Wartime protocol of construction, buildings, camps, ranges and fortification.

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Topfmine, Dec 1, 2019.

  1. Topfmine

    Topfmine Well-Known Member

    I am trying to find out the procedure of how a construction such as a building a camp or range or fortification such as a pillbox or bunker was formed and the departments of war involved. The reason for this is so i can follow a paper trail to find construction blue prints and layout of the site, who commissioned it and why and who were involved in construction etc.
    I assume a request was forwarded to a war department, say the Ministry of works by the war office from a unit in need of a range or camp for more troops or an emplacement for defence or training or even more AA positions. How was this request arranged if the construction in question was for the commonwealth forces such as the Canadians or Australian New Zealand forces or the American.
    If approved, by whom. Once approved how would the architect be involved and what part of the ministry would the architect come from or would the architect be civilian or military or from one of the Allied forces their own. Was there an official list of architects for the UK ? Would the architect visit the site in question to survey the site and find out the requirements of the construction. Once drawings were approved and passed what was the next stage?
    I assume that there was a protocol and procedure for constructing on non military land ie private civilian. Was the land commandeered or paid for?
    Who was to carry out the construction or works, the military RE or RCE etc or a civilian construction company, who oversees the construction and who passed off the works.
    Theres most probably more to this to add in the protocol of forming a military construction but this is just a rough guess, anyone know what did happened.
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Worth looking at
    Paul Francis, Richard Flagg, Graham Crisp, Nine Thousand Miles of Concrete: A review of Second World War temporary airfields in England, Historic England 2016.
    Keith Potts, Construction During World War Ii: Management and Financial Administration, Procs 25th Annual Association of Researchers in Construction Management Conference, 7-9 September 2009. Page 848

    Both are available online so a google based on these refrences should locate them.
  3. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Rather a large subject matter, and each of the services may have followed different procedures. I suspect there were standard forms of building contracts and tendering procedures.

    War Office legal advice was usually given by Treasury Solicitor, so the files at Kew in one of the "TS" series might give an insight.

    There was a Directorate of Army Contracts, but annual reports after 1938 not available:

    " WO 395
    War Office: Directorate of Army Contracts and predecessors: Annual Reports
    This series consists of bound volumes of annual reports by the Director of Army Contracts. They summarise the work of the directorate as well as detailing expenditure on contracts (warlike and non-warlike stores) planned during the preceding financial year. It is assumed that the reports were not continued after 1938 as none survives. No reports were produced for the period April 1914 to May 1920, not even the planned retrospective for the First World War.
    Included in the reports are particulars of labour disputes affecting the supply of stores etc; details of contracts procedures; and a breakdown of numbers and values of contracts placed, grouped by individual purchasing branch and requisitioning department. "

    According to Appendix III of King's Regulations ( 1935 edition) the Quarter-Master-General to the Forces was, amongst many other things, responsible for:

    " Construction and maintenance of fortifications, barracks, ranges, hospitals and store buildings; administration of works services and personnel; provision, custody, maintenance and issue of building stores; technical examination of works services. military aspect of War Department land questions."
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  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    There were over 130 private contractors used in building 800 airfields and supporting projects alone and employing over 136,000 men. Incidentally any construction for the USAAF etc was organised through the appropriate British authorities. Contracts were on a cost plus basis. The Ministry of Works was responsible for the contracts in general but the Air Ministry, the War Office, the Admiralty, Ministry of Supply etc would have appropriate ares of involvement. In comparison HS2 ought to b a walk in the park.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
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  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  6. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Details of contracts at Kew seem to be thin on the ground but these files may have useful information:

    Records relating to buildings and works for the armed services
    WORK 52 1914-1946 War Office, Directorate of Army Contracts: Works Contract Precedent Books
    This series consists of two volumes covering the period 1914-1946. They contain contract precedents, entries of contracts for various types of building works, including bills of quantity, specifications, estimates, labour, Treasury decisions, claims, compensation and damages, depressed areas and other special allocations.
    The entries are in manuscript and are in the form either of a brief description of the precedent, or a definition of the precedent with a contracts file number reference.

    WORK 52 seems to consist of two files.


    Explosion at 80 Wardour Street, London W1: bills of costs and quantities and plans

    Reference: TS 28/499
    Explosion at 80 Wardour Street, London W1: bills of costs and quantities and plans
    Date: 1944
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department: AM 1: 14300 Pt 4

    For a thesis on airfield construction in New Georgia during wartime see:


    And for information about the construction of a UK airfield see:

  7. Enigma1003

    Enigma1003 Member

    Hi Papiermache, on another thread back in 2016 you mentioned you had purchased a Dutch book named " De Gere Hel ". Can I ask you some questions concerning it ? Would you mind PM me. I sent you a PM a while back but maybe you have not seen it.
    Thanks Mike
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  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    For anyone interested in the construction of British military airfields and similar installations such as wartime petrol pipeline grids etc,the best source of information can be found in the Airfield Research Group's journals....membership is required.

    Paul Francis is a director and Richard Flagg is a renowned photographer within the ARG.The Group often arranges visits to airfield of historical significance.

    Airfield Research Group - Home
  9. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    This might not apply but here are some books that might help on the construction of army camps. From the buildings to what light bulb fittings to use. Book. Barrack Synopsis [war]. Design and Construction of Military Buildings 1933, large book with plans, most were still around in ww2 and some still here in 2019. Military Engineering Accommodation and Installations 1950, has a lot of ww2 construction of army camps. buildings, huts down to a wc.
    I do have a few more books of this type.
    army buildings.jpg army buildings. hutted camps ats jpg.jpg army buildings. 1933 jpg.JPG army buildings troops quarters1933.jpg army buildings sgt mess 1933.jpg army buildings 1933 plans .jpg army buildings us troops .jpg army buildings re 1950.jpg
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  10. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Excellent documents regarding the design of permanent military accommodation.

    Trenchard, when in the leadership of the RAF had the RAF officers' messes designed to replicate those of the army.
  11. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    one more.

    army buildings.nissen hut jpg.jpg
  12. Topfmine

    Topfmine Well-Known Member

    Excellent drawings and layout of the Buildings. I have a copy of a camp layout and the building drawing of the NAFI for a camp called Park Camp on Blackmoor Estate Hampshire, Which was printed on a kind of oil cloth in A1 or larger, built for the Australians and New Zealand forces who i think worked and trained at Longmoor camp. Luckily the estates office who was kind to do me a copy had a giant photo printer to do a couple of runs to make up for the large size of the camp layout.
    I can remember the remains of the camp in the 1960s as a young lad with brick buildings and concrete road that ran through it and a fire engine shed that was still there years after, used as a shed to keep a old hay making machine in. The camp long gone but the blue prints still remain in the estate office and aerial photos of the camp were taken in 1941, still available.

    My quest is finding the same type of thing, that if i am lucky, the drawings and details of the Canadian tank training range at Longmoor near Conford, even the archives at Longmoor camp have nothing on this range and didn't know it even existed. The information and clues you have provided will at least save a couple of trips to the archive at Kew and i can at least get stuck into the paper work, rather than wade through miles of cold subject matter not related.
    I wonder if there are any of the books/ manuals shown in the previous posts that have details about range construction especially ranges built for the RAC or RCAC, i am sure there were similar ranges that had to be built to a standard for training that had to be the same up and down the UK or were ranges built for local requirements, something that needs to be investigated.
  13. Bala

    Bala Member

    What about requisitioning ? I am trying to find out when the COLESHILL ESTATE, Berkshire (Oxon since 1974) was taken over as the GHQ of AUXILIARY UNITS (CHURCHILL'S SECRET BRITISH RESISTANCE ORGANISATION) - July 1940 to 1945.?

    Can anyone help?
  14. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Keith #9. Fascinating, wish I had seen these publications three years ago. Chapter 3 on provision of US barracks dated 29 December 1943, if it contains building specifications and floor space for each man, really is after the Lord Mayor's Show. The deadline for construction of fixed accommodation, not tents was set at IIRC mid October 43 to ensure that it was ready for winter and the big US troop build up for the putative 1944 D Day that began in autumn. This publication must have been a compilation of existing orders as accommodation was already in existence. While more bits and pieces were constructed over the winter, most extra accommodation to house troops often seems to have been the building of tented towns for 1300 at a time (pretty standard layout) for the late spring arrivals. Least ways, that's the picture I find in Western Command.
  15. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    USAAF huts wartime photos from my collection.
    usaaf hut.jpg usaaf base hut.jpg
  16. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    USN Cbs jan 1944 huts wartime photos from my collection.
    ww2 usn cb unloading (2021_10_02 16_34_30 UTC).jpg ww2 cbs 10th hut (2021_11_17 18_03_39 UTC).jpg us  CBs jan 44 huts (2021_10_02 16_34_30 UTC).jpg

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