Royal Engineers in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by susancammas, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    There's two 229 Company NW Europe (WO 171) War Diaries covering from April 1945 to June 1946 if that ties in?
    sjw8 likes this.
  2. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    From researching a local man who was part of the early garrison of Sierra Leone : In 1940 there was a great worry that the Germans would take control of Vichy French military assets especially in West Africa. The French fleet features in the histories however there was great concern that the land forces would play a part. The British Went into Sierra Leone (the legality is debatable) however it didn't give the French an excuse for war.

    From here they built up a force to :
    1/ Put pressure on the Vichy French to stay put. As it turned out many soldiers turned into Free French recruits.
    2/ To deter the Germans from trying to build naval bases in West Africa - Surface or U boat.
    3/ To have a British port between the UK and South Africa

    As the Vichy threat reduced the value as a base was realised. The Battle of the Atlantic and the increased traffic of troops to the Middle and Far East theaters meant there was a lot for Royal Engineers to be involved in.

    I trust this helps.
    Charley Fortnum and Tricky Dicky like this.
  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    What unit was he with?
  4. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Sorry Charley all those notes got left with the museum I worked in. He was an infantryman with, I think, a Yorkshire Battalion. I had accesses to his papers, letters to his wife and the memories of his widow. Her stories were: (The classic of) his bemusement of being issued tropical kit, then cold weather kit then having it withdrawn at the last minute and being sent to SL in BD. Also that his letters and photos home all seemed to feature bananas, of course then unavailable in the UK. He caught a some kind of tropical disease which stayed with him the rest of his life.
  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    There's a good chance of it having been Malaria.
    The number of cases, particularly before good preventative practices were established, was huge.

    As to his being with an early garrison, the first non-native units to arrive were the 161st Infantry Brigade: 1/4th Essex in July 1940 and then the Brigade HQ along with 2/5th Essex in January 1941. Also, 71 Light A.A. Bty, 197 Heavy A.A. Bty and quite a lot of Engineers and medics.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
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  6. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Thanks - the exhibition was based on the wartime experiences of people living in York at that time (c.2002). I am vaguely recalling a London connection. My Dad had Malaria in Burma in '45, it never left him, symptoms we took as random hayfever.
  7. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Good morning everyone

    I have been away and unable to follow up on all your very helpful ideas/information - I'm back on the job now!
    For Ratpack: There are 12 pages in my book on WS 15. I attach the scanned pages for you.
    I hope you find something interesting.
    Happy reading!
    Kind regards

    Attached Files:

    PackRat likes this.
  8. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Good afternoon Steve

    Many belated thanks for this information.
    I have checked via TNA website and find that these diaries have not been digitised and cannot be downloaded.
    I live in France and cannot get to Kew.
    Do you know of anyone who could copy them for me (for a modest fee of course).

    Kind regards
  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    These two members both offer an excellent copying service at very affordable rates:
  10. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Crikey that's a thorough account! Thank you very much for posting these scans Susan, there's some fascinating and hugely useful detail of the convoy in there. It seems that my grandfather's ship was originally intended for Bombay, then plans switched while en route to go Singapore/Java instead, then reverted back to Bombay again as events overtook them while at sea. A lucky escape!
    Best of luck with your research,
  11. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Hi Martin - glad the pages were useful. I'm reseraching my father and know he was on WS19, but don't know which ship. How did you find out which ship your grandfather was on?

  12. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Hi Susan,
    It was fortunately recorded in his regiment's war diary. Whoever was keeping the diary at that point doesn't seem to have been thrilled with the job as it's very sparse, often just a few lines a month, but thankfully he did at least record the ship name, and the embarkation date matches up with my grandfather's service records. The diary entry says:

    Glasgow, 5th January, 1942
    0800 Regiment embarked on H.M.T. STRATHMORE

    And an entry in his service records says:

    05/01/1942 Embarked for service overseas

    Not sure where else you could find that information if a war diary doesn't mention it, as I think ships logs and embarkation lists will have been long since destroyed. There's a file about the WS Convoys at the National Archives (WS Convoys: Reports - ADM 199/1211) but I found that it is all fairly high-level detail about timings, events etc. and doesn't contain any information about who was on what ship (apart from senior naval officers in charge). I took photos of a few interesting pages like the one below that mentioned WS15, but I don't think there's anything in there that would be of use in tracing your father's ship. With a bit of luck another member might have some ideas on where else you could look.

  13. sjw8

    sjw8 Well-Known Member

    Hi Susan
    I see that Charley has already replied to your post on Saturday re copying services.

    I would agree with PackRat that the name of an actual ship have been recorded in a unit's War Diary. In my own dad's case, the War Diary shows the following details -
    15.6.42 - 0545 - Company left BENTLEY and proceeded by train to Avonmouth.
    1200 - Embarked on SS “CUBA”, H.M.T. F2.
    18.6.42 - 2000 - Sailed from AVONMOUTH
    19.6.42 - 0700 - Arrived CLYDE
    20.6.42 - N/k - Sailed from CLYDE

    which is backed up by his Service Record -
    "Embarked 15.6.42"

    However, in you dad's case this may not be possible as, having reviewed the attachment to your post #10 again, it appears that he may have been an individual posting to DCE Works Sierra Leone, and thus not part of a formed unit. I note that in post #10 you show the entry - "Embarked on "CHAIN" as part of draft RGKAK" - which suggested a ship's name but I cannot trace of a ship of this name (perhaps you could check this, please).

    Steve W
  14. susancammas

    susancammas Member

    Hi Steve
    Many thanks for your ideas - I came in fact to the same conclusion as you about CHAIN and did a bit of digging around on internet to no avail. However, I don't admit defeat yet and will have another go.
    I have asked Arcre to copy some of the war diaries you previously mentioned - so I'm holding my breath!!;)

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