Help with RE service records and posting in Freetown

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by susancammas, May 18, 2015.

  1. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    View attachment recap of VCJ's military career for WW2 talk forum.doc Good afternoon to all the experts

    I have signed up to this forum at the suggestion of Lesley and Lou from the WW2 Forums website.

    I am British but live in France and am researching my father’s military service as part of a family historyI am compiling for my (French) grand children.

    He was a Royal Engineer and I have managed to get his service records from Glasgow, but there are about 8 x A2 pages. I’m not quite sure how to upload them to a website, so I’ve compiled a little table (attached) from the information found on these pages. I have shown the information exactly as it appears on the original documents.

    I’ve already had a lot of help, for which I am very grateful, deciphering the acronyms but I’m not sure what lies behind the words.

    I am mainly curious about what he was doing during the time he spent in England. How were REs involved in bomb disposal ?

    However, what I really would like to know is what he was doing in Freetown (Sierra Leone). I have searched everywhere on the web and the only reference I can find is to the building of a harbour through which supplies could be brought from America to the troops in North Africa and to establish a garrison against a possible German drive toward South Africa, but I can’t help feeling that there must have been more to it than that.

    Many thanks for all your help.
  2. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

  3. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Just to get the proverbial ball rolling here Susan,

    Not really my bag, despite plenty of REs in my family, but quickly based of your other thread -
    Interpreting Royal Engineer Service Records - Information Requests - WWII Forums:
    * Bomb disposal was always an RE specialism here in Blighty
    * SORE may also be Staff Officer RE
    * No CHAIN listed but outward convoy apparently WS.19's 1st Oversay-Freetown leg (more at Naval History)
    (with which an RE/RA uncle of mine sailed to Bombay on either the RMS/SS Athlone Castle or RMS Strathaird)
    * Your best bet for finding out what was going on in Freetown is probably the DCE Works unit's ORB (war diary) -
    once identified, at least 2 members here offer digital copying services (often at lower rates than TNA)

  4. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Thanks Steve for all these useful ideas and links - I'll be following them up very soon!

  5. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    I further see one of the aforesaid TNA copyists (Drew) has already introduced himself over at another thread of yours (Royal Engineers in West Africa - Information Requests - WWII Forums) and, based on this TNA Discovery search, suggest its one (WO 173/225) yet-to-be-digitised result as probably the very unit you're both seeking (Works Service Pool | The National Archives).


    PS: I may as well share the search that led me to your thread above as potentially flagging up more relevant reading for you - "Royal Engineers" Freetown 1942 at DuckDuckGo

    PPS: Sorry - scratch WO 173/225 as being a year too early ! Realising 'Works' more usually abbreviated to 'Wks.', this more focussed Discovery search instead yields 25 matches ...
  6. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

  7. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Good evening Red Goblin - You have been very busy on my behalf and I'm having trouble keeping up!!
    I've looked at a few links you have suggested and am amazed at what turns up when you know where to look.
    Many thanks indeed
  8. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Good evening Red Goblin

    I've finally managed to check out the "more focused Discovery links » you pointed out, but I'm ashamed to say I'm not much furtheron because I’m not sure how to interpret the information! Can you help?
    This is what turns up - the first entry for example:

    14 Art. Wks. Coy.
    War Office: West African Command: War DIaries, Second World War. ENGINEERS. Royal Engineers and West African Engineers. 14 Art. Wks. Coy.
    Held By: The National Archives – War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General and related bodies
    Date: January 1943
    Reference: WO 173/804
    Subjects: Art, architecture and design/Conflict/Armed Forces (General Administraiton)/Army/Operations, battles and campaigns/Diaries

    Thereafter follow 25 identical entries (as you pointed out) : the only differences being :the name (in this case 14 Art. Wks.Coy) and reference number (here : WO 173/804) the dates: all in 1943 but various months or periods

    All this is a bit long winded I realise, but I’m utterly lost! What does « 14 Art. Wks. Coy mean«?
    I’m seeking info about what my father (RE officer) was involved in in Freetown, Sierra Leone, between May 1942 and April 1943.
    Can you recommend which file I should request from TNA with a reasonable chance of finding info about him? Should I make a new post about “interpretation of and understanding TNA files??
    Many thanks
  9. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Red Goblin - sorry about how my message appeared on the site. I hope you can decipher it.(Having been the victim of erasing a long text typed online, I type my messages in a Word file and then copy them to this site - obviously not a good option).

    My apologies
  10. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Artisan Works Company

  11. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Many thanks Lesley.
    Do you by any chance happen to know what these people did?

    I hope you're enjoying the Bank Holiday.

  12. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Sorry I don't know what they did. If you have a look on BBC People's War (type in google- bbc people's war/artisan works company) there are a few stories out there, but not the 14th.

  13. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Thanks Lesley - I'll check it out.
  14. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Good evening

    I’ve returned to my search for information concerning what my father could have been doing in Sierra Leone between May 1942 and April 1943.

    I have done a thorough search on internet and found some interesting information concerning the building of a harbour. It is attached.

    My question is this: does anyone know whether this harbour was actually built?

    Also, are there any Forum members who have a special interest in the Royal Engineers and who might be able to suggest what the RE’s would/might have been doing in Freetown between May 1942 and April 1943? What was going on that required the intervention of the RE’s?

    “From Britain, the first pause was at Freetown, where the shorter legged Atlantic liners and the coal burners required fuel and the whole convoy water, both boiler feed and potable. In fact, this enormous demand on the limited resources of Freetown was always a major problem leading both to delays in the troop convoys caused by the heavy demands upon labour in coaling ship, and in the homeward bound trade convoys by the depletion of coal stocks, which were shipped out from Britain. Water supplies were also a problem in that Freetown, while certainly not bereft of rainfall, possessed only minimal reservoir capacity which was very easily overwhelmed by large demands. Finally, Freetown was, basically, an anchorage where all supplies had to be loaded by hand from lighters (in the case of coal), or by water boats which were also in short supply.” (sorry can’t remember the source)

    So, SL was basically a fuelling /watering stop for the WS convoys which were in operation between 1940 and 1943 when the North African coast and Sicily had been cleared of the enemy and the passage of loaded troopships through the Suez Canal became possible and the WS convoys were cancelled.

    Any ideas will be very welcome.

    Kind regards


    PS: I have a copy of Archie Munro’s “The Winston Specials - troopships via the cape 1940-1943” and would be happy to do lookups.


    Attached Files:

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