A Treasure Trove. Can you help fill the gaps?

Discussion in 'REME/RAOC' started by janeh, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. janeh

    janeh Member

    Lt. Col. Arthur Alfred William Hall OBE
    14 June 1916 – 06 March 1997

    I have a treasure trove of photos and memorabilia inherited from my late father. Having advanced through France and the Low Countries post D-Day, his unit had reached their first ‘settled’ spot in Germany in Openwehe in ’45. I have a number of photo’s, documents and other mementoes of the period, including names of many of the people he served with. I’m happy to share these with those who might be interested, but things have been muddled up a bit in the course of various house moves and I am still trying to get them into some sort of order! There is a lot of material in the archive & it might take a while to check for individual names/photos, so you might need to be patient!

    There are several photos of what Dad described as, ‘Our Self-built Mess’ (at Openwehe?) going up in flames, and his description as follows:
    ‘Our self-built Mess completely destroyed by fire. I was in Diepoltz at the time and returned to find I’d lost everything. Destruction of records, diary, photos and mementoes of Normandy to Holland – all gone – a very sad blow.’
    Ever a man to look on the bright side though, he continued:
    ‘We did salvage roasted venison which I had shot three days earlier and which had been left hanging on a tree outside the kitchen! Shortly after, 176 was dispanded, troops gradually posted or demobbed and I took Comd 8 Light Wksp.’

    I do have a few photo’s from Belgium & Holland, but clearly there was much, much more – so sadly lost. I’d love to fill in some of the gaps as to exactly where the advance from France into Germany took him. Perhaps the information below will enable some of the knowledgeable members to enlighten me.

    Arthur Hall came from an army family, his father having made a career in the Royal Artillery.

    In Dad’s own words, ‘From the day I was born, I was destined to be a soldier...’

    1926, aged 10 - RA Cadet in Newport, Monmothshire

    6 Dec 1930 Enlisted as a 14 year old Boy Entrant in Jhansi, India. Shipped back to UK.

    1 Jan 1931- Dec 1933 A.T.S. Boys, Chepstow (Beachley)

    RASC & RAOC, gradually moving up the Ranks until Commissioned in 1941. Eventually transferred to REME

    The following is a record of his WW2 service taken from his Service Record, together with rather more detailed information which he recorded himself.

    Capt 2 i/c 806 Inf Tps Wksp UK, France, Belgium & Holland 26 May 1944 - 27 June 1945
    Embarked UK for NWE 2nd Army 6/9/44
    Maj OC 176 Inf Bde Wksp Belgium & Germany 28 Jan 1945 - 8 Apr 1946
    Promoted Maj (Act) 2 Feb 1945
    Posted OC 176 Inf Bde Wksp (From 806 Late 53.I.T. Wksp) 2nd Army Effective 3/2/45
    T/Maj OC 8 Light Wksp Coy Germany 8 April 1946 - 23 Oct 1947
    Posted OC 8 Lt Wksp Coy (From 176 Inf Bde Wksp) 21st Army Group Effective 8/4/46
    T/Maj 2 i/c Cse Sch Admin BAOR 20-27 Apr 1947
    Granted 7 Yr SSRC 1 Oct 1946
    Granted Reg Commission with Seniority as Lt 14 June 1939, London Gazette 11 Jul 1947
    Promoted Capt 14 June 1945 London Gazette 29 Jul 1947
    T/Maj OC 7 Armd Wksp, Germany 23 Oct 1947 - 13 Feb 1949
    Posted OC 7 Armd Wksp (From 8 Lt Wksp Coy) 7 Armd Div ]Effective 30/10/47

    Post war my Dad went on to serve until retirement in 1971. In typical fashion, he took an RO post as Army Careers Officer, based in Bristol until he finally hung up his (always immaculate) uniform in 1976.

    He died (as he would have wished) teeing off the 7th at his local golf club in 1997.

    Attached photo has the caption, ‘At last I have my own command, 176 Inf Bde Wksp. With Mush [Dad’s much loved terrier], Berringen, Belgium 1944’

    Berringen, Belgium 1944.jpg
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  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ooh, a flying jacket ! He should have his portrait in this thread :-


    The vehicle in the background looks to be a Ford WOA2 Heavy Utility.

    The various War Diaries will be the place to research his movements but some of the dates that you've given seem to conflict a little. I'm sure that with a little application, we can fill the details in. More photos will always be appreciated !

    The Belgian location referred to is probably Beringen. There was quite a scrap there in September 1944.

  3. Lotus7

    Lotus7 Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome to the forum Janeh
  4. janeh

    janeh Member

    The flying jacket was around for years! I wore it in a school play (can't remember why.) Dad had the boots to go with it too & I remember him wearing both jacket & boots in depths of English winters. He always claimed to have 'liberated' them from a German, but I have no evidence to support that!
    Re dates - it's possible I've mis-read Dad's notes, or mis-typed. I'll have to go back & check. Any specific ones?
    You're probably correct about Beringen (Dad's spelling was never his strong point.) Wish I could read Flemish in order to appreciate the link you provided! I'll have to Google some references in English.
    Have yet to work out which are the best War Diaries to look up. Pointers would be welcomed.
  5. Joroti

    Joroti Member

    Hi Janeh,

    A quick look at Discovery shows 2 War Diaries for 176 Inf Bde Wksp however these are dated 1942 and 1943 under Home Forces and will only report on activities of the unit whilst in UK and thus will not cover the preparations for OVERLORD etc. However if you examine the movements of 176 Inf Bde, you will get a broad idea of your late fathers war.

    The Bde was part of 59 Division which itself was part of 12 Corps of the 2nd Army under Bernard Montgomery. The Brigade landed in Normandy in late June 44 and were involved in the battle for CAEN, [Operation CHARNWOOD] the 2nd battle of the ODON and eventually the crossing of the River Orne. You will find a lot of reading material online if you simply Google these battles and place names etc. The Brigade was disbanded in August 1944 in order to reinforce other Divisions.

    File WO 171/10300 at Kew for 8 Lt Wksp is dated Mar – Jun 1946 and covers some of the time your late father served in that unit.

    Do you have his service number when he first enlisted and served as a soldier until his commission as that may help other forum users to reveal some of his early wartime movements.

    I have a badly scanned image of his OBE citation from 1968, but it is readable with patience. Do you have a copy of this. If not PM me
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive


    I've found the 1945 war diary for you. The 1944 one is proving a little trickier...Give me a nudge and I'll spend some time having a look for it.

    WO 171/7044 806 Workshop 1945 Jan-Dec
  7. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    Good to continue our private conversation

    Two points.
    176 Infantry Brigade was part of 59 Staffordshire Division which was disbanded in Belgium in Autumn 1944 to provide urgently needed Infantry reinforcements to other British units in the 2nd Army. I am therefore suspicious of the effective date of his posting to the Brigade Workshop (could have been early Autumn 1944, comments on the back of the photo support my theory) He might then have returned to 806 Workshop as OC. Would offer to check out my theory in the REME Museum Archives but this closed recently pending a move to the former RAF Lyneham and reopening in 2016

    It's Diepholz not Diepolz
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Being an officer he should be fairly easy to track through the war diaries. 99.9% of war diaries have officer field returns that list the officers that are with the unit every week, you would expect to find 4 or 5 of these every month.
  9. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Apologies that it took so long but I have replied on Order of Battle thread. Oh, and I've got a copy of the war diary for 176 Inf Bde Wksp for 1944 which I'll post up in another thread.

    On second reading, I see that you father did not join this unit till 1945, which explains why he wasn't mentioned in the 1944 section - that will teach me to read more carefully!


  10. janeh

    janeh Member

    Many thanks for all the replies & information which I will need to look at in detail. I'm away for the weekend, but should have time next week to respond to you all!
    Best wishes
  11. janeh

    janeh Member

    Thanks for your interest Joroti

    I can see I will need to pay a visit to Kew, so I'm noting all the suggestions in order to draw up a plan for closer research!

    Yes I have service numbers -

    On enlistment as a Boy Entrant in 1930 it was 56337
    Dad kept that number until his Commission in 1941 when it changed to 188195

    I have the original certificate for his OBE, together with his medals etc. Thanks so much for the offer!

    I've scanned the relevant bit of his Service Record which shows Appointments & Movements & am attaching it below.

    Best wishes

    Jane H. img128.jpg
  12. janeh

    janeh Member

    Many thanks Drew5233
    I'm planning a trip to Kew & knowing what to look for will be hugely helpful. Searching the online catalogue is incredibly time-consuming to the inexperienced researcher like me! If you have any luck tracking down the 1944 Diary I'd love to know.
    I've pasted a copy of the relevant bit of Dad's Service Record in my reply to Joroti & will post some photo's when I've finished replying to other respondents to the thread.
    Best wishes
  13. janeh

    janeh Member

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for the additional info. I've attached a copy of the relevant page from Dad's Service Record to my reply to Joroti in this thread. that may clarify things. I looked for info on the REME museum myself - typical luck that they should be on the move! However, I am gathering info to plan a trip to Kew, which seems unavoidable!

    Adding some further photos below - just to keep people interested!

    Best wishes

  14. janeh

    janeh Member

    ASM Davey - my Master Artificer.jpg Monty talks to troops just before the assault across the Rhine.jpg V1 wreckage (1).jpg V1 wreckage (2).jpg

    Just 4 pictures from the collection
    1. Caption reads ' ASM Davey - my Master Artificer'
    2 Monty talks to the troops just before the assault across the Rhine
    3/4 Wreckage of V1s destroyed by the RAF on their way to one of the launching pads. France 1944

    Hope people find them interesting. Lots more where they came from!
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  15. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    It's a V2 in the last photo....or is it? Could be an illusion but the shape doesn't appear quite right.
  16. robins2

    robins2 Active Member

    looks like a V2 with nose cone missing??? or on the next train car??

    great photos keep them coming
  17. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member

    Jane (and others)

    My good friend Historic Steve has recently sent me a copy of the 30 Corps REME ORBAT for June 1945.

    Buried in the detail and under command CREME 2nd Army Troops (and not one of the forward Divisions) is 176 Infantry Brigade Workshop REME This is confirmed in part by the fact that the National Archives in Kew hold copies of the unit War Diaries for 1944, 1945 and early 1946.

    Why the unit survived the cull of its parent Brigade in Autumn 1944 and was not disbanded/renamed needs further detailed research.
  18. janeh

    janeh Member

    Interesting info from Historic Steve. Wish Dad was still around so I could ask him if he knew why!

    Attaching a few more photos - in the order Dad put them in his albums. Some but not all are dated.I know that he spent a long time going through old pictures & putting them in order in the 1970s. That's when the captions were added, but some have additional info written on the back - presumably closer to the time when they were taken. It seems possible that not all of them are in chronological sequence.

    1. no caption
    2. One of the destroyed bridges across the Rhine. (On back is written 'One of the Wessel bridges.'
    3. With my RQMS & Humber battle-wagon. (On back is written 'A brew up before we hit the autobahn for Hamburg Germany Jul 45)
    4. Chief Clerk & Admin staff 53 Inf Tps Wksp.

    no caption.jpg One of the destroyed bridges across the Rhine (on back is written 'one of the Wessel bridges'.jpg With my RQMS 'A brew up before we hit the autobahn for Hamburg Germany Jul 45 (Hamburg 38 km).jpg Chief Clerk & Admin staff 53 Inf Tps Wksp.jpg
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  19. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Jane, Sorry to butt in, as I currently have nothing useful to add, but thanks for sharing.
    Love this sort of thread. Also a bit of a fan of any picture of British Officers with traditional issue dogs, particularly chaps as classically dressed as your dad.
    And a little bit of Panzer IV & Wunderwaffen thrown in for good measure... great stuff.

  20. janeh

    janeh Member

    Glad you're enjoying this, Adam. I've sufficient material to keep it up for ages! The traditional issue dog appears quite frequently. I don't remember her, except from the photos & my Dad's evident love for her! Sadly she had to be left behind when the family returned to the UK but there's a photo of me as a baby with her. It's wonderful for me to be able to bring these pictures to life. Dad treasured his collection but Mum (for reasons I've never understood) discouraged him from sharing his memories with us.I'm the family archivist & I want to try and flesh out the information he left for the benefit of his descendants.

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