Request for input; Regarding a short attachment to a REME Unit in North Africa

Discussion in 'REME/RAOC' started by Hollie, Nov 3, 2017.

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  1. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hello, I am new to the forum.

    I just wondered if anyone could shed any light on a short 3 day attachment in and out of a REME unit.

    I have obtained my Grandfathers New Zealand Army Service records. He served in North Africa and Italy from 1941 - 1945.

    He was marched in and out of a number of divisions as a Lance Bombardier, he was a Mechanic by trade in his 'normal job' and was often listed with 'ED' as a Driver Mechanic throughout his records.

    My question may be very silly, but in all his movements between divisions he never had one that was only 3 days apart from Marching in and then marching out of a Division.

    He was Marched in from the 14 Light Anti-Aircraft Division to REME on the 24 July 1943 (in North Africa) and was "attached to REME 308 L of C Workshops"

    3 days later on the 26th July 1943 he is recorded as "ceased to be attached (CTBA) to REME 308 L of C Workshops and returns to 14 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (14 NZ LAA).

    I am just wondering if this short turn around is normal for the REME Units/ or Work?

    I am new to learning about the REME division and all his other attachments were a lot longer than a matter of days. Or if it is likely to be a simple explanation e.g. the division were low on men and needed re-enforcement's, and when he turned up things changed and they didn't need him - or some other administrative issue of wires crossed etc.

    In addition to my length of attachment question, any insight into what the "L & C Workshops" are would also be really helpful.

    Any insight would be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance
    Hollie
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  2. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Hollie.

    Do you know if he served with 2 NZ Inf Div at Cassino?

    Regards

    Frank
     
  3. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    I would guess the simple answer was that they needed his skillset for a specific job. A vehicle / weapon was in their workshop that they had no experience with and as he was an expert on it he was lent to the LofC unit for a few days.

    Still happens today - when I was in Afghanistan we had a bloke flown in for a couple of days to fix one of our pieces of kit that had a problem we couldn't identify.
     
  4. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

  5. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for your message. My Grandfather (Laurence Ralph Donkin - NZ Army) certainly did serve at Cassino.

    I am still trying to figure out all of the detail of which particular detailed units he was attached too (as unfortunately we don't have detail about the battalions/battery's he fought under - just the divisions, and his ranks).

    Around the Cassino period, he was first with the 4 NZ Field Regiment (up to the end of the stint in North Africa and the early days on arrival in Italy in October 1943), then the 14 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, then 2 NZ Artillery Corps and transferred to 2 NZ Calvary Corps. - this covered the period from late 1943 - late 1945.

    Thanks
    Hollie
     
  6. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Daveb,

    Thanks for your message and input. That could well be a valid reason too that I hadn't thought of, so thanks for that.

    That could make sense too as I understand the REME was a British Division and the EME was a NZ one, and although most of the machinery would have been the same across the board, there may have been NZ vehicles/machines requiring repair or knowledge. E.g some of the Bren Carriers (which he was also authorized to operate and drove throughout the war) were made in New Zealand and differed from the British Bren.)

    He was known for his ingenuity and use of 'New Zealand No. 8' Wire to fix a number of things!

    In regards to your question about accessing the official war histories for the movements of the 14 LAA, I am just about to get more involved with this side of the research. We have just finished putting together the full time line of period, location and corresponding division for his movements throughout the war, so now we can go deeper into each Divisions movements and actions during the periods he was attached to them.

    I so appreciate your message and the link. I have used that site quite a bit in trying to get up to speed with everything and will continue to as I go deeper into the history of his journey. And will read through the article you have linked for me - we have his photos from the Sangro River during that first winter in the snow.

    May I also humbly add my thanks to you, and all those who have followed in their footsteps and have continued to fight on our behalf.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  7. Pete Ashby

    Pete Ashby Junior Member

    Hollie, some background information you may find useful to consider:

    LoC will probably stand for 'Line of Communication' in this context LoC REME workshops would perform 3rd echelon ( a not altogether easy definition to define or understand) repair and unit replacement. At this stage LoC 3rd echelon companies would be semi static and working behind the front lines by anything up 40 or 50 miles they would handle the work that was too involved or took too long for either 1st echelon LAD (Light Aid Detachments) or 2nd echelon (Brigade Workshops and Infantry Workshops) to carry out and acted as a intermediary between the front line support units and static Base workshops which could be over 100 miles behind the front line. This is a rather simplistic explanation as a result of operational pressure the exact boundaries could move and blur.

    The North African campaign was the first time since the Corps creation in October 1942 that REME units had performed under active service conditions and by necessity a lot of carry over from RAOC work practices persisted.
    It was found that more flexibility in terms of working procedures and greater mobility was required to meet the needs of modern warfare as a result a number of workshop companies were reconstituted at the end of the North African campaign during June and July 1943. The War Establishments of the workshops were reduced and the in the case of Brigade and Infantry workshops were made fully mobile and completely self supporting they also were expected to work much closer to the front line and be ready to move forward at 24hr notice. As a result it made the process of switching workshops from supporting one unit to another or indeed from one active front to another depending on operational conditions and requirements it was not uncommon during the Italian campaign to find Infantry Troop workshops switching between the 2 or 3rd echelon role with a fully operational LAD component to the workshop.
    Work that could not be completed before a move forward would be left behind to be collected by LoC units following on behind the front.

    Regards
    Pete
     
  8. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Hollie.

    If you would like to see Cassino and understand the role of 2 NZ Div in the Second and Third Battles, I am going there guiding a group on 17-20 May 18.

    Check out details at www.cassinobattlefields.co.uk

    Regards

    Frank
     
  9. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks so much for your message and taking the time to give me some background and context info.
    I have found your message really helpful and now have a bit more of an idea of how the unit/s were structured and where they fit in the picture.
    It's sometimes really hard when you are trying to learn about a new subject, so this is a really good starting point for me, of painting a picture and a little bit of context, so thanks very much.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
    Pete Ashby likes this.
  10. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Wow Frank, I have just looked at the link. The tours look amazing!. I would love to join in one.
    I think next year will be out of reach at this stage. How often do you run them?

    My family and I did briefly visit Cassino in 2011 and went to the Monastery, however at that stage, I was aware of the battles there and that both my Grandfathers (My Dad's dad also fought there but with the Indian Army) had been stationed there but we didn't have his war records and I hadn't started studying WW2 so it was more of a general tourist stop. I would love to go back now with this fresh interest and understanding and I will certainly be aiming to join one of your tours down the track.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     
  11. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Hollie.

    I go a three or four times a year. It is quite a place.

    Regards

    Frank
     
    Hollie likes this.
  12. Pete Ashby

    Pete Ashby Junior Member

    Your are most welcome Hollie glad to be of help, I found the members on this forum extreamly helpful when I started my research so I'm just passing that favor on.
    Just re read your initial message the dates you quote July 1942 would not relate to any REME activity the Corps was not founded until October 1942 so the workshop in question would be an RAOC (Royal Army Ordnance Corps) outfit the set up would be similar to the example I gave you in my previous post good luck with research
    Pete
     
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  13. Hollie

    Hollie Member

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks it is very much appreciated. And you have quite rightly pointed out the date I had listed and the REME not being formed there then. I looked back to his records and yes I put the incorrect reference date in my initial message. It was the 24 - 26 July 1943! not 1942, so thanks for that too!.

    Kind regards
    Hollie
     

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