Xth Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by L. Allen, Nov 18, 2021.

  1. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    I am looking to gather some data on the structure and equipment of the Parachute engineer squadrons that served alongside the airborne forces. I have several sources that briefly show that the basic section had around 10 men but there is some iffyness on whether it was lead by a sergeant or a junior officer. Some other sources seem to imply that at least the majority of a section had stens but looking to the closest thing I can find which is the information here on the field companies that is also incorrect.

    As far as I can guess they followed the Field company (Infantry) structure but used the naming scheme of the Field squadron (armoured) without any of the vehicles?

    Does anyone have any good sources for the official structure, equipment and vehicles/ transportation they may have had?
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I'm not sure if the Parachute Squadron, RE, is a WE that is on Mike's pages here. It was issued back in February 1942 and not superseded after that date that I have found. The unit was fairly slight, 17 officers and 132 other ranks, with just two motorcycles, a car and a lorry as transport.

    Squadron HQ had the usual Commander and 2-in-C, with 22 ORs and 5 attached ACC cooks. Each of the three Troops was 40 all ranks, with 5 officers and 35 ORs. There is no detail on Troop org given. Five officers per Troop would allow for four Sections, each lead by a Subaltern. Completing the Troop were a Serjeant, two Lance-serjeants, four Corporals and eight Lance-corporals, and 20 Privates, making for quite a high concentration of NCO types.

    Weapons as of 1942 are given as 19 pistols, 116 rifles and just 14 Sten guns, plus 13 Bren guns. The latter would also fit with four Sections per Troop and one Bren per Section.

    I suspect there were amendments to this organisation but sadly I imagine they are long lost. Excerpts from the Formation Staff Equipment Table for an Airborne Division of April 1945 indicate the same strength of officers and ORs. I'd be surprised if there hadn't been changes to transport at least by 1945.

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  4. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    Some good operational information but it doesn't quite cover the TO&E data I am looking for.

    Thanks Gary, do you have an electronic copy of the 1942 WE table? I am curious how much equipment they dropped with compared to what was in canisters or the attached gliders.

    Its odd that there is only 3 sergeants in a troop while the Cpls and L/Cpls are divisible by 4 meaning that there is one section without one. Although looking at the numbers it seems there is no Troop HQ so presumably the 1st section contains the troop commander and a subaltern.
  5. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

  6. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member


    I also tracked down this image, I believe this is a picture of the 3rd Parachute Squadron RE during an inspection by the royal family prior to the D-Day landings.
  7. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    Re-reading the Lessons from Arnhem report on Paradata and comparing it to what you shared Gary, there must have been a change in the Squadrons orbat between 1943 and 1944. According to the LLR from Arnhem the 1st Para Sqd had 12 out of 17 Officers for the op, This doesn't match up with the 5 Officers/Subalterns per troop from 1943 which would have them with an establishment of around 22 officers.
  8. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Attached should be the WE for Feb 1942. It does not contain details of equipment I'm afraid, just personnel, transport and weapons.

    I couldn't see the document you mention above on the paradata.org.uk website? There is always a problem when comparing airborne WEs against actual descriptions as units could not always take all their personnel, and likely had some following on or landing with other units. The last contemporary mention I've seen of the WE strength for the Para Sqn RE is early 1944, which matches the attached, and it still featured in the calculation for an Airborne Division in 1945.


    Attached Files:

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  9. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
  10. Aixman

    Aixman War Establishment addict Patron

    „Genealogy“ of Gary’s war establishment (X/78/1, renumbered to I/181/1).

    1. V/227 D/1 An Air Troop, Royal Engineers 30.06.1941 - 23.12.1941
    superseded by
    2. II/54/1 An Air Troop, Royal Engineers 24.12.1941 - 15.02.1942
    superseded by
    3. X/78/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E. 16.02.1942 - 14.09.1942
    renumbered to
    4. I/188/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E. 15.09.1942 - 01.09.1947
    cancelled without a formal successor.

    1. V/227 D/1 An Air Troop, Royal Engineers
    1 amendment: 12.11.1941, content unknown
    A Home War Establishment, in the United Kingdom.
    Structure: Troop HQ, 4 sections.
    Personnel: 4 officers, 60 other ranks.
    Weapons: 31 Pistols 0.38-inch, 3 Rifles 0.303-inch, 30 Machine carbines (Sten), unassigned.
    Transport: none.

    - Troop HQ (17 plus 3 attached):
    1 Captain
    3 Subalterns
    2 Serjeants
    2 Corporals
    1 Lance Corporal Sapper
    8 Sappers
    - Attached :
    1 Cook for officers’ mess
    2 Cooks for other ranks

    - 4 Sections, each (11)
    1 Serjeant
    1 Corporal
    9 Sappers.

    2. II/54/1 An Air Troop, Royal Engineers
    No amendments.
    Volume II brings the war establishment into the divisional part of the basic Field Force (volumes I to IV).
    Structure, personnel, weapons exactly as above. (I have to admit that I cannot find a single numerical difference that should justify the above mentioned amendment of unknown content; so the change should be of formal character.)

    3. X/78/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E.
    No amendments.
    Between its introduction on 11.02.1942 until 14.09.1942, volume X was used for (provisional) airborne war establishments. It was then cancelled for a short period, then reintroduced for a different purpose (Iraq-Persia Command). The airborne war establishments were moved to volume I, until then reserved for units of Cavalry, Mobile and Armoured Divisions.

    Structure: “Consisting of headquarters and 3 troops each of 4 sections.”
    Personnel: 17 officers, 132 other ranks.
    Weapons: 19 Pistols 0.38-inch, 116 Rifles 0.303-inch, 4 Anti-tank Rifles .55-inch, 13 L.M.Gs .303-inch, 14 Machine carbines (Sten), 96 Hand grenades, No. 36M, unassigned.
    Transport: 2 Motor-cycles, 1 Car, 2-seater, 4-wheeled, 1 Lorry, 3-ton, 4-wheeled, G.S.

    - Squadron HQ (24 plus 5 attached):
    1 Major
    1 Captain
    1 Squadron serjeant-major
    1 Squadron quarter-master-serjeant
    1 Serjeant
    2 Corporals
    2 Lance Corporals (sappers)
    9 Sappers
    6 Drivers, I.C.
    - Attached :
    1 Cook for officers’ mess (private)
    1 Cook for other ranks (corporal)
    3 Cooks for other ranks (privates).

    - 3 Troops, each (40)
    1 Captain or Subaltern
    4 Subalterns
    1 Serjeant
    2 Lance-Serjeants
    4 Corporals
    8 Lance-Corporals
    15 Sappers
    5 Drivers, I.C.
    - No further sub-division into sections.

    4 men non-jumping personnel in Squadron Headquarters.

    4. I/188/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E.
    7 amendments until 31.12.1945 (14.10.1942, 14.07.1943, 04.08.1943, 20.10.1943, 15.12.1943, 16.02.1944 and 06.12.1944), content unknown.
    Structure, personnel, weapons, transport all exactly as above as the war establishment had simply been renumbered.

    Each of the “Theatre” volumes (VI, IX, X, XI, XII, XII, XIV, XV) and the “secret” volume VIII could contain war establishments for the same purpose dealing with circumstances special to that theatre. Volume XV existed between 12.07.1944 and 09.03.1949 for “Units and headquarters of the Light Division”, earmarked for South-East Asia.

    XV/1100/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E. (Light) 20.10.1944 – 11.05.1945, cancelled without formal successor.

    Structure and personnel: comparable if not totally equal to the above; Troop leader is now a captain.
    Weapons: 16 L.M.Gs., 4 Ps.I.A.T., 14 Mortars, 2-inch, 4 Pistols, Signal, 1-inch, No. 1.
    Transport: 14 Motor-cycles, solo, 125-c.c., 2 Motor-cycles, solo, 350-c.c., 1 Car, 5-cwt., 4x4, 1 Lorry, 3-ton, 4x4, G.S.

    No further special war establishments for Parachute Squadron, R.E. (e.g.: the Mediterranean or North-West Europe) could be found, so that it can be assumed that the basic establishment was used throughout.
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  11. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    Excellent genealogy Aixmen, it is most helpful. I would assume the XV/1100/1 Parachute Squadron, R.E. (Light) 20.10.1944 – 11.05.1945, is the result of the post Arnhem report I linked above and while the manpower remains the same that there are less tradesmen and more pioneers which is why their weapons are brought up to the same standard as an airborne rifle platoon.

    I have this weekend collected copies of Basic Function and Engineers at the bridge which cover the 1st and 4th Parachute squadron at Arnhem. Interestingly 1st Para Sqdn assigns its troops letters and its sections numbers while the 4th Para Sqdn does the opposite.

    John Sliz reports that the Para Sqdns are structured like commando units with 2 double strength sections per troop. Reading the survivor accounts and war diaries it would seem that 4th Para Sqdn does stick to this organisation, in the war diaries E and F sections are the only ones mentioned from No.3 Troop and were noted as F 1/2 3 Troop or E 1/2 3 Troop in the diaries. 1st Para Sqdn on the other hand seems to be more intertwined with the battalions they supported and stick to the 4 sections per troop arrangement and routinely assigns 1 section of 10 men per rifle company.

    Additionally in his book, John Sliz puts forward some data on the equipment the Squadrons would bring with them during Market Garden: 1,500 lbs of Explosives, 12 Beehives, 2 or 1 Rope Ladders per section (Depending on if its 1st or 4th Sqd), 2 or 1 Gym shoes per section (Depending on if its 1st or 4th Sqdn, although I am quite unsure whether this refers to some piece of engineers equipment or literal gym shoes but if they are gym shoes I would presume these are for the men climbing over girders to check for charges.), 50 Mk.V Mines, 6 Flamethrowers and 2 or 1 bicycles per section (Depending on if its 1st or 4th Sqd). In their leg bags the sappers carried radios, mines, mine detection equipment, first aid kits, explosives and one welfare leg bag containing a football, playing cards, darts and a large container of rum. As well as unconfirmed numbers of bangalore torpedoes and pole charges.

    Reading some first hand accounts at least 1 (most likely No.7) section of the 1st Para Sqdn were all armed with Sten guns during their descent with at least 1 spare magazine but seemed to replace these stens with rifles from their leg bags once on the ground. Presumably these stens are a part of the Admin platoons pool of weaponry and are returned to them once the engineers are organised on the ground.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2021
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  12. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    I may have made an interesting find while researching the personal equipment of an army field engineer. I found an engineer journal entry from the 1920s:


    Which states that due to cultural issues, the native Indian field companies had 4 sections and no troop/ platoon HQ. And that to compensate for this, as well as the issue that sections can be often deployed seperated from each other on the Indian frontier, the W.E. table increased the number of officers to 5. This puts the Plt/ troop CO as a section lead with a subaltern to act as an administrator for the entire unit supported by a Sgt who doubled as the C.Q.M.S.

    It would seem that with the knowledge that most of the airborne engineer sections would be similarly isolated from one another that the Parachute Squadrons copied the W.E. table of an Indian field company at least in terms of orginisation. Troops had a total of 5 officers: 1 Captain and 4 Subalterns, and had only 1 full serjeant with 2 L/Sjts.

    To further support my theory in Peter Stainforths Wings of the Wind, specifically during the later battles in Tunisia where his Troop had to take over a section of the front from a rifle platoon. He notes that the new positions only had room for the troop HQ and 1 other section but not the other 2 despite all available sources showing no difference between the 4 sections in terms of manning.

    Which if I am correct seems to go against the structure of the squadrons put forward by Engineers at the Bridge and Basic Function.

    Hopefully this helps others and wasn't something glaringly obvious I just missed in my previous research.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
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  13. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    I am still doing some research when I have the time and from what I can tell 4th Para Sqd was an anomaly within the Parachute Squadrons being the only one to use the 2 Troop/ 4 Sub Section structure of the commandos as early as before Sicily.

    Para Sqd 1, 3 & 591 all being 3 Troops of 4 Sections as per the W.E. Table. It would be interesting to find a unit history that might explain this anomaly.
  14. L. Allen

    L. Allen Member

    I have also found out that there are 2 No.68 Wireless sets at the Sqd HQ level for communication with the Divisional C.R.E.

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