Airfield Construction Groups-Looking for information

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by Firsttofight1939, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. Hello!
    I am currently restoring a Bedford QLW Tipper and getting to the stage of thinking about how to mark it up. They didn't come production until late 44 - early 45 and only about 1900 of them were made. I understand that most were issue to the Royal Engineers with the express purpose of being used for Forward Airfield Construction.

    I have found a unit badge for the Airfield Construction Groups but, to date, I have been able to find very little on their activities and I'm particularly interested in their role in North West Europe.

    i would be most grateful if someone can point me in the right direction to find out some more and, if at all possible, source some contemporary photos of units at work.

    Thanks in advance
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  2. CL1

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

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  3. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Search for "tipper" at Kew brings up surnames. Search for "Bedford Lorry" brings up five returns, following may be useful.

    Reference: AIR 10/2789
    Bedford Maintenance Manual and Instruction Book for Lorry 3 Ton 4 x 4 QL Models QLB-QLC-QLD-QLR-QLT
    Date: 1944
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department: AP No. 2006 Vol I Part II
    Legal status: Public Record(s)
    Closure status: Open Document, Open Description
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  4. PeteT

    PeteT Senior Member

    A couple of sources I used for a project that I did was the book “RAF Airfield Construction Service” by Anthony Betts and there were a two articles in Flight Magazine from 1942 (which are available through their online archive).
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  5. Many thanks chaps! that gives me a start....
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Forward airfield construction data | The National Archives
    Reference: DSIR 23/16539
    Forward airfield construction data
    Date: 1947
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department: ARC 10702
    Legal status: Public Record(s)

    Precis of a lecture 'Forward airfield construction data' by Brigadier JSW Stone | The National Archives
    Reference: AIR 69/1929
    Precis of a lecture 'Forward airfield construction data' by Brigadier JSW Stone
    Note: Folder 36b
    Date: 1947 Nov 01 - 1947 Nov 30
    Held by: Royal Air Force Museum, Department of Research and Information Services, not available at The National Archives
    Former reference in its original department: SC/37/9/Air

    MIght be of interest to you

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  7. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I am afraid that there may be some misconceptions here.

    The QLW was a pretty rare vehicle. Just under 2000 were ordered but the final contract for 1000 was cancelled before any deliveries were made. Of the remainder half were air transportable and tropicalised. These were for the Far East. I can find more detailed figures if required.

    The RE Airfield Construction Group did not construct airfields. The actual operational parts of an airfield were the responsibility of the RAF. RE built access roads. The RE Airfield Construction Group consisted of a headquarters, two road construction companies and two pioneer companies. Again I can supply details of these.

    However the QLW was a good vehicle. Intended as an engineer section lorry it was a good all rounder. It could carry men, equipment and stores, it had a good winch capable of winching from back or front, it was a tipper and in air transportable form it could be partly dismantled to fit into a C47. Lucky owner.

  8. Mike,
    Many thanks for your input, I was struggling to understand the relationship between the RAF and the and the Royal Engineers in this respect. There did seem to be a lack of readily available information, hence my original question. You've cleared that up. My vehicle is air portable (it even states it as such on the data plate on the tipper body but, forgive the ignorance, how would I know if it had been tropicalised? - What should I look for as I haven't noticed anything different from any other QL. That said, the engine serial number dates to 1942 whilst the chassis number indicates 1945 - that suggests an engine swop or maybe it was originally fitted with a 1942 engine?

    I would be very interested in any further information that you have to help me build a picture. I have some anecdotal evidence that the 1st Polish Armoured Division Engineers used them right at the end of the war and afterwards for general engineering tasks in the Wilhelmshaven area - my uncle was in the 11th Engineers Company.

    I realise that I fell on my feet with this acquisition - I had the choice of this one or a QLT in much the same state but the tipper appealed more.

    thanks for your help!
  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    You quickly reach the limits of my knowledge but:

    I doubt if there will be any evidence of tropicalisation. Workshops prepared a total of some 3000 'B' vehicles for service in the tropics. At some time there would have been a sticker indicating this. It was not nearly as complicated as articisation. Tropical service only required lubricants and grease suitable for high temperature and petroleum jelly and Bostick to damp proof instruments and electrical connections. These will not have survived.

    All QLW tippers delivered in December 1944, January and February 1945 were non air portable. After that all were air portable (except for two apparently). These were earmarked for the Far East and would be unlikely to be released until after VJ Day. (My opinion only). Given the time it took for vehicles to move down the supply chain it would be pushing things to get a vehicle built in March to the front line in NW Europe by late April. Non airportable versions could certainly have been issued before VE Day.

    War Establishment IV/120/2. October 1943.

    An Airfield Construction Group was responsible for building roads to and on airfields. RAF construction units were responsible for constructing the runways.

    Lieutenant Colonel
    Major, Field Engineer
    Captain, Field Engineer
    Subaltern, Field Engineer
    Major, Pioneer Corps
    Adjutant, Captain
    Medical officer RAMC
    Quartermaster, Pioneer Corps
    Regimental Serjeant Major
    serjeant clerk
    2 X corporal
    9 X sapper
    28 X driver
    4 X private , Pioneer Corps
    officers mess cook ACC
    2 X cook ACC

    2 X clerk
    2 X clerk Pioneer Corps
    draughtsman (topographical)
    10 X driver operator
    driver mechanic
    medical officers orderly
    4 X motorcycle orderly
    2 X storeman
    vehicle mechanic
    2 X batman Pioneer Corp
    4 X batman
    2 X batman driver
    8 X driver
    duty NCO
    sanitary dutyman
    water dutyman

    5 X motorcycle
    1 X car 4 seat 4 X 4
    2 X car 5cwt 4 X 4
    2 X 15cwt GS
    1 X 15cwt Office
    5 X 15cwt Wireless
    5 X 3ton
    1 X 1 ton trailer
    3 X water trailer

    The headquarters administered two road construction companies as described above. Two pioneer companies were also included.

    A pioneer company was intended to supply labour. Each company had the following transport
    2 X jeep
    2 X trailer

    War Establishment IV/12/4. October 1943.

    Major, Officer Commanding
    Company Serjeant Major
    company quartermaster serjeant
    staff serjeant military mechanist (mechanical)
    transport serjeant

    draughtsman, architectural
    driver mechanic
    engine fitter (internal combustion and pumps)
    4 X engine fitter (mechanical equipment)
    pioneer as general dutyman
    pioneer as motorcycle orderlies
    sheet metal worker
    storeman, technical
    2 X vehicle mechanic

    Non tradesmen
    2 X batman driver
    4 X driver of vehicle
    3 X transport NCO
    water dutyman

    officers mess cook ACC
    corporal cook ACC
    4 X cook ACC

    2 X motorcycle
    1 X car 5cwt 4 X 4
    1 X car 4 seater 4 X 4
    1 X 15cwt GS
    1 X 15cwt Office
    1 X 15cwt water
    1 X 3ton 4 X 4 GS
    1 X 6 X 4 machinery RE 24 KW

    2 X Section each

    2 X carpenter and joiner
    2 X concretor
    driver mechanic
    3 X driver, road roller
    5 X engine hand
    painter and decorator
    plumber and pipefitter
    5 X pioneer as general dutyman
    pioneer as motorcycle orderlies
    surveyor (engineering)

    Non tradesmen
    batman driver
    13 X driver of vehicle
    3 X transport NCO

    1 X motorcycle
    1 X car 5cwt 4 X 4
    1 X 15cwt GS
    1 X 3ton 4 X 4 GS
    6 X 3ton 4 X 4 tipping
    1 X water trailer

    Plant section

    5 X driver mechanic
    3 X engine fitter (internal combustion and pumps)
    4 X engine fitter (mechanical equipment)
    10 X engine hand
    36 X excavator operator

    Non tradesmen
    2 X batman
    36 X driver of vehicle
    3 X transport NCO

    2 X motorcycle
    2 X 15cwt GS
    10 X 4 X 4 Medium tractor
    10 X 18ton Carrimore trailers

    The plant held by the plant section does not appear on the War Establishment table but is listed on the AF. G1098. This is the list of stores and equipment which a unit may hold.

    8 X crawler tractor
    4 X 8 cu yd scraper
    2 X motor grader
    2 X towed grader
    3 X 6ton roller
    3 X sheepsfoot roller
    4 X RB excavator
    8 X dumper
    2 X ditcher
    2 X rooter
    2 X mole plough
    1 X water cart
    2 X road sprayer, bitumen
    2 X road sprayer, emulsion
    1 X concrete mixer
    1 X compressor trailer

    The total of drivers includes
    Two drivers per tipping lorry
    Two drivers per medium tractor
    Drivers for eight dumpers

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  10. That's fantastic Mike! Many thanks for sharing that, Its given me lots to think about. You don't happen to know where I might find any contemporary photos, do you?
  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Sorry no photos.

    The information that I have was collected some 20 years ago when I was Trux Models. The QLW was in the Trux range.

    I can offer you the WD census numbers for air portable QLWs.
    452 examples: L6166993 to L6167444.

    There was a suggestion (cant remember where) that some QLWs used components from undelivered QLBs. May explain the engine.

  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    One more snippet.

    Contract price for QLW was £550. 0s. 10d.
    This would be without wheels and tyres which were supplied by WD.

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  13. dml34

    dml34 Junior Member

    Mike (Trux)

    You state this: The RE Airfield Construction Group did not construct airfields. The actual operational parts of an airfield were the responsibility of the RAF. RE built access roads.

    Are you sure about this? I have copied parts of several Airfd Constr Gp war diaries in the NA, and they all give the impression that they do construct the airfields. See the attached report.

    I also attach two pages from the 23 Airfd Constr Gp. See 15 June: "Airfield B.5 completed passed fit for flying".


    Attached Files:

  14. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have to admit the possibility of error in such a large subject and with an aging brain. However I think Normandy was different.

    The RAF Airfield Construction Wing was more specialised but not very different to the RE Group.

    An RAF Airfield Construction Wing was responsible for the construction of airfield runways etc. Royal Engineer Airfield Construction units were responsible for roads etc.

    The Airfield Construction Wing consisted of
    Two Airfield Construction Squadron each of
    Six Construction Flight
    One Plant Flight

    Total vehicles per squadron
    16 X motorcycle
    2 X 15cwt van
    30 X 3ton tender
    39 X tipper lorry
    1 X 3ton machinery tender
    1 X welding trailer
    4 X water tender
    2 X petrol tender
    1 X generator
    10 X 6ton tractor
    10 X 18ton trailer
    1 X road sweeper

    Total mechanical equipment per squadron
    10 X crawler tractor
    1 X 9yd scraper
    2 X 6yd scraper
    2 X 3.5yd scraper
    2 X motor grader
    3 X 10 ton roller
    1 X 6ton roller
    1 X 2.5yd roller
    1 X wheeled roller
    1 X sheepsfoot roller
    2 X excavator
    1 X lorry mounted excavator
    6 X dumper
    1 X D4 tractor
    1 X trenching plough
    1 X rooter
    1 X road sprayer, bitumen
    2 X concrete mixer
    1 X power mixer
    1 X compressor trailer
    6 X pumps
    plus assorted equipment for grass areas including
    grass cutters

    A Quarrying Flight might be added to supply the large amounts of hard core, sand and gravel required.
    3 X crawler tractor
    2 X excavator
    8 X tipper
    3 X 3ton tender
    1 X generator
    1 X water tender
    4 X 25 ton tractor/traile
    1 x jeep
    2 X air hoists
    4 X air compressor
    1 X rooter
    4 X drill
    3 X crushing plant
    4 X conveyor
    plus a light railway with
    one mile of track
    1 X 240hp light locomotive
    32 X tipper wagon

    A well boring section might be attached to supply water required in construction work
    1 X jeep
    2 X 3ton tender
    2 X 10 ton tractor/trailer
    1 X welding tender
    1 X 15cwt van
    1 X water tender
    2 X boring rigs
    4 X pump
    8,700 foot of pipe

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  15. ted angus

    ted angus Senior Member

    Good morning Gents, I have followed this thread with interest as all things " ground based" re the RAF in WW2 and all things RE are of great interest to me. Over 16,000 men were involved in building, repairing and maintaining airfields on the NW continent after D Day; Some were simply refuelling & rearming strips whilst others were 3 sqn airfields built from scratch on farmland, to the repair of existing airfields of liberated nation or German origin. Two thirds of the manpower involved is recorded as being from the RAF ACB. There is an RAF historical journal that tells the story of one of 5 RAF ACB wings that went ashore post D Day. The journal also contians other interesting overview articles.

    My conclusion is that both the RE and RAF units built complete ALGs and both assisted each other on some. Also on 2 occasions RAF moved into blocked routes to open them for the allied advance. and units of the RAF ACB moved embodied into the Guards Arm Div to secure Eindoven airfield for use by casualty evacuation aircraft and close support ground attack aircraft.

    turning to the Bedford QLW tipper; I have several shots of them in service in Korea, but no operation shots taken during WW2, all the shots I have of either RASC or RE tippers in operational use show Dennis or Canadian Dodge 4x2 examples. As an aside post hostilities a number of QLW tippers were transferred to the National Fire Service and fitted with Harvey Frost cranes for service as Rcy vehicles, an ideal choice of chassis being winch equipped. Many wre later fitted with enhanced bodies and served for many years and served with Local authority fire brigades post denationalization in 1948 and later with the various regional or county councils that oversaw the individual brigades. They were registered in the Home Office LCC block GYR.

    TED. ps if the link doesn't work simply search RAF historical society journal number 51
  16. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Thanks Ted,

    I know that there was a great deal of flexibility and adaptability in NW Europe.

    The link works fine.

  17. dml34

    dml34 Junior Member

    Thanks for the clarification/confirmation and for the link, which was interesting reading. Set up before D-Day as a private venture??!!!

    I found the attached on internet, which gives a little more info on RAF Airfield Construction Wings.


    Attached Files:

  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    An apology and a lesson learnt.

    Before the days of PC and Google one borrowed books from the public library. I have the following notes from such a book, title long forgotten.

    In the planning for the campaign in NW Europe:
    The RAF agreed to supply personnel and equipment for airfield construction. RE would remain responsible for constructing and maintaining roads to airfields.
    The RAF assumed responsibility for local AA and infantry defense of airfields.
    Royal Signals were to be responsible for providing line communications for the Tactical Air Force.

    All true but considerable over simplifications.


  19. Folks,
    Many thanks for all of the information that you have jointly submitted. I have found it really interesting and I feel that I know a lot more than I did previously. Thanks again for your insights and thoughts
  20. Irene Richards

    Irene Richards New Member

    My father a D Day Veteran was in 681 Road Coy, 25 Airfield Construction, seconded to the Canadians. They built the B4 airfield at Beny sur Mer and dad was actively involved in the building of the runway made of corrugated iron and had to make a quick exit when a damaged Canadian Spitfire, shot at by the Germans, had to make an emergency landing. They were told to run for cover and unfortunately his best friend was killed by the plane landing and is buried at Bayeux. So the RE Airfield Construction teams did construct airfields in my dads case anyway.
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