58th Chemical Warfare Company Royal Engineers - 1940

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by MALLARD, Feb 23, 2010.


    MALLARD Member

    I'm researching the activities of this small British Army unit between May 1940 and 6th June 1940 when the last surviving members left Dunkirk and Bray Dunes (I have information that the last six left from Bray Dunes north of Dunkirk in a coal barge). I have details of three members of the unit KIA in the area of Renescure where their HQ was located and St.Omer which is close by, all three are at Longuenesse Cemetery st. Omer. I also have a record of 817658 Driver Albert John Hardy who was awarded a Military Medal, unusually with a citation, for actions at Renescure and Dunkirk. Any information regarding this unit or individual members will be much appreciated.
    I'm going to be cheeky and copy this into the 1940 section as it relates specifically to that period.
    von Poop likes this.
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Good luck Mallard,
    (It's not really worth doubling up queries as it tends to dilute responses slightly - I've popped '1940' into the title and would be happy to move the thread into that area? )

  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    This brief mention involving the unit at St. Omer from Hyperwar:

    HyperWar: The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940 [Chapter VIII]
    While these affairs were occupying part of the attention of the Commander-in-Chief he was also concerned by what was happening on the Canal Line and at Arras. The first German armour and infantry had reached the Canal Line opposite St Omer during the night of the 22nd/23rd. A part of the 58th Chemical Warfare Company, Royal Engineers, sent to demolish the main brigde found the enemy clear a road block at its western approach. They push a truck-load of explosives on to the middle of the bridge under fire and there blew it up, but the bridge was not wholly destroyed.[17] A platoon of 'Don Details' and some gunners defending it were gradually drive back and eventually withdrew to fresh positions at Hazebrouck, while German troops occupied St Omer (which lies on the enemy side of the canal) and began to form a bridgehead.[18] At other crossings in the sector, detachments of 392nd Battery, 98th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, fought gamely with single guns.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Seen this?
    101 Coy's Battle in 1940

    On 25th May, orders were received to take over the bridge at La Motte from 58 C.W. Company whose O.C. refused to leave his electric cable and exploder so that 101st Coy. had to prepare the bridge for demolition by safety fuse until its own electric equipment arrived. Just after the take-over there was a most determined bombing and machine gun attack, but despite its intensity the only damage was to Sgt. Cottrell whose right thumb was shot off. When this was over Lt. Clay completed the circuit with safety fuse and he had no sooner done so when a D.R. came rushing along saying there were two German tanks behind him. Having no electrical equipment there was no time to wait so the bridge was blown and when the debris cleared it transpired that the tanks were French. Had 58 C.W. Company left its electrical equipment this would not have happened. Later in the afternoon orders were given to guard the railway bridge and two footbridges in La Motte until the next morning.
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    How strange I was looking at a cemtery last night in my CWGC book to see if there was any WW2 chaps in it and I saw some casualties from this unit in there via Geoff's wonderful serach engine. I was humming and R'ing whether to visit it on this Sunday just gone.

    Here they are:

  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I don't suppose you know the vessels name that evacuated your men? I have a list of all the vessels that evacuated troops with additional information from the beaches.

    My list only contains the following types of barges:

    Steam Hopper Barges

    Auxillary Barges

    Sailing Barges

    MALLARD Member

    WOW! so much in so little time, I'm somewhat gobsmacked! Thanks to all who have take the trouble to respond. I'll try to answer in some sort of order.
    Firstly, thank Von Poop and Owen for the two published record links.
    No Owen, I've not yet obtained the National Archive material but will follow that up today.
    Drew, I only had three at Longuenesse Cemetery, I'd missed W Crook, thanks for adding him to my list.
    Also, my understanding is that the coal barge had been abandoned as unservisable but being REs and rather keen to get back home they repaired it and took it to England. No name other than it was 'an old coal barge abandoned at Bray Dunes'.
    I have a hand written notebook with descriptions which I'm attempting to transcribe.
    I also have the citation for 817658 Driver A. T. Hardy (it's a typo it should read A. J Hardy)

    'At Renescure on 23 May, brought his truck away successfully under heavy fire.
    At Dunkirk on 25th May, when parked MT was being bombed and machine gunned from the air, quitted shelter in order to extinguish fire caused by an incendiary bomb in a truck which he knew was laden with ammunition and high explosives. He therefore averted a serious explosion in a crowded area'.

    The notes I have indicate that the incident at Renescure was as a result of going back for two men who had been cut off in a farm house, the farm was seen to receive a direct hit and the two men were killed, as J. Gray; S Knight and W Crook were all killed on the 23rd it is possible that two of them were the ones lost at the farm house. Regarding the incident at Dunkirk it appears that the truck was driven into the sea to extinquish the fire. It is not know who recommended the MM which was presented by HM The King on 13th October 1942 at Buckingham Palace.
    In 1942 Dvr Hardy was working on a project that required he be in civilian clothes (I've no details of this) and before he died in 2006 he told me that on the way to the Palace to get his MM he was given a white feather! This has also been confirmed by his wife who accompanied him and who is still alive.
    If I manage to transcribe the notes which are quite extensive is this a suitable place to put them?

  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin


    MALLARD Member

    Yes Adam thanks, I am aware of the Peoples' War item and no I didn't post it, I believe it was done by his grandchildren. I'm interested in the overall activities of this group as well as anything on specific members, unfortunately I don't have many names of those who survived WW2 but it's early days of this particular bit of research.

    MALLARD Member

    Just as a quick add-on to my previous post, the notebook and other documents have been borrowed from Dvr. Hardy's widdow and will be returned to her, together with any transcripts or other information. I have obtained her agreement to post transcripts on the site.

    MALLARD Member

    To Drew 5233, regarding the barge name, no name is known but it apparantly arrived in Folkstone sometime after 5th/6th June 1940.
  13. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    Have offered to copy the relevant pages for Mallard when I go to the NA tomorrow, so hopefully that will help him out.
    von Poop likes this.
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    To Drew 5233, regarding the barge name, no name is known but it apparantly arrived in Folkstone sometime after 5th/6th June 1940.

    Hi Mate,

    Can I ask the source of the date? Op Dynamo finished on 4th June at 1423 and so do the diaries etc in my book apart from a brief mention regarding Air Reconnaissance on the 5th but nothing was reported. It is also recorded that around 1,100 men were brought in on the 5th June but no specifics.


    MALLARD Member

    The source of the date is my bad interpretation of a very old notebook, sorry the date should be 2nd June, fortunately my cousin who has been working on this with me is better at transcriptions than I am the notes read:
    'At Bray Dunes we came across an old coal barge and set to work to make it seaworthy, On this we set sail for home on 1st June. it was a horrendous journey, we found men trying to swim home and picked them up. We also saw the bodies of men who did not make it. The Germans spotted us and bombed and machine gunned us but the little boat held her own and we reached England on June 2nd. We were orderd to catch a train to Camberly from there the chemical company was posted to Sutton Scotney'. (We think they came into Folkstone and then were taken or sent to Dover but can't confirm it yet).

    we are working our way through these notes but above is the section that relates to leaving Dunkirk (or rather Bray Dunes). There is also a bit about a church service being held on the beach at Dunkirk on the Sunday ' I was sent to another part of the beach so could not go to the service, within a few minutes of the service starting German aircraft, I think they were Stukas came over and straddled the men at the service, they didn't stand a chance'
    I thought this bit of a first hand account written very soon after the event might be of interest to forum members.

    thanks very much for your offer, both my cousin and I are pretty new to this so we need all the help and advice we can get.

  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I was going through the TNA 373/ series for recommendations for awards looking for Guards and did notice a few Chem. Warfare awards. Afraid I didn't take note of them as I am trying to speed my way through 1000's of records.

    I will try and find out for you which cat ref/refs are likely - if you are interested in downloading these for free and trawling through dozens to weed out the few you'd want.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Do we know how many men were evacuated in this 'Barge' ?

    It reads like a Company was onboard? 80 ish men?

    MALLARD Member

    dbf, I'd like to download these files but have no idea how to do it, do you have a link available? I'm still very new to all this reseach.

    Andy, sorry no idea of the exact number but understand it was probably only between 6 and 8 at the start, picking up others on the way. My contact is in her mid 90's and the information is second hand and in some instances suspect. The notebook was written within a few days/weeks so is more reliable.

  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I think the WD's are the best bet to shed some more light on the evacuation. The source I'm using (The Evacuation From Dunkirk) doesn't records anyone coming off Bray Dunes late on the 1st as the beach appears to have been closed by the RN on this day and all troops were told to march west towards Malo-les-Bains and Dunkirk.

    I thought the Skoot called Lena may have been a possibility as she was damaged during the day around 1300hrs and sailed for Ramsgate at 2145hrs so all fits but she had considerably more than 6-8 men onboard. There is also a brief mention of 3 or 4 Thames Barges but all the above were on Malo-les-Bains (The next beach west of Bray Dunes).
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Try this link
    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Search Results

    I have def. looked at WO 373/15 & 16 and they are BEF, so the recommendations I noticed should be in either of those... should be.

    Click on See details next to the cat nos I quoted and then follow the instructions to add to shopping, checkout etc etc. All free - there is no index. The files should have a copy of gazette pages with lists of names. Files should roughly follow then in gazette date order and by seniority of reg under each award, ie DSO, MC, DCM, MM.

    Happy hunting

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