Demob - How was it done?

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by Paul Dorrell, Jun 27, 2011.

  1. Paul Dorrell

    Paul Dorrell Member

    How was the demobilsation of troops managed at the end of the war? Were troops returned the their regiment's home town / base and then processed from there? What did that process involve please?

    Any help gratefully received.

  2. yeoman97

    yeoman97 Junior Member

    There's a pretty good first-hand description by George MacDonald Fraser in one of his semi-biographical books of short stories about a Highland battalion just after the war. I think it's McAuslan in the Rough but I don't have the books to hand so it could well be one of the others. All three are well worth a read anyway.

    From what I remember his demob was a pretty mechanical affair with individuals from a wide range of units and ranks going through the process together, the only real distinction being officers lived in the mess overnight. He also commented on the sudden sense of loss everybody seemed to feel at finally getting out of the forces. Travel to home towns seems to have been by rail warrant, which was issued with the demob suit, ration card etc.

    Accounts from those who served in my (TA) regiment's wartime ancestor mention demob by groups with your demob number based on length of service and age. I think there may also have been some priority given for those with scarce civilian trades or professions.
  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    There was a hushed up, so called mutiny in RAF India,in protest to the slow moving demob proceedure based on the principles outlined by Yeoman97.

    None of the mutinees were brought to task.
  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Paul -
    On call up - everyone was given an age/service number- mine was #50- so when the war was over - the #1's were scheduled for release -which meant they were sent back to the depot from which they were fully trained initially- mine was from Villach in Austria to - 61st. Training regt RAC - Barnard Castle..where we passed the time just digging trains out of snow drifts during the awful spring of 1947 - then when the release staff had the time to clear us - off we were sent to York demobilisation unit - for final interview - hand in bits and bobs - issued with civilian clothing - asked what I would like to take up to make a living - so I asked to be sent to University - at which the Major nearly collapsed and offered me a course on Boot and Shoe mending - which I declined with thanks - paybooks to draw money from post offices - rail warrant to get home - and out the door.....on release class "A" with the proviso that should another war break out - we would be "invited" to rejoin - which I was for the Korea thingi with the Inns of Court regiment - happily my war wounds kicked in and I was rejected for fear of having to pay out a pension ....!
    That's how it worked for me- and millions of others
  5. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    How was the demobilsation of troops managed at the end of the war? Were troops returned the their regiment's home town / base and then processed from there? What did that process involve please?

    Hi Paul,

    There's a book about this. I forget the title ...

    Best, Alan
  6. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Lots about Demob on this site.

    Use the serarch box, key in "Demob" and up will pop the various articles, including this one:

    As a Group 48 man I didn't finish my Army service until April 1947 and as for my demob suit... go take a look :smile:

    BBC - WW2 People's War - The infamous Demob Suit

  8. Hi Yeoman. Picked up this thread & wonder if you can help?
    I'm nearly at the end of my fathers war diaries, 11 months from start date!!!!!
    He served with the 270th Field Coy. RE ending his war 39 to 46 in Graz Austria. He was demobbed in May 46 & I have 2 date stamps in his soldiers "Release Book Class A". 1. That he disembarked 28th May 1946. & 2. No 10 G.M.D & D.C.U. 29th May Aldershot.
    My question is any ideas how he would get home from Italy? Disembarked implies that he sailed home? Did he go back into Italy? Or would he travel through Europe in a Troop Train then a ship over the channel?

    I know he was in group 29 c to be demobbed! In his war diaries the Coy Staff are complaining that all the experienced men are leaving and the damage it is doing to the Company as the new replacements have no battle experience. Wont even mention the football scores of the Company team as all the good players are being demobbed. They had all been fighting with this Company for over 3 years and by the middle of May they then became the 107th Field Coy RE. AS we say "That's Life in a Blue Suit"
    Regards Gordon Guthrie.
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

    Hi Gordon

    Yeoman has not been on the site since Oct 2012.

    I would guess that many were brought back by boat as there were quite a few sailing between the Med and the UK at that time

  10. Pete Ashby

    Pete Ashby Junior Member

    The mode of transport for return to the UK on Demob appears to depend very much on where exactly the man was stationed at the time of release, my father for example returned from Milan in 1946 via train, truck and cross channel ferry.
  11. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    This is an extract from a letter home, dated July 1945 a member of 76th HAA Regt, based in Italy, that hopefully gives some idea of the demobilisation procedures from Italy. Following cessation of hostilities the Regiment was allocated to PoW guard duties at Cesenatico. During this period many were able to take advantage of leave in UK, as described below. Also attached is a copy of the demobilisation allocation table. The name PYTHON, as below, is believed to come from the legend that pythons eat their own tails.

    " LEAVE. Let me tell you all I can that it may clear up all the fuddle. First I implore you don’t take any notice of what you read about leave in the papers at home. They publish statements purporting to have been made by members and which are twisted and thwarted. I have repeatedly noticed that they are consistently incorrect, always showing the brighter side of things – over optimistic. Whereas the newspapers have to make their sales on scoop news – hence so much “….it is rumoured in official circles” – whereas the actual pukka gen is never published by the War Office until they are ready. By then the thing is so far from the truth it’s macabre.

    But I digress. There are numerous types of leave, LILOP, LIAP, AIR-LIAP, PYTHON being a few examples, and these do not embrace compassionate leave and are not in any way to be confused with “demob”. (Alex came to say “Goodbye” to me the day before yesterday. He was just off to Naples en route for England and demob. He was very excited and said he’d not been sober for a week after hearing the news. Says he and Marjorie will call and see you when he can. You’ll think he looks very old. Like all of us, this climate in Italy has left its mark on him. Incidentally, he’s group 9 – so slowly but surely we’re getting on.) Of these leaves LIAP is the only one that concerns us (the others being PYTHON men with 4 years abroad. One bloke here comes from a Regt due for Python – LILOP, leave in lieu of Python).

    LIAP (Leave in addition to Python). 1. Anyone who has done a minimum of 18 months abroad and has not been back to the UK. 2. Anyone who is not within 6 months of Python (i.e. been abroad more than 3½ years, because after 4 years they have their leave in England and get posted somewhere in Blighty or B.L.A. [British Liberation Army]. Those are the points that make one eligible for leave to UK under LIAP.

    Now for allocation. There’s been the most utter balls in the papers about the numbers that will be coming home. Half of them haven’t a clue. You will have heard about this new “overland LIAP” as it is called where the troops get treated so well en route and get beer at 1½d a pint in Austria. That’s all right. But not everyone knows that this only applies to troops in Austria and Nos 1 and 2 Districts. We just scrape home on one of these districts so come under the scheme. All the other units have to go via Naples by sea taking rather longer. Incidentally owing to the vast scale this will eventually be on N.C.O.s of rank of Sgt upwards, and officers are supposed to be flown home – this on account of the limitations of ranks. So that should be interesting.

    I say vast scale eventually, because it will take quite a time to get it organised. Once a steady flow has been built up it will be easy to maintain. To get it started is not so easy, but gradually our vacancies increase. Before the war finished we were getting allocations that meant we’d not get the whole regiment home under 19½ years!! About 12-14 days ago I was present at a draw for names. It was decided that as allocations were coming through so unexpectedly that ten names would always be kept available in order of priority. People of age groups up to 21 are NOT included in our draw. I believe this to be more than a Regimental order. Also excluded are those who have not been out 18 months – very few indeed if any, and those who have already been home. The majority is unfortunately around 22s, 23s, 24s, so the numbers are nearly as large as before. My candid opinion is that I shall definitely be home before December.

    I hope the above explanation does help in clarifying the leave problem. It’s complex and is made more misleading by these papers. Curse ’em."

    In actuality, matters turned out differently, with LIAP requiring travel through Italy and France back to the Channel by trains, and then ferry and train home. But this was a short lived leave, requiring troops to return by the same means, somewhat demoralised having seen civilian life again, to their units to finish winding down. In the case of 76th HAA Regt after being discharged from duties at the PoW camp, they moved south to Bari, where the Regt was wound down and put into 'suspended animation', all troops who had not been discharged being transferred to 51 HAA Regt. Travel for the final return home was, as with LIAP, by train, ferry, and train again.

    A full account of the winding down of 76th HAA Regt is included in the book "Ever your own, Johnnie, Sicily and Italy 1943-45"

    Ever your own, Johnnie, Sicily and Italy, 1943-45 by Nick Kemp (Paperback) - Lulu

  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Illustrated London News 10 November 1945
    Illustrated London News 10 November 1945.jpg

    Attached Files:

    Ron Goldstein likes this.
  13. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Demob Finnish style:
    Many years ago I was talking about demob with the foreman stevedore in Kotka, Finland. He had been in the Finnish Army in the Winter War against the USSR. When he joined he was told that every soldier needed a rifle and a uniform; he was given a knife and told to find a Russian about his size 'and don't get blood on the uniform.' When demob came he was given a bottle of vodka, 'that night I was a happy soldier, in the morning i was a civilian with a headache.'
    Ron Goldstein and dbf like this.
  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Catalogue number D 26311
    Regimental Sergeant Major Stilwell is fitted with his demob suit at the army's Demobilisation Clothing Depot at Olympia in London.

    Catalogue number
    D 26323
    Regimental Sergeant Major Stilwell selects a jacket for his demob suit and the army's Demobilisation Clothing Depot at Olympia, London.

    Catalogue number
    D 26324
    Regimental Sergeant Major Stilwell has his measurements taken for his demob suit by a tailor at the army's Demobilisation Clothing Depot at Olympia, London.
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Catalogue number BU 8062
    Private Bill Krepper of the Pioneer Corps enters the demobilisation clothing depot at Olympia in London.

    Catalogue number BU 8063
    Private Bill Krepper of the Pioneer Corps is assisted in the selection of his demob suit by a civilian tailor at the demobilisation clothing depot, Olympia, London.
    Catalogue number BU 8066
    Private Bill Krepper of the Pioneer Corps tries on a pair of civilian shoes at the demobilisation clothing depot, Olympia, London.

    Catalogue number BU 8067
    Mr Bill Krepper, late of the Pioneer Corps, leaves the demobilisation clothing depot at Olympia, London, as a civilian, wearing his demob suit.
    Incredibledisc, Tony56 and ozzy16 like this.
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Many thanks for all the detail you have published.

    One surprise..... One of the photos shows coats..... I honestly cannot remember being give a coat, so a mystery there !

    Best regards

  17. Hi HAARA.
    My father stationed in Graz Austria with the 270th Fld Coy RE.left Austria in May. 1946. May the 10th got Medical for release. 17th May he got a TAB inoculation. I would assume these were both in the field? The next dates are 24th - 29th May where he went through the demob process at Aldershot. From Graz would he go to Camp Alamein in Villach Austria & then to Trieste to Dover or somewhere? Sorry for the delay in replying, been out of it for a while! This is the missing link & the only thing I can find is Camp Alamein / Villach/ Trieste Italy. Any ideas?
  18. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Hi Gordon,
    I'm not sure I can assist with this, as I have no access to 270th's records. If you haven't already, it might be worth a checking the National Archives records at Kew to see if it has diaries covering this period, as it might contain general details of transfers. Hope this helps.

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