he not gone down the rebel route. Maybe he was awaiting a DCM for being absent when he was killed in action a month later as a Sgt????

    When, Oh went, will that service record AND conduct sheet arrive!

    Graeme
     
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  17. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Just to emphasize, l am only speculating.

    In those days, troops were put on detention for 'insulting' a toff. The punishment generally being detetmined by the influence and connections of the toff concerned rather than the offense itself. But l digress.

    From your words, he transferred from infantry to tanks. Unknown date. If that date was after war had been declared, he would have been well down on 7RTR's personnel list of tank knowledge and experience - even after France. Not the most robust CV to become an instructor on tanks and tank equipment. If transfer was several years earlier, different story.

    Then there is the move to 3RTR. At that time 3RTR was really in the backwater. No plan to put them into action for a good while. Whilst down on personnel after Greece, it still had plenty of chaps with greater combat experience than ypur uncle. So not really a transfer to put some experience into the battalion. Similarly, being so far in the backwater, there was no plans to fill out the battalion with new drafts until later. In otherwords, he wasn't transferred in to make up the numbers urgently.

    It looks like he was posted to 3RTR because they were there, at Abbassia. All he had to do was carry his kit across the parade ground from one bed to another.

    The one thing that stand out as being a damn good reason for him to transfer at that time out of Base Depot to 3RTR was if he had been on the learning programme for American tanks and was posted to 3RTR as part of the team to bring them up to speed on that equipment.

    But it's all just speculation.
     
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  18. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Mark, You may well be right. Maybe he ran into one of his enemies from Pembroke College who was one of the toffs there and this was pay off for some room trashing incident back then.

    I know for certain that he was in 7 RTR in 1939 and was a Cpl then. This implies that he had been with 7 RTR for some time to get to this rank but, how long, I guess i will have to wait for the service record. 7 RTR was reformed 21 MAY 1937 at Catterick from drafts from 4 RTR and so he may have joined then or any time after this. The Kings Regt (Liverpool) recruit from the north as do 4 and 7 RTR. 3 RTR from the west country.

    When reading the history of 4 and 7 RTR one finds that Peter Vaux pops up. He was my CO when I was in 3 RTR and kindly put me forward to go to RMAS. When he was later at Staff College and I was at RMAS, he invited me to dinner and, NOW, I wish I had known about my uncle then........ It certainly would have given us something to talk about at dinner!

    Many thanks for all your input as he helps to get me thinking as I search for clues

    Graeme
     
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  19. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    All l can do is give you clues for your further research.

    Here's another.

    7th Battalion, King's Regiment was a Bootle area recruited TA infantry unit. In the 1938 reorganisation of the Army it was redesignated as 40th Battalion, RTR and reroled as an infantry tank unit.

    Is it not possible that he was pulled across from 40RTR to 7RTR to make up the numbers for a deploying battalion. Maybe volunteered.

    So, on arrival at 7RTR he could have already been a tankie but not a very experienced one.

    Have you got any good pics of his cap badge and uniform circa 1938-39? I don't kniw the specifics but dress code is often a damn good give away.

    And another point of caution. Are you sure you couldn't carry your rank on transfer? Having 2 stripes in 1939 with 7RTR doesn't mean he had been with them long enough to earn them. He could have had them on transfer in. Not so? Especially if the thought l've just written is in play.

    So yoo woz n armurd farma!
     
  20. GraemeRowland

    GraemeRowland Member

    Thanks Mark for the further clue to look into when the various museums and TNA open again. My guess is that he volunteered as he was very keen on cars.

    Sadly, with him being the black sheep, I have been unable to find photos except by research. I have two photos from Victoria College with him as Captain of the hockey team when he was 17 and 18 years old and his wife's bedside photo of him in civies dated 1939. The newspaper clipping of him in the desert with five others including one officer is too faded to be of much use and they are sitting around swigging tea. Only three have head gear, the officer a forage cap, one a tin helmet and not sure what the other has on. Dennis is wearing a trench coat, long trousers and boots like the rest of them. He is grinning which shows up his missing tooth from his car accident.

    You carry your substantive rank with you when you move but usually lose any local or acting rank unless your new unit wants you with that rank. It is all about pay and establishment vacancies.

    His time in the base depot was well before the arrival of Shermans but, if he was a wireless operator, he could well have already gained enough experence to be teaching the wireless or even just an asistant teacher. Maybe he was a whizz at morse..... I was never good at morse only getting to 15 words a minute, the minimum to pass my B1

    Once a tankie always a tankie. In fact I drove more tanks after RMAS than during my getting on for five years in the RAC. Operators are in short supply!

    Graeme
     

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