7th Bulk Field Petrol

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by CTNana, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. CTNana

    CTNana Member Patron

    I have tried over the years to find out more about what my dear old Dad did during the war. I know that he went to North Africa, Sicily and then Italy but his service record is scant to say the least.

    He was a plumber by trade and attended welding, coppersmith and similar courses before going abroad. He had been rejected on medical grounds when he first tried to enlist (later being deemed okay a couple of years later, I guess as more men were required). Despite being very poorly educated he was promoted to Mechanistic Staff Serjeant (as an aside why is this spelt differently?) but was actually demobbed very quickly (for domestic reasons or to contribute to the major rebuild required?).

    So in the absence of being able to ascertain specifically what he was doing and where, can someone enlighten me as to the actual role of these depots? Did they service just one regiment or was it a more central role? Please don't assume that I know anything - the structure of the services is still a mystery to me!

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was responsible for supply and transport for the army. Supply generally means consumables and is therefore largely rations and petrol.

    Bulk Petrol Storage Companies were not part of a regiment or division etc but operated in the base and line of communication areas. Their task was to operate a petrol storage depot which consisted of storage tanks and associated pipework. The construction of tanks and pipes was the job of the Royal Engineers. Petrol was generally transported in bulk until it reached a point some distance from the frontline where it was transferred into cans in a Petrol Filling Depot or Station.

    In overseas theatres petrol arrived in tankers and was discharged through pipes and carried by pipeline to a Bulk Storage Depot at a safe distance from the port. From there it was sent further forward by pipeline, rail tankers or road tankers. Where distances were long there might be further Bulk Storage Depots along the supply route.

    The work of the company was divided into three parts. The operation of the depot involved opening and closing valves to control the flow of fuel and transfer it to the correct tank and then directing the flow of fuel from the tank to rail or road tankers. There was a maintenance team who maintained and repaired the tanks, valves and pipework. Finally there were clerks to handle demands for petrol from forward areas, keep records of deliveries, despatches and stock levels and arrange transport.

    Below is the War Establishment for 1944. I do not imagine it varied much over the years. There is a mechanist staff serjeant listed. He is probably in charge of maintenance.

    More later, including a diagram and photos.

    Mike.

    HEADQUARTERS BULK PETROLEUM STORAGE COMPANY
    War Establishment IV/38C/3. January 1944.
    Designed to administer up to four Bulk Petroleum Storage Sections.
    There were eight Bulk Petroleum Storage Companies in 21 Army Group, Nos 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17. No 7 operated the UK end of the PLUTO pipe line.

    Major
    Captain, Petroleum Engineer
    Captain, Accountancy and Distribution
    Subaltern, Mechanist
    Subaltern, Administrative
    2 X Staff Quartermaster Serjeant Clerk
    staff serjeant mechanist
    company quartermaster serjeant
    corporal clerk
    2 X clark
    carpenter and joiner
    draughtsman, mechanical
    corporal electrician
    electrician
    corporal fitter, petroleum
    turner
    corporal welder (acetylene or electric)
    2 X driver IC
    motorcyclist
    batman
    2 X batman driver
    general dutyman
    2 X cook ACC

    Four men will be trained to operated telephone switchboards and fit the necessary extensions for internal communications.

    2 X motorcyclist
    2 X Car 2 seater 4 X 2
    1 X 15cwt GS
    1 X 3ton 4 X 4 Machinery M


    A BULK PETROLEUM STORAGE SECTION.
    War Establishment IV/38D/3. January 1944.
    Captain
    Subaltern
    staff serjeant clerk
    serjeant fitter, petroleum
    corporal clerk
    clerk
    corporal dipper checker, petroleum
    2 X lance corporal dipper checker, petroleum
    6 X dipper checker, petroleum
    corporal fitter, petroleum
    4 X fitter, petroleum
    welder (acetylene or electric)
    batman driver
    2 X driver
    general dutyman
    4 X loader
    sanitary dutyman
    cook ACC

    Three men will be trained to operated telephone switchboards and fit the necessary extensions for internal communications.

    1 X Car 2 seater 4 X 2
    2 X 15cwt GS
    1 X 3ton 4 X 2 GS

    A Fire Fighting Sub Section Type A will be attached.
     
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  3. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Untitled-Scanned-01.jpg

    A rather simplified artists impression of the supply chain. This from a wartime publication aimed at the general public.

    pipeline 2.jpg
    Small petrol tanker discharging into pipeline.

    pipeline.jpg
    Pipeline

    petrol 2.jpg
    Filling road tankers in a Bulk Petrol Storage Depot.

    Mike
     
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  4. DTD21

    DTD21 Member

    Thanks for the explanation etc. Trux (and thanks too to CTNana for bringing up the subject). My father spent a period posted to No5 Bulk Petroleum Storage Company (RASC clerk) who were based in South Wales - Barry, Caerphilly at the time. I would be interested to hear where the others were based if No7 was in the Mediterranean.
     
  5. DTD21

    DTD21 Member

    Just re-read Trux's text. If No7 BPSC were operating Pluto then some of its personnel would have been in my home location the Isle of Wight where various artefacts are still to be seen. One of the pumps is kept in a museum in Bembridge and the Brown's Golf Course Pump House is still there. There's also some stuff at Shanklin Chine I believe but can't remember what they have there.
     
  6. CTNana

    CTNana Member Patron

    Wow thanks Trux!

    What am I missing here?

    7 BPSC were operating Pluto in the Isle of Wight, was it split into two? I thought the only two pieces of information I knew for sure were that he was at 7 BPSC and that he sailed from Glasgow to North Africa, went to Sicily and then Italy.

    Were the royal navy or merchant navy responsible for getting the tankers to the ports? All supplies, and supply lines, must have been tempting targets were these especially susceptible?
     
  7. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    DTD21,

    Yes you are ahead of me. It seems that Carols father was in the Mediterranean and so was with one of the lower numbered units. Bulk Petrol Storage Companies 8 and upwards were in NW Europe. 7 was a 21 Army Group unit but remained in the UK to operate the UK end of Pluto. I am afraid I do not know where the other units were.

    Mike
     
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Carol, I see that we have crossed posts.

    A lot of experienced units were moved from Italy in late 1943 and early 1944 to serve in NW Europe. I have not yet found if No7 Company was one of them. There were other companies in the UK but most were fully occupied in depots, as was DTD21s father.

    Yes they were very attractive targets which is why they were situated well away from port areas. Tankers were manned by the Merchant Navy.

    I have an early war handbook which includes a section on the construction and siting of bulk petrol installations. I will copy the relevant part.

    Mike
     
  9. CTNana

    CTNana Member Patron

    I'm going to have to find the packing case with Dad's stuff in it. If I remember correctly Dad sailed to North Africa in July 1943 and went to Sicily very quickly after that. I am almost sure that his mail was addressed to 7th Bulk Field Petrol C.M.F.

    I know that he met up with his sailor brother and RAF brother in law quite by chance and have a photo of them in front of a fountain in what looks like Sicily / Italy. I assumed the latter because they were both several years younger than my Dad so presumably it would have been later on in the war.

    Did those in the Merchant Navy have the same medal entitlement as enlisted men?
     
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    21 Army Group is my specialist area but I do have some documents relating to units in Italy. A list of Arm of Service serial numbers for CMF in 1943 shows Numbers 5 to 10 Bulk Petrol Companies. They do not mention 'Field' as mentioned in Carols post. It may be a different type of unit. More likely to me is that in the reorganisation of Allied forces in Italy the US Army took over bulk petrol and the British units returned to the UK for service in NW Europe.

    More thought and research needed. I am going to rest my brain now.

    Mike
     
  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Carol,

    I have found a few references to the Bulk Petrol Companies but none of them give information on individual units. Certainly some did come back from the Mediterranean, some in late 1943/early 1944 and some in early 1945. I don't suppose you have the War Diary for 7 Company. That would tell where it was on any particular date. Anyway it would be helpful if you could copy and post the service record for your father when you find it. I do not imagine there is any great urgency since you have waited several years already.

    I like a mystery.

    Mike.
     
  12. CTNana

    CTNana Member Patron

    Thanks again Mike.

    I presume from what you have posted that the RASC was divided into companies. I assumed that the 7 referred to the army being supported (I can hear you all cringing!).

    Sorry if this is a dumb question. I realise that there was a push to get to Germany which probably required men & equipment to be diverted from other theatres but how then was the Italian campaign supported? Perhaps my Dad's posting to CMF was to replace those who were going to be transferred? I know from both my Dad's service record and the letters that I have that he came back from Italy in November 1945 and was demobbed in February 1946 (presumably having leave in the interim).

    Would the senior member of the support company also have kept a war diary? How does one gain access to it?

    I'm truly grateful for your help and clarification Mike. Having just moved house I should at the very least be unpacking one of the many boxes that there is no room for. or stripping off some of this incredibly tasteless wallpaper... and there is the grand prix to watch ..... and the rugby ..... but there are so many more things I simply do not understand about this time in my Dad's life.
     
  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Don't worry Carol. I have studied this period for 60 years and don't understand much of it. The administrative side is a complicated mystery.

    As far as I can tell there were seventeen Bulk Petrol Companies. They were formed in anticipation of needs in the various theatres of war. They were RASC units and were simply numbered in the order in which they were raised. The War Office staffs in London decided how many would be needed in each area and despatched them there.

    A considerable number of units were withdrawn from Italy for use in NW Europe. The answer to your question is that in general Italy did without. NW Europe was seen as the priority and it had first call on units, men, equipment, shipping etc. If any Italy veterans are reading this they will probably express their views.

    The War Diary was an official unit record kept by the units adjutant or similar. They vary greatly in detail but they generally show all changes of location and have a monthly return of personnel. Some attach almost every piece of paper in the file. They are easy to obtain. There are forum members who frequently visit the Public record office and will photograph the documents for a very modest fee. Personal diaries were not allowed (but that did not stop people keeping them).

    I have a map of the petrol ports, pipelines and bulk storage facilities in NW Europe. There were a lot. But no units are mentioned.

    Mike
     
  14. hutt

    hutt Member

    As an example, I am attaching some pages from the No 6 BPSC who were operating in southern Italy during the early part of 1945 and which give some indication of the Bulk Petrol Storage Sections that operated under them. This might give a flavour of what sort of detail you might find recorded in similar diaries but they can vary considerably.

    There appears to be at least one diary for a 7th Storage Company at Kew for Dec 44, WO170/2361. There are quite a few others if you search for 7 and petrol but would need closer inspection to reveal if they would be relevant.
     

    Attached Files:

  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I see the source of confusion. HUTTs War Diary is for 6BPSC (Bulk Petrol Storage Company) and says that part at least of 7BPFC was working under it. Seems that a Bulk Petrol Storage company and a Bulk Petrol F? Company are different types of unit. There was also a Bulk Petrol Transport Company operating petrol tanker lorries. All were RASC.

    So 7BPFC was in Italy and did not return to NW Europe.

    Mike
     
  16. hutt

    hutt Member

    Hi

    The 'F' is usually refering to 'filling' so my understanding is that you have a BPSC, Bulk Petrol Storage Company under which operated the BPSS or Bulk Petrol Storage Section (doing the actual work) and finally, the BPFCs were responsible for the filling of the cans at the end of the pipelines or truck routes ready for ultimate distribution to the fighting units or the RASC while they were actually suplying the rations, petrol or ammunition. How it worked in detail I can only guess, but thanks to Trux for those informative photos and illustrations. I presume that the workshops would be responsible for repairing jerry cans and sundry equipment required day to day. I presume the RE kept responsibility for the main pipes which I guess could run for miles up country to much nearer the front line and from which the Filling Companies would be based?

    The diary I posted seems to suggest that the 7th BPFC workshop was attached and perhaps operating nearby in other words, at this time, back near where the petrol was arriving. I think that if CTNana can clarify precisely the address on the letter she has we may be able to clear this up and give some pointers to exactly which diaries might be worth getting copies of. I guess the key is to establish if we are refreing to a Storage Company, Storage Section of Filling Company!
     
  17. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    HUTT,

    I was beginning to suspect that the initials had been misread or misinterpreted. In fact the the job of the mechanist staff serjeant was much the same.

    If you are correct, and I think you will be, then this is the BPFC.

    BASE PETROL FILLING CENTRE
    War Establishment IV/29B/2. June 1944.
    The Base Petrol Filling Centre consists of a headquarters and three sections, two for filling and one for maintenance and repair. It is designed to handle 100,000 gallons of petrol per day in 4 gallon returnable tins.

    The layout included
    - A bulk storage area with prefabricated 4000 ton storage tanks. This area was surrounded by a moat and a firewall. A pump lifted petrol into a number of smaller elevated tanks which supplied petrol by gravity to the filling area.
    - A can factory where cans were tested and inspected, washed and if necessary repaired and painted.
    - A can filling area to which cans were delivered on a rollerway. A number of filling measures automatically deliver the correct amount of petrol into the cans which are then checked and sealed. Cans then go on a rollerway to a store. There may also be bulk loading areas where road tankers can be filled.
    - Similar but smaller areas could fill cans with lubricants, paraffin etc.

    Major
    Captain for pay and administration
    Captain, Workshop Officer
    4 X Subaltern (may be mechanists)
    Quartermaster

    Mechanist Serjeant Major
    Mechanist Quartermaster Serjeant
    Company Serjeant Major

    mechanist staff serjeant
    company quartermaster serjeant
    serjeant clerk
    serjeant fitter
    7 X serjeant
    34 X corporal
    corporal driver
    188 X private
    6 X cook ACC

    blacksmith
    butcher
    3 X clerk
    3 X clerk, technical MT
    fitter
    corporal millwright
    3 X millwright
    2 X corporal tinsmith and whitesmith
    6 X tinsmith and whitesmith

    administrative corporal
    3 X batman
    40 X inspection and viewing personnel
    2 X corporal leader
    28 X leaders
    2 X officers mess orderly
    2 X serjeants mess orderly
    2 X sanitary dutyman
    120 X washing, filling and sealing personnel
    6 X driver
    4 X motorcyclist
    provost corporal
    2 X regimental police

    4 X motorcycle
    2 X car 2 seater 4 X 2
    1 X 15cwt
    1 X 3ton 4 X 2 GS

    2 X Bren lmg


    Headquarters
    Major
    Captain for pay and administration
    Quartermaster

    Company Serjeant Major
    serjeant clerk
    serjeant
    3 X corporal
    corporal driver
    41 X private
    6 X cook ACC

    Trades
    butcher
    3 X clerk
    administrative corporal
    3 X batman
    2 X corporal leader
    28 X leaders
    2 X officers mess orderly
    2 X serjeants mess orderly
    2 X sanitary dutyman
    6 X driver
    4 X motorcyclist
    provost corporal
    2 X regimental police


    2 X Filling Section each
    Headquarters
    Subaltern
    2 X serjeant

    5 X subsection each
    2 X corporal
    10 X washing, filling and sealing personnel


    Repair and Maintenance Section
    Headquarters
    Captain, Workshop Officer
    Mechanist Serjeant Major
    2 X serjeant

    Sub Section A (Inspection and Viewing)
    Subaltern
    8 X corporal
    32 X private

    Sub Section B
    Subaltern
    Mechanist Quartermaster Serjeant
    mechanist staff serjeant
    blacksmith
    3 X clerk, technical MT
    serjeant fitter
    corporal millwright
    3 X millwright
    2 X corporal tinsmith and whitesmith
    6 X tinsmith and whitesmith

    One NCO and 3 men will be trained in anti gas duties and decontamination work
    One NCO and 8 men will be trained in the use of the AA lmg

    A Fire Fighting Section WE IV/91/2 will be attached.

    Mike

    PS. In theory the RE constructed the tanks and pipelines but the RASC operated them. In practice there were never enough RASC personnel to do the job.
     
  18. hutt

    hutt Member

    Hi Carol

    Out of interest, what does your fathers service record show for his return to the UK in November 45 and subsequent demob?

    Hi Mike

    I would be very interested if you have any more info on the setup of these petrol units, you mention having a booklet a bit further up the topic.

    Graham
     
  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Graham,

    I have found very little on these petrol units in rear areas. A small bit about the construction of a bulk storage site in a prewar RE handbook on buildings and installations. Some technical detaiIs on pipleines and training of petrol units in a US Army Official History and details of the petrol supply organisation in 21 Army group. None give details of the operation of units or mention individual units.

    My interests are first British Army vehicles and second 21 Army Group. Petrol units in Italy are beyond my knowledge.

    You are welcome to what I have?

    Mike
     

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