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question re: REME in Burma


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#1 HarlowPaul

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:36 AM

Hi all,
I'm new to the forum and everything involved with Burma in WW2 (aside from reading a couple of books).
I was wondering if anyone could offer any advice please? My grandad was stationed in Burma and was part of REME (864 Mechanical Equipment Company).
I'm trying to find more information about his company and what they did whilst stationed in Burma - any tips on how to go about finding out?

Sadly my Grandad passed away a few years ago, before I was able to learn much about his time there (he was quite reticent about the war, so most of what i know, I got from my dad), I only know that he was in Imphal during the battle and that at one point he had to fly out from the airfield in a Dakota whilst the airfield was being attacked.

I'm just really keen to learn more about his company, what they did, where they went etc as its obviously a piece of my family history, and information that I would dearly love to know.
Thanks for your help

Paul

p.s. apologies for the 'xxxx' in the thread title, not sure how they got there!
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#2 Owen

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:38 AM

welcome to the forum.
I've edited out the xxx in thread title, we banned the use of the word 'n e w bie'.
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#3 Jedburgh22

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:25 PM

864 Mechanical Equipment Company was a Royal Engineers unit that operated in Burma, they would have REME fitters attached to keep their 'toys' working. The file concerning this unitcan be found to WO166/3935 at the National Archives at Kew - if you cannot get there yourself a couple of forum members (Psywar and Drew) offer file copying at reasonable price.
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#4 bamboo43

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 12:35 PM

Following on from Jedburgh's input, this units war diary for 1944 which would cover the Kohima/Imphal period can be found under the file reference WO172/5087 at the National Archives.

Hope this helps one day soon.

Steve
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Chindit Chasing, Operation Longcloth 1943

#5 HarlowPaul

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 11:58 AM

Thanks so much for your help guys! How would I go about contacting the forum members who could possibly copy the files for me? Alternatively, how would I go about visiting the national archives? Would I need to book an appointment, or can I just turn up? And what are the costs involved in doing it myself?

I'm really curious about the RE/REME confusion - I'd seen via google searches, that the 864 was part of RE, but my Grandad always said he was in REME and the 864.....After speaking to my dad some more, I've found out that he (my Grandad) used to drive bulldozers and other large equipment - would that traditionally have been done by REME or RE?

The only other information I have is that my Grandads CO was called Major Revell (not sure on the exact spelling) who he was under in the UK during training and in Burma once they were deployed.

I guess if I can obtain my Grandads service record, that will help a lot, but I just need to speak to my dad so I can obtian a copy of my Grandads death certificate so I can apply.

I'm hoping to compile a history of my Grandads time in service, and also I want to get a proper display case for his medals too (My dad gave them to me recently, which is whats sparked this investigation off, although I've always been interested in WW2) - in fact, I've seen display cases that are in regimental colours, only I'll have to 100% confirm if my Grandad was in RE or REME before I can get one of those.

Thanks again for everyones help, I really do appreciate it!

Edited by HarlowPaul, 04 February 2012 - 05:39 PM.

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#6 bamboo43

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 01:40 PM

Hi HarlowPaul,

Here is a link to the National Archives website. Have a read through and you will see what you need to do before a visit.

Before you visit | The National Archives

Basically you need a readers ticket (similar to a ID card/drivers licence), once you have this you are able to read original documets in the archive reading room.

It's a wonderful place to visit and has been a goldmine for me and my research into Chindit 1 in 1943.

Steve
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The boldest measures are the safest.

Chindit Chasing, Operation Longcloth 1943

#7 HarlowPaul

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 07:51 AM

Hi Steve, thanks againf or all of your help, its invaluable! I'm going to go up there over the next couple of weeks to digj out the files mentioned above, and I've also spoken to my dad who is going to help me send off the correct paperwork and identification so we can obtain a copy of my Grandads service record!

BTW, if anyone is interested in reading a fantastic book (and can find a copy) - 'The forgotten armys box of lions' by CD Johnson is a fantastic read! Lots of in depth information, maps, photos etc of one of the defensive boxes during the siege of Imphal. Its a really well investigated book (IMO)
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#8 bamboo43

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 08:36 AM

Hi Steve, thanks againf or all of your help, its invaluable! I'm going to go up there over the next couple of weeks to digj out the files mentioned above, and I've also spoken to my dad who is going to help me send off the correct paperwork and identification so we can obtain a copy of my Grandads service record!

BTW, if anyone is interested in reading a fantastic book (and can find a copy) - 'The forgotten armys box of lions' by CD Johnson is a fantastic read! Lots of in depth information, maps, photos etc of one of the defensive boxes during the siege of Imphal. Its a really well investigated book (IMO)



Good luck with your searches, come back when you have more info, especially details from the service records.
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The boldest measures are the safest.

Chindit Chasing, Operation Longcloth 1943

#9 DaveB

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 08:42 AM


864th Mech Equipt Coy RE Served under GREF in SEAC 1944-45. Disbanded Sep 1945+

General Reserve Engineering Force Formed May 1943 with HQ at Shillong to control various engineer units on the north-west frontier of India. (Under command of GHQ India until Oct 1943 when placed under Fourteenth Army.) Gradually moved forward into Burma. (The distinguishing badge of GREF was a five-pointed yellow star, with dark green letters “G.F.”; the whole on a dark green circle.)






Kohima and Imphal - March-June 1944

Tactical overview - On 14 March 1944, the Japanese launched an offensive from North Burma. Its objective was to capture Kohima, in the Indian province of Manipur, and thus sever the communication of IV Corps and gain a foothold in British India.

The Japanese began with a strike against 17th Indian Division in the Tiddim area; they sent small columns through the Kabaw valley in an attempt to cut off the division's retreat. Meanwhile another Japanese force debouched from the Kabaw valley about Tamu and struck at IV Corps' centre. At the same time a third Japanese force crossed the River Chindwin further north and marched on Kohima.


Engineering activities

The advanced positions of the 17th Division around Tiddim were withdrawn on the start of the Japanese offensive to prevent them from becoming isolated. To cover the withdrawal the divisional engineers had the sad duty of destroying much of the work they had done the previous year. The Tiddim water supply was destroyed, as was the bridge over the Manipur River. Many other bridges and culverts were similarly destroyed. Roadblocks were constructed, mines laid and mule paths dug.

In the centre 20th Division also withdrew, during which 422nd Field Company, Indian Engineers held out against fierce Japanese attacks. The division finally halted on the plain of Imphal around two airfields south of Palel, which were used to re-supply the force after the Japanese cut them off. To maintain these airfields and those at Palel and Imphal the engineers used Prefabricated Bituminous Surfacing (PBS) consisting of strips of Hessian impregnated with bitumen, but in wet weather these strips disintegrated so Pierced Steel Plank (PSP) was flown in and used instead.


Defence on the Imphal plain - During this period of fighting on the plain of Imphal the defences were organized in self-contained defensive areas, called 'boxes'. Each box had its own water supply rigged-up and maintained by its attached engineers. 'Lion Box' was comprised entirely of Engineer units:

58th Field Company, Royal Engineers (less two sections)
864th Mechanised Equipment Company, Royal Engineers (headquarters and workshop Section)
652nd Mechanised Equipment Company, Indian Engineers (headquarters and one section)
671st Mechanised Equipment Company, Indian Engineers (headquarters)
517th and 518th Artisan Works Companies, Indian Engineers
440th Quarrying Company, Indian Engineers
One Company Sikh Engineer Battalion, Indian Engineers
The engineers were also engaged in the destruction of Japanese 'bunkers'.

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#10 DaveB

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 09:21 AM

BTW, if anyone is interested in reading a fantastic book (and can find a copy) - 'The forgotten armys box of lions' by CD Johnson is a fantastic read! Lots of in depth information, maps, photos etc of one of the defensive boxes during the siege of Imphal. Its a really well investigated book (IMO)



Putting 2 & 2 together (box of lions / Lion Box) - by the sounds of it you have already found a book specifically dealing with the action your grandad would have been involved in:

"Defence on the Imphal plain - During this period of fighting on the plain of Imphal the defences were organized in self-contained defensive areas, called 'boxes'. Each box had its own water supply rigged-up and maintained by its attached engineers. 'Lion Box' was comprised entirely of Engineer units"
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#11 DaveB

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 09:27 AM

Checking the CWGC (via Geoff’s search engine) for that unit’s casualties gives a bit of info for further research. Like, what happened in / near Karachi on the 26th of October 1942 - three men died on that day. Most of the other casualties fell in April 1944 during the Imphal actions.

001 BOYNTON E 2158608 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 07/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 3. G. 11.
002 BURROWS I 2152724 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 29/07/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 5. C. 15.
003 CORBYN RF 2187820 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 07/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 8. C. 16.
004 LEWIS HW 2038448 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 07/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 3. G. 12.
005 MATTHEWS JE 2151554 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 26/10/1942 ROYAL ENGINEERS 10. C. 12.
006 PRITCHARD NH 103950 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 08/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 8. C. 23.
007 RENNIE H 2147164 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 04/07/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 1.K.27.
009 RUSBRIDGE RPC 2151780 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 26/10/1942 ROYAL ENGINEERS 3. B. 6.
010 WAIDE R 1919688 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 13/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS FACE 3.
011 WILKINS H 2152523 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 08/03/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS 9. E. 8.
012 WILKINS TD 2151316 864 MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT COY 07/04/1944 ROYAL ENGINEERS FACE 3.
013 WILLCOCK WA 2151692 864 ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL COY 26/10/1942 ROYAL ENGINEERS 10. C. 11.
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#12 RemeDesertRat

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:07 AM

Harlowpaul: bit of a conundrum, this.
Everything you say about your Grandad points to him being in the RE, except for the bit where he states he was REME.
Driving bulldozers and other large equipment would have been a job for the RE, maintaining and repairing these would have been a job for REME.
Jedburgh is correct in that REME fitters would have maintained the REs 'toys' and in other theatres the RE would have had their own REME detachment, but at this time and place the REME lads would have been attached to at least one, sometimes two, brigades rather than solely attached to the RE.
However having said that the REME detachment would have been based on/near an airstrip, which would have been built and maintained by REs with bulldozers?

The only way to be absolutely sure which unit he was with will be to wait until you receive his papers, I know its a long wait but well worth it, as for: they are not guaranteed to find any further info, I haven't heard of anyone not receiving any info. Cheers and good luck with your research.

Edited by RemeDesertRat, 15 March 2012 - 12:32 PM.

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#13 Sunovvafitter

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:35 AM

Just joined the forum as (probably far too late) I have just started researching my dad's WW2 career which included REME in India, then Burma. HarlowPaul's granddad could well have driven Bulldozers, or any other piece of kit he was maintaining. How else to test that the repair carried out is effective? My dad (Sgt Frank Markham) was on tank recovery and repair and I recall him listing the range of tanks he had driven despite never being a member of an armour regiment. The list included Grants, Lees, Shermans, Churchills that I definitely remember. He also drove the Mack truck / low loader combo to get the immobile cans back to the workshop. In addition to the big stuff he also got to ride a number of different motorbikes. My dad was also at Kohima and Imphal


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#14 Hebridean Chindit

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 09:18 PM

... Would I need to book an appointment, or can I just turn up? And what are the costs involved in doing it myself?

 

The cost of getting there is it; and a cuppa and/or lunch in the caf... once you have a ticket you can book a camera table (yes, you can do your own "digital" copies with a camera) - the tables have mounts to fix one and off you go - turn the page, snap the pic, turn the page, snap the pic, etc., and once you slip down that path there is virtually no return... ;)

 

Oh, and welcome new people on the forum... :cop:


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:scot: Daa-daa-da-dada-dada-daa-daa-da-dada-dada...


If research was easy, it wouldn't need researching...

So, let's see... I started with dad's manuscript, which spread to his regiment's involvement with the Chindits, then onto a "Blackpool" history, which also spun-off into 230 Squadron and a brace of Sunderlands, and the 111th Indian Infantry Division, and 3rd Indian Division...


#15 lionboxer

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 07:15 AM

I have just picked up on this topic (don't know how I missed it) but I am the author of the book mentioned by HarlowPaul, hence my forum name!! Is Paul still about? Does anyone know his contact details? I may have further information for him and hopefully vice versa and if nothing else would like to thank him for his comments about my book. I am thinking of writing a revised edition with all the further info I have gleaned since it's original publication in 2001. I will be in Lion Box for the seventieth anniversary commemorations next April.

Lionboxer


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#16 Hebridean Chindit

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 05:38 PM

Try a PM... it might send him an email advisory...?


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:scot: Daa-daa-da-dada-dada-daa-daa-da-dada-dada...


If research was easy, it wouldn't need researching...

So, let's see... I started with dad's manuscript, which spread to his regiment's involvement with the Chindits, then onto a "Blackpool" history, which also spun-off into 230 Squadron and a brace of Sunderlands, and the 111th Indian Infantry Division, and 3rd Indian Division...


#17 lionboxer

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 07:57 PM

Thanks HC. I don't know if it will work but worth a try. He hasn't been on the forum since his last post here.

Lionboxer


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#18 lionboxer

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 08:53 PM

DaveB, I believe that the three Sappers in Karachi cemetery were drowned during exercises when a pontoon bridge collapsed. Those that died on the 7th April 1944 were killed in the defence of Lion Box and Captain Pritchard died of wounds on the 8th April.

Lionboxer


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