ROYAL ENGINEERS - Introduction

Discussion in 'Engineers' started by Trux, Aug 29, 2010.

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  1. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    According to one writer engineers build things and blow things up. In various forms this
    covers most of the engineers work. They build roads, bridges, railways and anything else
    required. They also operate ports and railways. They lay and clear mines, run the postal
    service, print maps, provide drinking water and do camouflage work. They do also blow
    things up. Like the Royal Artillery the Royal Engineers carry no battle honours except ‘Ubique’ (everywhere).


    Assault Engineers
    Headquarters Assault Brigade Royal Engineers. War Establishment XIV/904/1. January 1945.
    Headquarters Assault Brigade Royal Engineers. War Establishment VII/752/2. May 1944.
    Assault Park Squadron. War Establishment XIV/903/1. January 1945.
    Assault Training Regiment. War Establishment XIV/951/1. July 1944.
    Headquarters Assault Regiment RE. War Establishment XIV/902/1
    Assault Squadron RE. War Establishment XIV/900/1. July 1944.
    Assault Dozer Squadron WE XIV/901/1. November 1944.

    Field Engineers
    Headquarters Divisional Engineers. War Establishment II/118/2. December 1943
    Field Park Squadron or Company. War Establishment II/195/2. January 1944
    Field Squadron or Company. War Establishment II/194/2. January 1944
    Field Squadron or Company. War Establishment II/194/3. March 1945
    Bridging Troop or Platoon. War Establishment II/196/1. June 1943
    Field Survey Section. War Establishment III/149/2. November 1943
    Electrical and Mechanical Section. War Establishment III/15H/2. August 1943
    Headquarters Army Group RE. War Establishment III/324/2. March 1945
    Field (Camouflage) Company RE. War Establishment II/203/1. December 1943
    Field Park (Camouflage) Company RE. War Establishment II/204/1. December 1943

    Ports and Inland Waterways
    Port Floating Equipment Company. War Establishment IV/205/1. December 1943
    Headquarters Stevedore Battalion. War Establishment IV/207/1. December 1943
    Stevedore Company. War Establishment IV/208/1. December 1943
    Headquarters Port Operating Group. War Establishment IV/209/1. December 1943
    Port Operating Company. War Establishment IV/210/1. December 1943
    Engineer Stores (Port Section). War Establishment IV/211/1. November 1943
    Transportation Stores Port Depot Type A. War Establishment XIV/1002/1. October 1944
    Transportation Stores Port Depot Type B. War Establishment XIV/1001/1. October 1944
    Docks Maintenance Company. War Establishment IV/22A/3. July 1944
    Floating Crane Section Type A. War Establishment IV/223/1. December 1943.
    Port Artisan Company. War Establishment IV/162/1. June 1943.
    Dredging Company. War Establishment IV/143/1. May 1943.
    Headquarters Port Construction and Repair Group. War Establishment IV/116/1. July 1942.
    Port Construction and Repair Company. War Establishment IV/21B/2. July 1942.
    Port Repair Ship. War Establishment IV/117/2. March 1943.
    Port Maintenance Company. War Establishment IV/22N/2. February 1943

    Headquarters Inland Water Transport Group Type C. War Establishment IV/222/1. December 1943.
    Inland Water Transport Heavy Workshop Company Type C. War Establishment IV/215/1. December 1943.
    Inland Water Transport Company Type C. War Establishment IV/213/1. December 1943.
    Inland Water Transport Light Aid Workshop. War Establishment IV/214/1. December 1943
    Inland Water Transport Supervisory Group. War Establishment XIV/955/1. February 1945.

    Regional Inland Water Transport Control Team. War Establishment XIV/957/1. April 1945.
    Regional Port Control Team. War Establishment XIV/958/1. April 1945.
    Both of these have the note ‘Not to be implemented without the authority of 21 Army Group’. They were intended to control Inland Water Transport and Ports in Germany after the Armistice and did not operate during the campaign.

    Railway Units.
    Headquarters Railway Operating Group. War Establishment IV/17/3. December 1943.
    Railway Operating Company. War Establishment IV/18/3. December1943
    Railway Company. War Establishment IV/14/2. June 1943.
    Headquarters Railway Workshop Group. War Establishment IV/20B/3. December 1943.
    Railway Workshop Company. War Establishment IV/21/5. December1943
    Railway Mobile Workshop. War Establishment IV/18A/3. December1943
    Transportation Stores Company. War Establishment IV/20/3. December 1943.
    Transportation Stores Company Type A. War Establishment IV/20A/2. November 1944
    Railway Construction Company. War Establishment IV/16/4. December 1943.
    Railway Survey Company. War Establishment IV/13/3. December 1943.
    Headquarters Railway Bridging Company. War Establishment IV/167/1. July 1943
    Railway Bridging Section. War Establishment IV/112/2. July 1943.
    Railway Bridging Company. War Establishment IV/221/1. December 1943.

    Movement Control Group. War Establishment IV/4/4. December 1944.
    Movement Control Pool. War Establishment XIV/105/1. May 1944.
    Movement Control Pool. War Establishment XIV/105/2. November 1944.
    Movement Control Pool. War Establishment XIV/105/3. March 1945.
    Build Up Control Organisation. War Establishment XIV/57/1. December 1944.

    Chief Engineer (Works). War Establishment IV/5/3. November 1943
    Chief Engineer (Works). War Establishment III/6A/2. November 1943
    Chief Engineer (Works). War Establishment IV/6A/3. September 1943
    Chief Engineer (Works) 11 LoC Area. War Establishment XIV/218/1. December 1944
    Chief Engineer (Works) Headquarters LoC. War Establishment XIV/961/1. February 1945.
    Commander RE (Works). War Establishment IV/6A/3. September 1943.
    Commander RE, Permanent Bridges. War Establishment XIV/956/1. February 1945.
    Commander RE (Power). War Establishment XIV/952/1. September 1944
    Chief Engineer (Works) Netherlands District. War Establishment XIV/960/3. May 1945.
    This was similar to other Chief Engineer (Works) War Establishments but contained a Major for Waterways. It was not effective before the end of the campaign.

    Road Construction Company. War Establishment IV/12/4. October 1943
    Headquarters Airfield Construction Group. War Establishment IV/120/2. October 1943.
    Quarrying Company. War Establishment IV/12B/5. November 1943
    Boring Section. War Establishment IV/8/3. February 1942.

    Headquarters Electrical and Mechanical Units. War Establishment XIV/905/1. March 1945.
    Headquarters Electrical and Mechanical Units. War Establishment IV/7C/2. August 1943
    Electrical and Mechanical Sections. War Establishment IV/7D/2. August 1943.
    Headquarters Mechanical Equipment Units Type A. War Establishment XIV/950/1. June 1944.
    Headquarters Mechanical Equipment Units Type B. War Establishment IV/244/1. April 1944.
    Headquarters Mechanical Equipment Company. War Establishment IV/22C/4. September 1943.
    Mechanical Equipment Sections. War Establishment IV22D/3. September 1943.
    Mechanical Equipment Park Company. War Establishment IV/22E/2. September 1943.
    Mechanical Equipment Spare Parts Section. War Establishment IV/206/1. November 1943.

    Engineer Base Workshop. War Establishment IV/9/2. September 1943.
    Workshop and Park Company. War Establishment IV/11/3. September 1943
    Headquarters Machinery Spare Parts Company. War Establishment XIV1004/1. March 1945.
    Machinery Spare Parts (Base) Section. War Establishment IV/211/1. November 1943.
    Headquarters Engineer Stores Group. War Establishment XIV/962/1. April 1945.
    Stores Section. War Establishment IV/115/1. July 1942.
    Engineer Local Purchase Section. War Establishment XIV/1003/1. November 1944.

    Headquarters Bomb Disposal Company. War Establishment III/20C/3. August 1942.
    Bomb Disposal Section. War Establishment III/20B/3. August 1942.

    Army Group Field Survey Depot. War Establishment XIV/902/1. November 1944
    Army Field Survey Depot. War Establishment IV/203/1. November 1943.
    Heavy Mobile Printing Section. War Establishment XIV/1491/1. May 1944
    Map Reproduction Section. War Establishment III/203/2. November 1943.
    Training School RE. War Establishment XIV/1000/1. September 1944.

    Armoured Division Postal Unit. War Establishment II/207/2.
    Infantry Division Postal Unit. War Establishment II/207/2.
    Corps Postal Unit. War Establishment III/59/4. January 1944
    Army Postal Unit. War Establishment III/59/4. January 1944
    Line of Communication Postal Unit. War Establishment IV/64/4. June 1944.
    No8 Base Post Office. War Establishment XIV/953/1. September 1944
    Forward Group Air Formation Signals Postal Unit. War Establishment XIV/954/1. December 1944.

    Military Training Pamphlet No23 Part 1.
    The principal types of engineer unit in the field are
    - Field squadron and field park squadrons of armoured divisions, field companies and field park companies of divisions, army field companies and corps field park companies of army and corps troops engineers. Their principal functions include bridging, demolitions, creation and clearance of obstacles, concrete and semi permanent defences, development of water supplies and communications, and disposal of unexploded bombs.
    - Field survey companies who are responsible for mapping and field survey, including provision of trigonometrical data for the RA survey organisation.

    Line of communication units.
    - Construction units whose functions are construction of semi permanent accommodation, installations, aerodromes and roads.
    - Electrical and mechanical units whose functions are the operation and maintenance of engineer electrical and mechanical plant.
    - Store holding units and engineer services.
    - Postal units.
    - Specialist units for specific tasks such as forestry, mechanical equipment, tunnelling and bomb disposal.

    Transportation units.
    - Railway units who construct, operate and maintain all military railway services.
    - Inland water transport units who operate and maintain inland water transport services including port lighterage.
    - Docks groups who operate port facilities.

    All RE units are trained to defend themselves. They are also trained in the construction of protective earth works, obstacles and minefields, and in demolition. Although trained to do so it is a waste of individual skills to employ specialist line of communication and transportation units on field engineer tasks.

    Field units are trained to fight but their use as infantry is uneconomic except as a last resort. However their skill in the handling of explosives and their fighting training fit them to partake in the assault against prepared positions.

    Engineer problems demand foresight in reconnaissance and in provision of tools, transport, materials and labour. Commanders must inform their senior engineer officers of their intentions as early as possible. Engineer reconnaissance parties will accompany the forward troops. It is the duty of other arms to provide information for the engineers. It may frequently be necessary to fight for engineer information.

    Where field engineering work is carried out by other arms the engineers should provide advice, tools and materials.

    Working parties of other arms are required to assist engineers in works carried out under engineer control.

    Mine Laying and Clearing occupied much of the engineer’s time and effort. For mine clearing each troop or platoon carried four mine detectors and more were held in reserve. Each Field Company or Squadron also held two ‘Mine Stores set B’. Each Field Park Company or Squadron held three such sets

    Mine Stores Set B
    50 X Mine Marker - stackable tetrahedrons which were placed over a mine when it was detected.
    40 X Gap Markers – arrows 2 foot long and 5 inches wide, pointed at one end. The pointed half is painted white and the other half is painted red. These are mounted on 5 foot picket angle irons at 25 yard intervals to mark a gap cleared through the minefield.
    100 X Minefield Perimeter Markers – red sheet metal triangles 8 inches on each side.
    12 X hand grapnels for pulling out mines.
    24 X roll of tape, each 400 yards long. For marking cleared lanes.
    64 X electric traffic lanterns. These are used to mark gaps at night. Pairs of lights are positioned at 50 yard intervals, green on the safe side, amber on the danger side. Additional green lights indicate the end of the gap.
    50 X Angle iron pickets, 5 foot long.
    10 X ‘MINE’
    6 X ‘BOOBY TRAP’
    30 X ‘SAFE LANE’
    30 X plain
    2 X 2 lb bag of 1.5 inch nails.
    100 X Dannert pegs
    32 X spare batteries
    16 X spare bulb
    24 X prodder.

    Note: Non engineer units were issued with Mine Stores Set A
    5 X Mine Marker
    10 X Minefield Perimeter Markers
    10 X 4 foot wood pickets

    For breaching a minefield it was laid down that
    - a reconnaissance party of a commander and six men would identify and mark the breach for the work parties.
    - a breaching party of one platoon would clear a breach sixteen yards wide and mark it. It was possible to clear a 200 yard length in favourable conditions. Obviously booby traps or severe enemy action would slow the work down.
    - Normal deployment was for a section to provide two parties each of which had a man with a mine detector who detected the mines, a mate who marked the mine, a man who uncovered the mine and a man who pulled the mines out and stacked them to the side of the cleared lane. An NCO controlled the work and the remaining men erected signs, provided protection and acted as reserves.

    Mine Laying.
    Mines were not carried by the Field Company. No75 Grenades were held by the Field Park Company and MkV mines were held in RASC lorries.

    The following procedure was laid down
    - engineer staff would provide a plan for the minefield and order the mines.
    - A reconnaissance party of a commander and six men lay tapes to mark the rows to be laid.
    - Mine laying parties of an NCO and nine men were formed. Each party could lay 40 to 50 mines an hour.
    - Mines were distributed by vehicle if possible, otherwise by carrying parties
    - The minefield was fenced and marked
    - The minefield was recorded. All such records were held at division and corps headquarters.

    Mines were laid in standard panels which were six rows of mines with a spacing of 6 yards. Panels could be of any length and ran parallel to the front. Additional panels could be laid to give a greater depth.

    Anti personnel mines, anti handling devices and booby traps may be added but must be clearly recorded.

    In the assault there are three main types of demolition task
    - The removal of obstacles
    - Harrassing the enemy
    - Flank protection.

    Obstacles are most likely to be anti tank obstacles and pill boxes. Some advanced knowledge of such obstacles may be available from intelligence and air reconnaissance but in general the precise nature will not be known until troops reach them. It will then be necessary for engineers to carry out a reconnaissance and deploy the relevant sapper unit. It will often fall to a junior NCO to carry out both of these tasks.

    Harrassing an enemy will normally fall to sappers in an armoured division. A mobile column including engineers will swing round a flank and disrupt enemy communications at a vital spot such as a bridge or defile. It will usually be necessary to use large charges quickly placed. It will also call for good judgement to cause enough damage to deny the enemy the use of the communications while not causing so much damage that it will be denied to the advancing forces for too long a time.

    Flank protection will be similar to the harassing action. It may be necessary to deny the enemy the uses of bridges etc which might be used to attack the flanks of an advancing force. However any demolition should be seen as temporary since the communications may be needed by friendly forces.

    To obtain the best performance from explosives they need to be in a confined space. Usually a hole is drilled and a cavity formed. The cavity can then be filled with explosive and detonated remotely. If time allows then pneumatic drills can be used. In ideal conditions a camouflet set can be used to drill a hole, but this can only drill vertically. The most effective means where time is limited and enemy defences are active is the shaped charge. The shaped charge readily available to field engineers was the Beehive, or Charge, demolition, No1 Mk3. This stands on legs and focuses the explosive force so that it blasts a hole. It will make a hole 2 foot 6inches deep in concrete or 6 inches of steel plate.

    A camouflet set consists of a frame with four handles. A drill bit is fitted into the centre. Four men lift the frame by the handles and then release it so that the drill bit is driven into the surface on the same principle as a pile driver.

    When really in a hurry boxes of explosive can be dropped in the centre of a bridge or under a convenient overhang and detonated. Crude and wasteful but effective.

    Delaying an enemy advance.
    Obstacle Belt.
    This is designed to hold up an enemy advance by blowing bridges, destroying or mining possible crossing or landing points and obstructing any roads.

    Preliminary Demolition. This is a demolition which can be blown as soon as convenient.
    Reserved Demolition. These are usually demolitions which can be blown only at the last moment in the face of the enemy. They may also be prepared and blown at a later date in accordance with a tactical plan.

    Usually a preliminary demolition is preferred since
    - troops can move onto another task
    - it can be carried out in the most efficient and effective way
    - simpler firing arrangements can be used

    However it is often necessary to leave demolitions until as late as possible so that ones own troops are not obstructed.

    Road denial.
    A road can be denied to the enemy by a variety of methods. Usually a company or squadron will be assigned to a route. Troops or platoons will then leapfrog towards the rear. As they go they will
    - crater road surfaces
    - blow culverts
    - block roads with rock falls or trees etc
    - destroy the road surface with a rooter
    - mine road verges

    With a platoon spaced in sections over half a mile three hours work should allow a crater to be made every ten yards and a mine to be laid every five yards.

    Water Supply.
    Water supply was a Royal Engineer responsibility.
    Each Field Company or Squadron held
    - four hand pumps
    - 24 X 12 foot length of armoured hose
    - 14 X 30 foot lengths of canvas hose
    - 8 X filling hoses
    - 4 X sets of water testing and sterilising equipment

    Each Field Park Company or Squadron held
    - 12 X water tank type S. These were 12 foot diameter canvas tanks with a 1,200 gallon capacity.
    - 16 X flex driven pumps
    - 5 X petrol engines
    - 8 X 12 foot length of armoured hose
    - 74 X 30 foot lengths of canvas hose
    - 4 X filling hoses
    - 5 X sets of water testing and sterilising equipment

    RE Works in the Beachhead
    All Works Services were placed directly under Chief Engineer, Second Army until 14 July when HQ L of C took over. Engineer stores dumps were established at Tailleville (No 1 Army Roadhead), Bayeux (No 2 Army Roadhead), Ver-Sur-Mer and Luc-Sur-Mer, while the Engineer Base Workshop were sited at Le Bergerie. The Engineer Stores Base Depots were located one each at Tailleville and Bayeaux. It had been expected that the major demands for RE stores would be for purposes of road making and repair, constructing airfields, building bridges and erecting bulk petroleum installations. For these purposes some 42,000 tons of engineer stores and nine thousand personnel were available.

    Bulk petrol installations and pipelines were constructed. (see RASC/Petrol Supply)

    Roads soon began to break up badly under the continuous traffic in the beach head so early tasks were patching, widening and the filling of potholes. Since villages were only suitable for one way traffic the construction of round-abouts and by-passes was another early task. Many miles of track reserved entirely for tracked vehicles were constructed parallel to the main routes to preserve the actual roads and duplicate bridges were constructed to relieve bottle-necks. Airfield construction troops were diverted to work on the roads since there was not yet room to build all the planned airfields.

    Available for the construction of forward airfields were initially five Airfield Construction Groups RE and one Airfield Construction Wing RAF. By the end of June, excluding the emergency landing strip, ten airfields had actually been constructed in the beach-head area. This number rose to seventeen by the end of July.

    About fifty water points were established supplied from rivers, streams or wells.

    RE Works in the Advance Base.
    In view of the many projects for the development of the advance base the general policy was to place orders with civilian firms for the supply of huts, works services, etc. 176 Workshop and Park Company took over the transit depot at Dieppe. No 6 and No 7 Engineer Stores Base Depot were established in Brussels. Port sections were established at Boulogne and Ostend and Dieppe.

    Four RAF airfield construction wings were fully employed on the winter programme for the maintenance of airfields which included repairs to concrete runways, hangars and all types of accommodation as well as preparing 100,000 sq. yards of hard standing for unloading stores from transport planes to lorries.

    Electrical pumping apparatus which had been tested and forwarded from UK was received at the end of the year for draining the large flooded areas in Holland.

    The power station at Caen was put into operation and base hospitals were equipped with lighting. Power stations in the Antwerp area were repaired were operating by the end of October. A power line was installed to Holland which was without electricity owing to the complete destruction of the Geertruidenberg power plant. In addition, two floating power stations of 28,000 kw capacity were despatched from USA. Temporary lighting was supplied to all quays in the Antwerp dock area in December.

    Hutting for winter quarters was required for approximately 200,000 personnel altogether and 1,500,000 sq ft of covered accommodation was required for other purposes in the forward areas and base
    installations. Work continued on hospitals, depots and installations whilst large camps were also under construction for refugees and PW, amounting to approximately 100,000 personnel. A transit camp was built at Dieppe for 2,600 with feeding facilities for 3,000. Owing to the very large AA deployment in the area of Antwerp, over 1,000 camps, varying from fully hutted mixed AA batteries down to single isolated searchlight sites, were constructed.

    An immense amount of clearance of debris, repairs and alterations to buildings in addition to road repairs and hard standings were carried out. Arrangements were made for the production by civilian contractors of approximately 1,000 Nissen huts in November and 5,000 per month afterwards.

    Twelve forestry companies, including ten Canadian, were fully employed as timber was urgently required for bridging, hutting and construction of "corduroy" roads. Supplies of pitwood were also needed for the mines of Belgium.

    The greatly extended lines of communication meant a very heavy road stone commitment for the Quarrying Group RE whose output increased in January to 170,000 tons.

    With the occupation of northern France, Belgium, and Holland, it became important to open the canals which were normally the most important means of transport. All floating bridges on the Seine with the exception of one each at Vernon and Elbeuf were removed in order that barge traffic could be resumed. Military convoys were diverted via Rouen or Paris.

    During January In addition to the normal maintenance new work was being carried out on fifteen airfields.

    It was decided to build several high level semi-permanent bridges on the waterways to the west of the Rhine, and eventually over the Rhine. A specially designed Bailey cantilever rig for driving long timber piles was produced. During the last week of the month vast quantities of bridging stores were moved forward including an estimated requirement of three thousand sixty-foot piles, and as no suitable road transport was available, a design was prepared for a special vehicle, twenty-five of which were produced in army base workshops.

    A number of Port Construction and Repair units were taken off port repair work and used to assist in the construction of the bridges across the Rhine. For the crossing of these rivers, a total length, including bridge approaches, of some 16,000 feet of class 40 and class 70 semi-permanent bridging was put over. In addition to these bridges, a total of sixteen class 9, 12, 15 and 40 floating bridges with an aggregate length of 19,000 feet, were built.

    During the month of January de-watering of selected areas in NW Holland was undertaken. This urgent relief task required pumping plant with an estimated capacity of four million tons per day, the priority area to be cleared of water being about sixty square miles.

    For NW Europe the supply system was too large and complex to be left to the Services and was co ordinated by The Transportation Service of the Staff.

    Until the middle of August unloading continued across the beaches and through Mulberry and the small ports in the beach head. When the break-through to the Seine took place, followed by the advance through France and Belgium into Holland, Transportation were faced with two big problems:
    - Firstly, a long rail L of C from the Rear Maintenance Area across the Seine forward into Holland had to be organised
    - Secondly, in order to shorten the L of C and bring supplies by a shorter route through ports that would be able to operate right through the winter, the Channel ports had to be opened.
    By the end of September both these tasks had been successfully tackled and a rail L of C existed from the Rear Maintenance Area right through to Eindhoven. The port of Dieppe was open and the ports of Ostend, Boulogne and Antwerp were being made ready to accept shipping.

    The HQ of the Transportation Stores organisation moved to Brussels and controlled four Transportation Stores Depots and two Transportation Spares Depot. In November three type "A" and three type "B" Transportation Stores Port Detachments were formed.

    On 4 February the rail bridge at Ravenstein was completed and traffic was run through almost immediately to railheads around Nijmegen. Repairs to existing lines were directed principally to the opening up of as many railheads as possible and ten were in operation East of the Maas by the end of March. It was necessary to repair the rail system East of the Rhine in order to operate a railhead and railtail organisation until a railway bridge across the Rhine could be constructed. The site for the Rhine bridge was at Spyk and work commenced on 7 April. It was completed by 8 May.

    Preparations were made well in advance for opening each of the ports as they were captured. Reconnaissance parties were sent forward together with Royal Naval parties, the port commandant and sub-area representatives. They took with them a basic key plan to work from and were ordered to produce a final plan for the complete development of each port. For this work the port construction and repair groups and port operating groups were utilised.

    The Transportation Service was responsible for dredging the port and dredgers manned by Transportation personnel improved the berthing facilities and also dredged the River Scheldt.

    More and more of the routine work of daily operating of ports was handed over to civilians, under Transportation staff control. At Antwerp civilian stevedores were employed in considerable numbers alongside Transportation Personnel. The handing over of Caen, Boulogne and Dieppe to the French released more port operating units in readiness for employment in Germany. Port construction and rehabilitation continued in Calais, Ostend, Antwerp and Caen and heavy work was undertaken at Flushing. The use of civil labour in these ports allowed the release of some sixty per cent of port construction and repair units for employment on the construction of permanent road bridges across the Rhine.

    Once Antwerp was open, the port of Brussels was developed exclusively for the discharge of barge traffic and by the end of January a daily average tonnage discharge of 2,376 tons was reached.

    The responsibility for IWT supervision of the reinstating of canals was taken over by the Canal Clearance and Repair Section of the ports and waterway engineering branch. The IWT operating branch began to re-establish the Belgian and Dutch IWT operating organisations. Personnel of two Inland Water Transport operating companies were deployed throughout Belgium, organising and controlling craft movement.

    When Antwerp was opened more and more resources were deployed on the canals at the expense of the Channel ports. A Port Mechanical branch was formed to control all mechanical units and to ensure that the mechanical engineering services required for the operation and maintenance of port and waterway equipment were put to the best advantage. The main problem of Transportation IWT was to
    re-establish the Belgian waterway organisation, as it would become one of the major methods of port
    clearance, particularly in the case of Antwerp. By the end of October the whole system of canals in Belgium was in satisfactory order, with the exception of the Albert Canal which eventually opened to 600-ton craft by 15 December.

    The working of traffic on the Belgian canals was handed over to civilians on 2 March. This released units for work on the Rhine. When the crossing of the Rhine took place IWT assisted in the construction of the floating road bridges. Other Transportation units moved forward to take control of craft on the Rhine and on the various German waterways. Some port construction and repair units were brought in on the task of canal clearance in Germany.

    The conveyance of personnel and vehicles to the Continent was carried out by means of LCT Marks III and IV, LST, MT ships, LSI and, on D+1 and D+2, in large personnel ships transporting over 2,000 personnel each.

    It was intended that LST would unload their vehicles onto Rhino ferries but owing to rough seas a number of Rhino ferries were lost or damaged en route. LST were beached and unloaded. This was successful but resulted in a larger number of LST having to be repaired. However the advantages gained by the rapid disembarkation of troops and embarkation of casualties for evacuation more than off-set this handicap.

    MT ships were unloaded by their own derricks into LCT Marks V and VI, LCM and Rhino ferries which were then either beached or brought to one of the special causeways for discharge. The first MT ship discharged on D+1.

    The first hospital carrier for the evacuation of casualties was brought over on 14 June and after that there was almost always one hospital carrier off the British beaches.

    The handling of heavy and awkward lifts both in vehicles and stores was an acute problem. Non-mobile loads were either placed on tank transporters and then discharged from LCTs or else were stowed on lighters and unloaded by shore cranes at Port en Bessin or Courseulles. An Express Coaster Service was inaugurated to deliver urgent stores.

    Responsibility for discharging ships was that of the beach group commanders who were assisted by their port operating staffs. The ferry service run by the Navy and the DUKW ferries organised by the RASC were controlled in the same way. Later the anchorages became more centralised and MT was passed over Gold beaches while stores were centred on Juno. As the operation proceeded, the Port Operating Groups took over complete responsibility for the discharge of ships and for controlling the unloading of craft when beached. Port Construction and Repair units were landed at the same time as port operating units to repair the small ports of Port en Bessin, Courseulles and Ouistreham. A special port construction task force was also landed at the same time to carry out the construction of Mulberry B. Small coasters were unloaded in Port-En-Bessin and preloaded barges discharged there and at Couseulles. Ouistreham and Caen could not be developed until cleared of the enemy and out of range of gunfire.

    On the beaches and in Mulberry B the IWT organisation operated tugs, PBRs and Rhinos loaded with MT. IWT workshops were quickly set up and repairs put in hand.

    Once Antwerp was open, the port of Brussels was developed exclusively for the discharge of barge traffic and by the end of January a daily average tonnage discharge of 2,376 tons was reached.

    The responsibility for IWT supervision of the reinstating of canals was taken over by the Canal Clearance and Repair Section of the ports and waterway engineering branch. The IWT operating branch began to re-establish the Belgian and Dutch IWT operating organisations. Personnel of two Inland Water Transport operating companies were deployed throughout Belgium, organising and controlling craft movement.

    When Antwerp was opened more resources were deployed on the canals at the expense of the Channel ports. A Port Mechanical branch was formed to control all mechanical units and to ensure that the mechanical engineering services required for the operation and maintenance of port and waterway equipment were put to the best advantage. The main problem of Transportation IWT was to
    re-establish the Belgian waterway organisation, as it would become one of the major methods of port
    clearance, particularly in the case of Antwerp. By the end of October the whole system of canals in Belgium was in satisfactory order, with the exception of the Albert Canal which eventually opened to 600-ton craft by 15 December.

    The working of traffic on the Belgian canals was handed over to civilians on 2 March. This released units for work on the Rhine. When the crossing of the Rhine took place IWT assisted in the construction of the floating road bridges. Other Transportation units moved forward to take control of craft on the Rhine and on the various German waterways. Some port construction and repair units were brought in on the task of canal clearance in Germany.

    Train ferry terminals for rail-fitted LST and "Zeebrugge" and "Twickenham" type ferries were constructed at Cherbourg by 4 August. Cherbourg was in the US area and so not ideal for the British.

    The development of the rail L of C focused from the very start on the development of Caen which had to become the main traffic and locomotive centre in spite of the damage that had been sustained there. Action had to be taken to repair yards, sidings, workshops and locomotive sheds, communications and signals. By 17 August rail lines from Caen to Bayeaux and Caen to Courselles were opened after the bridge at Caen had been constructed. By 1 September a single line had been opened from Caen to Argentan. This was followed by the opening of the railway line to the Seine. Since all the bridges over the Seine had been destroyed it was decided to establish railheads South of the river with a road link to railtails North of the river. This system was a makeshift to close the gap until the Seine bridge at Le Manoir was constructed on 22 September. This 520 foot bridge was completed in fourteen days. Later railway construction troops were spread out all along the line into Belgium. Of the four railway construction and maintenance groups available one was allotted to each army area, one for the Line of Communication and one for general work in France and at the ports.

    After the capture of Brussels a rail route from Rouen to the area of Brussels was found nearly intact. Work was immediately started by the French, assisted by transportation troops, on a bridge over the Somme at Amiens to bring the line into full double line working. A line from Dieppe to the main route through Amiens was ready by 6 September and coasters started discharging in that port. A train ferry terminal for "Zeebrugge" type ferries was also constructed at Dieppe. This allowed British locomotives to be delivered direct instead of through Cherbourg.

    Both French and Belgian railway men were anxious to help in every way possible and it was agreed that the area South of the Seine should be operated by the military while the area North of the Seine should be operated by the local railway authorities with military assistance. Great flexibility of organisation was needed. Railway operating units had been designed to operate railways rather than to assist others to do so, and their organisation was not altogether suitable for the latter task.

    On 6 October the line was through from the Rear Maintenance Areas to Eindhoven in the Second Army roadhead area. During December the lines East from Tilburg and North from Eindhoven were extended so that when the bridge at Ravenstein was repaired railheads could rapidly be established between the Maas and the Rhine.

    A considerable amount of personnel traffic, principally drafts flowed along the L of C and during October and November a personnel service was organised with appropriate halts and feeding points. The traffic initially ran from Dieppe to Louvain but subsequently went from Ostend up to Eindhoven. In addition arrangements were made for civilians to be evacuated in returning store trains and in special trains from localities made uninhabitable by battle or flooding or for reasons of security. The flow of leave and duty personnel steadily increased and by the end of April sixteen personnel trains were being run daily.

    The damage at Antwerp was comparatively light, but the extensive marshalling yards were damaged and the enemy had lifted and removed thirty-five miles of track and over two hundred points and crossings from the rail layout in the port area.

    Practically all railway bridges in Holland had been destroyed by the enemy. The majority were over canals, and replacement spans rarely less than one hundred feet were required. Consequently at this stage of the campaign the demand for railway construction units reached its maximum. Towards the end of November, the additional labour working with the units included eighteen pioneer companies, two docks operating companies, two railway operating companies and a port maintenance company.


    The Royal Engineers used a variety of mechanical equipment. Most of it was of US origin since such equipment had been developed on a much larger sale here than in the UK. In the early days of the war Britain bought whatever they could readily obtain but later standardised on a limited range of types and models.

    Tractors were the most common type of mechanical equipment and they could be used with a wide variety of accessories. Most of the tractors ere tracked and powered by diesel engines. Caterpillar was the most common manufacturer but there were other types in service.

    The following types were the standard types in British service.
    Caterpillar D4 35 horse power weight 10,240lb
    Caterpillar D6 55 horse power weight 16,650lb
    Caterpillar D7 80 horse power weight 23,910lb
    Caterpillar D8 120 horse power weight 34,170lb
    All were used by the Royal Engineers with he D7 being the most common.
    Other types in use were
    International TD9
    International TD14

    Any of these tractors could operate a range of equipment but there were four types of semi permanent fitting
    - Bull dozer and angle dozer equipment
    - Power controlled unit winch
    - Hyster winch
    - Hydraulic pump.
    Once fitted these limited the type of equipment that could be operated.

    Bull Dozer and Angle Dozer.
    A Bull Dozer had a blade permanently at right angles to the tractor. This blade could be raised or lowered
    An Angle Dozer had a blade which could be set at an angle of up to 30 degrees either side and could be tilted up to a foot on either side
    Any dozer could be fitted with a mushroom shoe behind the blade to control the height above the ground.

    Dozers could be of three kinds.
    - US hydraulic controlled blade which had a hydraulic pump fitted to the engine.
    - UK hydraulic controlled blade which used the same pump but used different hydraulic rams.
    - US cable operated blade operated by a power controlled unit and cables. Few were used by the British.

    Power Controlled Units
    Power controlled units were needed for all cable operated equipment
    - Dozer blades as described above.
    - Scrapers for bulk excavations. These could remove earth from one location and spread it in another. These included
    4 cubic yard for Caterpillar D4
    6 cubic yard for Caterpillar D6
    8 cubic yard for Caterpillar D7
    12 cubic yard for Caterpillar D8
    - Rooters which had three heavy tines which could turn up roots or stones from up to 30 inches deep. Normally these were towed by a Caterpillar D8 but could be towed by a Caterpillar D7 on lighter soil, or by two Caterpillar D7 in tandem.
    - Le Tourneau Cranes which could lift and carry loads. There were 20 foot, 30 foot and 40 foot jibs which could all be used by Caterpillar D6. D7 and D8 tractors.

    The British mainly used the two drum winch but four drum versions were available.

    Hyster Winches
    These were powerful hoisting and towing winches and were available in several sizes. The British used
    - Single drum towing winches.
    - Single drum worm drive winches.

    Hydraulic Pumps
    Hydraulic pumps were for use with Athley Wagons. These were heavy tipping wagons on caterpillar tracks. Two could be towed in tandem. There were
    - 10 cubic yards for the Caterpillar D7
    - 14 cubic yards for the Caterpillar D8
    These were not interchangeable.

    Towed Equipment
    Tractors could also tow equipment which did not require winches, cables or hydraulics.
    - Blade Graders. Graders were used to level a surface. The blade could be adjusted for height and could be set at an angle or tilted. The British used the following types
    No33 for the Caterpillar D4
    No44 for the Caterpillar D6
    No66 for the Caterpillar D7
    The standard blade in each case was 12 foot but 10 foot blades were available. The two larger graders had either hand controls or hydraulic controls powered by an 8 horse power engine. A scarifier could also be fitted.

    - Elevating Grader. These levelled a surface but also lifted any soil removed and used an elevator belt to deposit earth to on side and at a higher level. The British used the following
    No42 for the Caterpillar D7
    No48 for the Caterpillar D8

    - Killifer Plough. This was used to cut a V shaped furrow or ditch up to 3 foot 6 inches deep. It could be towed by either a Caterpillar D7 or D8.

    - Mole Plough. This cut drains 4 inches in diameter and up to 2 foot underground.

    - Rollers. A variety of cylindrical rollers were used and could be towed in gangs. Most were hollow and could be filled with sand or water to increase the weight.

    - Sheepsfoot Rollers. These were two drum units with a drawbar. They could be towed in gangs of two, three, four, five or seven. Drums were fitted with studs which compacted earth. The drums could be filled with sand or water.

    These were used to dig trenches up to 6 foot deep and either 12 inches or 18 inches wide. The usual type was an Allan Parsons No12/18. This was a self propelled tracked unit with a 36hp engine. An endless bucket elevator cut and lifted earth onto a conveyor belt.

    Motor Grader or Auto Patrol
    These were self propelled graders on pneumatic tyred wheels. They were fully mobile and could travel any distance under their own power. The most common was the Caterpillar No 12 Grader but a 12 ‘ Gallon Grader was also used. The standard blade was 12 foot but 10 foot, 14 foot or 16 foot blades could also be used. A scarifier was also usually fitted. All controls were hydraulically operated.

    Very few of these were in service. They were two wheeled tractor units which could tow scrapers.

    A variety of wheeled dumpers was used. They were usually petrol engined but the larger ones were diesel engined. All could carry earth and tip it. The most common types were the Muirhill 2 cubic yard and the Aveling 3 cubic yard. Both of these types were powered by a 22 horse power Fordson engine.

    Rollers in British Service were almost all three point with a small front roller and two rear rollers.
    - 2 ½ ton, 5ton and 8ton rollers from Aveling Barford and Wallis Stevens.
    - 10 ton rollers from Greens and Marshall
    - 10 ton and 12 ton rollers from Huber in the USA

    In the British Army excavators were all self propelled machines on caterpillar tracks and powered by diesel engines. Most excavators were built by Ruston Bucyrus. The operating part was mounted on a turntable with the engine at the rear and the operators cab to the front offside. Various equipment could be operated via three winch drums and two alternative beams.

    The following excavators were used
    - 10RB by Ruston Bucyrus. This could use a 3/8 cubic yard bucket for use in forward areas.
    - 19RB by Ruston Bucyrus. This could use a 5/8 cubic yard bucket for use in forward areas.
    - 22RB by Ruston Bucyrus. This could use a 7/8 cubic yard bucket for heavier work in the rear areas.
    - 37 Bucyrus. This could use a 1 ¼ cubic yard bucket for use on more permanent works in rear areas.
    - Lorain ¾ cubic yard was a less common machine equal to the 22RB.

    Both the 10RB and the 19RB could be moved on a purpose built trailer towed by a medium artillery tractor.

    All of the excavators could use a variety of equipment including

    The dragline was the most versatile accessory. It could remove soft material or loose rock. It could be used for dredging under water and could be mounted on a barge or pontoons. It could be used to load dumpers or tipper lorries.

    The drag bucket was a metal box open at the top and at one end. The bottom edge of the open end had steel teeth. The bucket was swung to the end of its line and then dragged towards the machine. It filled itself as it dragged along the ground.

    Face Shovel.
    The face shovel was similar in principle to the dragline but the bucket was fixed to the end of the beam. It was more powerful, could excavate harder material and could excavate vertical faces.

    Back Acter.
    The back acter was the opposite to the face shovel in that it dug towards the machine instead of away from it. It could also dig below the level of the ground.

    The skimmer was used for levelling ground that had been excavated. A blade was dragged along the ground in a similar way to the dragline.

    The clamshell was a grab which was useful for digging, dredging and excavating where considerable depth was required. It could also be used for picking up large rocks or piles of earth and loading them onto dumpers.

    The crane had a longer lattice jib and could be used for lifting. It was intended for use with the RB10 and RB19.

    Pile Driver.
    The pile driver used the crane jib to hoist and drop a heavy weight for driving a pile. It was only used with the RB19. The pile driver equipment consisted of a pile driver frame, an anchor frame, a pile driver hammer and a pile holder. The pile driver frame was in two 16 foot sections giving a total height of 32 foot when erected. There were also extensions of 5 foot and 2 foot 6 inches. A 20cwt hammer fitted into a slide in the frame. The weight was hoisted to the top of the frame and then allowed to drop, hammering a pile into the ground.

    The transport of mechanical equipment was always a problem. Trailers and tractors were always in short supply, and a fully loaded trailer with its tractor was a heavy unit, exceeding the load class of many bridges.

    Tractors tended to be Medium Artillery Tractors or Heavy Artillery Tractors, supplemented by Canadian and US tractors obtained by direct purchase or through Lend Lease. Tractors included
    - AEC Matador 4 X 4 Medium Artillery Tractor. This could tow a variety of trailers including 18 ton and 20 ton Crane trailers, 20 ton Multiwheeler trailer and the special trailer for the RB10 and RB19 excavators.
    - FWD SU COE 6 ton tractor and Medium Artillery Tractor. This vehicle was built to same specification as the AEC Matador and could tow the same trailers.
    - Scammell Heavy Artillery Tractor. This could tow the 20ton trailers and came into service in this role when they were replaced in Heavy Artillery units
    - Austin 3ton 4 X 4 GS lorry was issued to engineer units to tow 8ton trailers by Jahn or Freuhof.
    - Diamond T 968 tractors could also tow the 8ton trailers by Jahn or Freuhof.

    Several sources mention the use of 3ton tippers in Field Park Companies/Squadrons and Field Companies/Squadrons but these do not appear on the establishments. Canadian and Australian War Establishments do list tippers. It may be that some tippers were issued to units and are listed in some as yet undiscovered amendment, or that it was intended that they should be issued but were not issued before the war in Europe indeed.

    If tippers were issued the Bedford QLW would have been the ideal vehicle. It had a square section tipper body which could be fitted with a tilt. It could be used as a GS load carrier as well as a tipper. It also had a winch.

    Contracts for 946 QLW tippers were placed and deliveries began in December 1944 and continued at the rate of 160 per month. About half were air transportable and tropicalised and thus would be earmarked for the Far East.
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