School of Miitary Engineering, Capua

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by Rosalind, Nov 16, 2011.

  1. Rosalind

    Rosalind Junior Member

    I was hoping some of the board members might remember / know something about the branch of the SME that opened up in Capua in 1944. My grandfather seems to have taught there in 1944/5 and the war diaries, while interesting, miss out what it was actually like.

    I've posted my favourite bit from the diary below, the best bit highlighted in blue. It sounds like Col. Gayer was trying quite hard to make life comfortable for the men who came to him - a kind idea but I wonder how effective it was.

    Does anyone have any memories / clues where I could go to find some memories?

    Thanks in advance for help / time.



    DIRECTIVE No. 1.

    SME Jan 1944

    The following lays down the general policy on which I wish instructional training and administration to be based.

    Instructional training

    The majority of officer and NCO students will be individuls who have considerable first hand knowledge of battle considtion and who come here fro a very short time. In all courses a very thorough knowledge of a limited syllabus is to be taught. Students should leave a course technically perfect in handling equipment with which they have had little previous experience. Battle aroma is not to be simulated during instruction.
    For example, most of them will hae adequate knowledge of the construction and the erection of single span Bailey Bridges up to triple truss double storey. They will have little knowledge of Bailey pontoon, continuous Bailey over Bailey or other piers, and many forms of rafting. Watermanship will invariably be poor.
    They should be informed of all the standard and accepted new forms of construction and equipment, though there may not be itme to practise all of them. Equipment and methods which are in an experimental stage will not be taught.
    The experimental side will be kept separate from the instructional, though students should be encouraged to see what is going on .
    Radical departure from standard drills of construction, organisation of labour, loading of vehicles, etc. will not be introduced without reference to me.
    The aim is to spread abroad a common doctrine throughout the forces in this theatre of war.
    The above applies particularly to all Bridging and Rafting Courses and Mine Warfare.


    Every effort has been made to give the students adequate accommodation with some degree of comfort. Courses are intended to provide a change of scene and occupation and relief from the strain of frontline service, as well as instruction.
    While students are actually working they are to be worked hard, but I do not wish courses as a whole to be made too strenuous. The student should not be expected to spend several hours of his own time working at nights. I do not wish more than one full nights work carried out in any course.
    Those concerned with messing, supervision of SME batman mess waiters, etc. provision of hot water for shows and the like must make every effort to ensure that these are all first class.
    Facilities are to be provided for reading and writing. I wish a library of books and newspapers to be organised.
    All students are to have one full half day off from noon. Arrangements are to be made to enable them to attend local cinemas, etc or to go to Naples.


    Apart from knowledge of the subject taught, instructors must show enthusiasm. The organisation of instruction must be faultless; nothing exasperates students more than hanging about because stores have not been prepared or on account of some other lack of foresight.

    E. H. T. Gayer (Colonel)
    Commandant HQ SME and RETD
  2. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    Hi, I came across a website today "Paul Bullard" about the War story of Paul Bullard. In his story he has recorded the following.

    “Disembarking at Naples we were loaded at the quayside into railway goods wagons and taken about twenty miles to Capua where we marched from the station to what was to be our new home, called rather grandly, Campo Concentramento P.G. No.66.
    INTERPOLATION 4: May 1945
    Nearly three years later I again disembarked at Naples, this time from a British troop-ship. By a not unusual quirk of army administration I was now the NCO in charge of a small draft of Royal Engineers. Our value as reinforcements – there were only about a dozen of us – had been even more diminished by the war in Europe having ended during our voyage from Liverpool. At the quayside there was a truck waiting to take us to the RE Depot. I was only mildly surprised to find that this was at Capua and on the same site as the former Campo Concentramento P.G. No.66.”

    I have followed this up by visiting the Royal Engineers Museum Facebook page and found this;

    "This year marks the 300th year of the Royal Engineers and over the coming months the Sappers based in the UK and abroad will be celebrating their history. To help tell their story we will be posting up snippets of the Corps history for you to follow and enjoy.
    To start with today we will be looking at the Corps Training Establishments and where the Sappers were trained to support the Army on the battlefield. You might already know that School of Military Engineering is in Chatham but did you know there were also schools around the world where Sappers were needed?
    During the Second World War one such School was set up in the town of Capua in Italy, north of Naples, in November 1943 to help train not just British and Commonwealth Engineers but those of other Allied nations including Canadian, American and Polish forces. The Establishment helped provide training in Bridging, Mine and Bomb Disposal and Mountain Warfare - some of the big problems the Allied armies in Italy were facing on the Italian front and the ‘Soft Underbelly of Europe’ as Winston Churchill once put it. The School at Capua didn’t take long to establish even though work had to be done, including repairs to buildings and roads to be used and the removal of bomb and shell damage, before training took place.
    The town and its surrounding areas suited the Sappers. The River Volturno which ran alongside the town was ideal for bridge and river crossing training, and was utilised well with the task in hand. It was able to train those just arriving in Italy and those that had been in theatre for some time.
    Without establishments like this the armies on the Italian front in 1943 wouldn’t have been able to continue the advance and help end the war in Europe in May 1945."

    I have made a request to the RE Museum for more info but they are closed until early June.

    I have also posted this info on thread "Capua, PG 66"
  3. GeoffMNZ

    GeoffMNZ Well-Known Member

    The Royal Engineers Museum is closed until May 27th,

    Royal Engineers Museum
    Prince Arthur Road,
    Gillingham, Kent, ME4 4UG
    Tel: +44 (0)1634 822839

    and they are suspending enquiries and library appointments until the beginning of June. I have found in their catalogue the following book;

    Title: 'Engineer Training Establishment C.M.F.'
    Reference: SME/1/2
    Date: 1943 - 1945
    Creator : Engineer Training Establishment C.M.F.
    Scope and Content: This is a small, hand published book concerning the founding of the School of Military Engineering in Capua, Italy, in 1943. There is an introductory explanation, followed by a description of the activities of the School. There are then maps and photographs of the School and its actions, black and white, with typed captions underneath. In the second half of the book is course and training information, including course charts, joining instructions, synopsis of courses, course results and trade tests, including lengths of courses and syllabuses. It finishes with a brief history of Capua.
    Exent: One book
    Physical description: This is a small hardback book, with an orange cloth spine and white card covers. It is covered on the front with a black and white photograph of a bridge over a river, from above. The title is written in black ink: 'Engineer Training Establishment C.M.F', and beneath in red: 'Nov 43 Capua June 45'. The photograph is titled 'SME Bridging Hard Capua'.
    Level of description: item.

    The book is not available in a digital form from what I can see, and a visit by appointment is required. Perhaps you can visit & copy it, then post the file in this Thread?
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
    Tricky Dicky likes this.

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