240 Field Company RE, Albert Jefferies

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by Ben Blackwell, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. matthorton

    matthorton New Member

    Dear board members

    I'm a rookie to this site.
    Im the grandson of Herbert, Bert Horton.

    My dad said something about a mine or booby trap.

    were the 240 bomb / mine disposal?

    Before the war he was a collier and was experienced with explosives, dynmaite etc

    does anyone have any info or links for me.

    dont really know where to start.
  2. MarcD

    MarcD Grandson of Royal Engineer

  3. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member


    The 240th Field Company was a Scottish RE unit that went over to France on D-Day at about 4pm. They were attached to numerous different units and were involved in the battle for Caen, Le Havre, Antwerp and eventually Germany. My father was a sergeant, subsequently staff sergeant, in the 240th's HQ Platoon. He was posted to the unit in 1943. You will need to check the 240th's war diaries to see which of the unit's 3 other platoons were involved in mine clearance. Also check Ben Blackwell's 240th photos on flickr to see whether you can recognise your grandpa.

    I am curious to know whether your family might have changed the spelling of your name from Houghton to Horton. As you can see above, one of the unit's casualties was Frederick Sidney Houghton, a dispatch rider, who was killed at Wuustwezel (outside Antwerp) on 21 October 1944. My photo of the unit's HQ Platoon (taken at Camberley in 1943) also shows a B. Houghton standing next to Fred.

    The 240th were certainly involved in mine clearance as well as bridge building and road clearance/maintenance.


  4. fougassefilms

    fougassefilms New Member

    A bit of information you might all be interested in: I very recently found some graffiti carved on the walls of an extensive underground tunnel system dug during the First World War and recently entered by myself and my specialist group just north of Lens in the French coalfields. The graffiti was from 240 Field Company RE, Glasgow, BEF dated 1939-40. It seems like they spent some time down there, doing I know not what, and scribbled a bit as they whiled away the time.

    As for your comments about booby traps and mines. These tunnels have been erroneously described by the locals as having been booby trapped. Actually, there are tunnel denying explosive charges still remaining in the floors of several of the tunnels and this could be what has been referred to. Deeper still, in the fighting system below the infantry subways, there will undoubtedly be a few standing mine charges left over in the underground galleries. We are in the process of accessing some of the tunnels and recording what we find.
  5. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Very interested in this particular unit as my grandson is doing a project on the D-Day landings and we have just returned from France after visiting them all.
    My father,William Sharples, was a member of 3 platoon 240 field company commanded by Major Woodhall.
    He was never keen on discussing his activities during the war---I understood that he landed on D-Day with a Canadian tank unit,but not sure where;He then went up through Belgium and Holland building bridges and clearing mine fields.
    The only mementoes of his time are the 3 Platoon photo at Pirbright in 1943 and memories of a photo of the Woodhall bridge and a couple of books in Dutch.
    Any further info would be appreciated,particularly the landing beach.
    Thanks RCS
  6. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Dear RCS

    You might also find useful information on the 240th FC at http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/28101-240-field-company-re-albert-jefferies/ AND http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/28479-pictures-of-240-field-company/

    My father was only posted to the 240th in May 43 after he was wounded in Ireland, as part of the amalgamations of units that occurred in preparation for D-Day. This was a Scottish unit out of Coldstream. He was a Serjeant Major in the HQ Platoon. He went over with the Canadian 3rd Infantry Div. on Juno at 4pm. I'm out of the country at this time. So, do not have access to my files. However, here are some notes from the 240th's War Diaries. Needless to say, other ranks are not mentioned by name in Woodall's diary. My father disembarked waist deep in water at Courseulles-Sur-Mer, Juno Beach at 4pm as sub-units distributed amongst different assaulting formations.

    2 June 1944

    08.15. A & B move in craft serials? towards Tilbury Docks

    11.15. A party landed on to LST517 (US Mowy) Serial No. 1565

    13.40 Craft sails and anchors off Southend Pier. Fine weather but stiff breeze blowing.

    3 June 1944

    Received maps from OC craft. Informed by captain of ship that D Day was to be 5 June

    14.00 OC 240 Field Coy takes over responsibility of briefing all serial commanders

    4 June 1944

    Sailing cancelled and D Day postponed for 24 hours. Weather very windy with big sea running. Troops enjoying American food.

    5 June 1944

    At sea

    09.35 Sail out of Thames. Craft is flagship of flotilla with Captain Shaw in command. Trouble with steering gear soon rectified. Followed coast as far as Isle of Wight

    6 June 1944

    At sea

    07.25. “H” hour. Proceeded across Channel with air cover and destroyer shield towards Nan Green Beach on N. Coast of France

    Courseulles-Sur-Mer, Normandy, France

    15.30 1 officer & 82 other ranks (C Party) lands waist deep in water from LCI (L) (Landing Craft Infantry Large). Act as burial party for 7 enemy dead & then proceed to assembly area (83 men from 240 Field Company RE landed from LSI (L) Glen Lamont

    17.30 A&B parties anchor 2 miles off coast. Weather too rough to beach!

    18.00 E party lands (F party have landed previously with parties of Corps Def. Coy)

    7 June 1944

    A, B & D party still unable to land. Capt. of flotilla unable to understand reason. A & E parties sleep in Assembly Area. Knee? Frankin?

    12.00 Lt. Richards senior subaltern? ashore reports to CE. ICorps road crating? near Tailleville (001823). Detailed to make road passable using Anglecro?en? from 184 Fd Coy RE

    Unfortunately, it has not been possible to relate these "parties" to the different platoons of the 240th.

    After D-Day, the 240th were involved in the battles for Caen, Le Havre and the Schelde. My father's war ended in Wuustwezel, on the Belgian-Dutch border in October 1944, when he was wounded from shrapnel from a Jadpanther tank in the Nazi counterattack. However, the 240th went on to be involved in the liberation of Nazi Germany.

    You mention the 3rd Platoon photo at Pirbright. Could you pls send me a scanned copy plus one of the Woodhall Bridge in a personal message? And also the details of the Dutch books. I know of are some good Belgian historians (Wally Schoofs and Guido Wassenhove, in particular) who have written books on the battle of the Schelde.

    Also where and when was your father first recruited?

    Best wishes

  7. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Hello John,
    Thanks for the info---will send scan of Pirbright photo when I get it out of frame.
    Father was called up in 1943 following dispute with quarry manager(previously reserved occupation)
    I was coming up to 6 years old at the time and have no idea where he was posted--remember waving goodbye at Manchester station,following a leave(presumably when my brother was conceived!)
    The bridge photo and Dutch books are memories,unfortunately.
    He would not discuss his war service----His friend in the platoon was Bill Longland and they met regularly after the war---I believe Bill won the Military Medal---know just prior to D-Day he was based at Westcliff on Sea----overheard comments--First tank off LC disappeared under water---Dad went in sat on tank(having been warned not to)---said Sgt Shaw was bravest man he knew--came home with shredded leather jacket and shrapnel in bum.
    Have a handwritten write up on anniversary of battle of Mark canal.
    Also on Pirbright photo is H A Jefferies.
    Also W Middleton a jockey from Doncaster.
  8. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Sjt R. L. Shaw is pictured on the front row of my photo of the 240th's HQ Platoon, along with my father, Sjt William T. Owens. They will have surely known one another.

    Before D-Day, and from May 1943, the 240th was stationed at Shorncliff, nr Folkestone, and then 2 weeks later at Maidstone.

    BTW, what's the Woodhall Bridge? Just Googled and found https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/3710209927/ - a bridge
    over the River Wharfe at East Keswick? Is this bridge connected with our man Woodall? The family name is spelt differently.


  9. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Hello John,
    The photo of the Woodall bridge showed a typical RE bridge over a canal/river in Holland or Belgium.
    As I understand it my Dad helped build the piers at the German side,under their noses, at night.
    The photo showed a large placard in the centre of the bridge,which read Woodall Bridge.
    The photo was 8*6inches---no idea what happened to it!
  10. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Hi, Colin

    Wonderful vignette. You might want to check out Ben Blackwell's photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/60094444@N04/5485976437/in/photostream/lightbox/ There may be a photo of the Woodall bridge; certainly, some of the type the 240th built.

    BTW, the 1944 War Diaries for the 240th Fd Coy RE for Christmas Day show that at 04.30 a "Sgt Stow (or Shaw) was killed ... Stow? (or Shaw) had difficulty in removing safety pin from Mk V mine & it exploded in his face." Poor man. By then the 240th would be Holland

    Seems likely this was Sjt RL Shaw. Do you think it's the same man as yours?


  11. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Further to previous comments.
    Turned the house upside down,much to chagrin of wife,but discovered the following in late mother's papers.
    Photo of Woodall bridge,not quite as I remembered it-----no placard on the picture ,but written on the reverse by my father -----Woodall Bridge---Dortmund-Ems Canal--240 Field Company--1st Corps.
    Another smaller photo of a bridge---untitled.
    Photo dated 5 Dec 1942 of a group of soldiers,probably early in service---My Dad,3rd from left ,middle row.
    Letter from a Ron Farmery,also in 240,regarding the Mark Canal--he had obviously attended the memorial service---mentions those who fell during the battle,including 2 from 3 platoon.Dad had mentioned this,said they were with a Polish Armoured unit,that frightened him more than the Germans.
    I contacted Ron after my dad died and he sent some photos,which I photocopied(reproduction not very good) 5 photos altogether,2 of which are in the Blackwell collection.Returned the originals to Ron.
    Ron refers to Mark canal bridge as Success and one of the photocopies has a sign saying
    Will send photos by E-mail----not sure about photo copies.
  12. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Great stuff, Colin. Hope your wife has now recovered from the trauma and hope you will put these up on the forum as well as sending me copies.

    Your Woodall Bridge photo was probably taken in 1945 by which time the guys were in Nazi Germany. I have not got the 240th's Diaries for this period since my father was wounded out in October 1944. However, there is a guy on this forum who provides an excellent service and can get them for you at reasonable cost.

    Same for the 5 Dec 1942 photo, which was before my father was posted to the 240th. I guess your father was posted to this Scottish unit before mine.

    I would imagine the battle of Mark Canal was in late 1944 or early 1945. I still cannot locate the Canal on any contemporary map. However, according to http://kresy-siberia.org/1st-polish-armoured-division/?lang=en, the terrifying Polish unit was the 1st Polish Armoured Division. There is a history of this division on this website with photos, much of it translated into English, but not all, including "Antwerp", which is presumably about the battle of the Schelde.

    Many thanks and best

  13. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Thanks for reply!!
    Bridge name omitted was Airdrie.
    The previously mentioned Battle of Mark Canal is recorded in a book by local historian Jos van Alphen.The write up I have gives a synopsis of the battle plus details of the memorial service in 1984.
    The battle took place on the 3rd November 1944 and it does mention other bridges, besides Success over the Mark,which were built for the Poles:-
    Chaam--Scotland Bridge-----Strijbeek--Border Bridge---Terhajden--Dorrant Bridge and the largest in Oosterhout---Pangbourne Bridge.
    It does say that Capt N O P Taylor kept an accurate daily log of the companies activities.
  14. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks. Colin.

    Just heard from Krystyna Szypowska at the http://kresy-siberia.org website. As previously noted, the 1st Polish Armoured Division was also involved in the battle of the Mark Canal on 3 November 1944, by which time my father was wounded and evacuated to the UK. The Mark Canal is a few miles to the south of Moerdijk, in Holland. Further to the east, the canal becomes the Wilhelmina Canal.


  15. Ben Blackwell

    Ben Blackwell Member

    I haven't been on here in quite a while, but it seems there has been a lot of activity. Is it possible to get a copy of the book by Jos Van Alphen?
  16. Ben Blackwell

    Ben Blackwell Member

  17. Ubrigens

    Ubrigens Member

    Hello Ben,
    You can only locate the book in the original Dutch!
    I have an handwritten report of a memorial service in 1984,which includes a precis of the book.
    I could E-mail if you let me have your address.
  18. 71Engr

    71Engr Junior Member

    240th Field Company RE, Territorial Army

    240th (Lowland) Field Company, Royal Engineers were based at the drill hall in Coatdyke, Coatbridge. They were part of 52 (Lowland) Divisional Engineers supporting the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division.

    The 240th Field Company left the division on 20 Sep 1939 to become II Corps Troops RE (CTRE) in France.

    · Renamed 240th (Lowland) Army Field Coy RE.
    · Served with II Corps RE until Jul 1943 when the Corps was disbanded.

    II Corps Engrs. II Corps existed at outbreak of war: 30 Sep 1939 to France with BEF and served in Eastern Command until disbanded Jul 1943. Evacuated to UK 1 Jun 1940. Formed with 222nd, 234th, and 240th Army Field Coys RE, 108th Corps Field Park Coy RE, and 14th Corps Field Survey Coy RE. 14th Corps Field Survey Coy RE left after the return to the UK and 222nd Army Field Coy RE left Jul 1940. 173rd Tunnelling Coy RE under command in Sep 1940.

    On the outbreak of the Second World War, II Corps was mobilised at Salisbury with two unprepared infantry divisions (3rd & 4th Inf Div), under the command of Lieut-Gen Sir Alan Brooke from Southern Command. The corps crossed to France to join the British Expeditionary Force at the end of September 1939 and at once moved up to the French frontier. It took part in the advance into Belgium, and was then pushed back with the rest of the BEF to Dunkirk. During the retreat, II Corps covered the vulnerable left flank of the BEF. On 29 May 1940, Brooke was ordered back to Britain to form a new force, and he handed over temporary command of II Corps to Maj-Gen Bernard Montgomery of 3rd Division. Under Montgomery, II Corps was evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940.

    Eastern Command’s wartime HQ was at Luton, its territory covered East Anglia and the central Midlands Counties. 240th Army Fd Coy RE was involved in Defence works and other RE Tasks in this area in addition to build up training for invasion until Jul 1943.

    · Assigned I Corps Jul 1943. Renamed 240th (Lowland) Field Coy RE

    I Corps remained in the United Kingdom after evacuation from Dunkirk, serving in Northern Command until 1944, until the landings in Normandy for Operation Overlord, where, along with XXX Corps, it was a spearhead corps of Second Army of 21st Army Group. (1 Corps had Reorganised in Jul 1943 with 19th, 234rd, 240th Fd Coy RE and 105th Fd Park Coy RE.)

    The 240th was one of the Assault Groups at Normandy 6 Jun 1944. It landed at Juno Beach, as part of the Normandy Landings. All Corps Troop RE Sub Units Landed as sub-units distributed amongst assaulting formations. (Not sure what British or Canadian Assault Unit (possibly the 3rd?) 240th was attached to nor the sector fought on JUNO beach)
    After fighting for two months around Caen, I Corps was subordinated on 1 August 1944 to First Canadian Army for the remainder of the Normandy campaign and the subsequent operations in the Low Countries and Germany until 1 April 1945. I Corps Headquarters then took over administration of 21st Army Group's logistics area around the port of Antwerp, Belgium until the end of the war. During the North-West Europe campaign it was under the command of Lieutenant General John Crocker.
    Gp does not appear to be involved in active ops after early Apr 1945. On 21st May 1945, redesignated I Corps District (responsible for Rhine province and Westphalia) as part of occupation force (BAOR). 240 Fd Coy were Divisional RE Troops in support of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (The Polar Bears from 1st Canadian Corps to 1st Corps District) May 1945 – Oct 1946. Based in Hoyensyburg. The CRE was Lt Col CA O’B Compton MC to Jan 1946.

    In Aug 1946, XXX CTRE and 52nd lowland Inf Div RE were combined to form 30th Army Tp Engrs (formed with 202, 240, 241 Fd Coy RE and 243 Fd Park Coy RE. Renumbered as 561, 537 & 66 Fd Coy respectively and 620 Fd Park Coy RE.



    (feel free to fill in the blanks / elaborate or challenge as this research is from internet and not war diaries.
  19. Historic Steve

    Historic Steve Researching 21 Army Group/BAOR post VE day


    To update your post found while researching Royal Engineers units in detail for my website and thanks, you have solved a riddle regarding 240 Field Company, you are almost correct, war dairy location statements confirm Hoyensyburg and will add the following:

    18 Mar 46 – 240 Field Company to 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division from 1 Corps District Troops
    Rheda-Wiedenbrück south-east of Warendorf
    20 May 45 – Varel north-east of Bad Zwischenahn
    15 Jul 46 – to Headquarters Royal Artillery 7th Armoured Division…then disappears

    This corrects my earlier post!

    Now just need to find 30 Army Troops Engineers!
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
  20. Dr Paul Rees

    Dr Paul Rees New Member

    It was probably Sgt Shaw. My grandfather, Robert ‘Pick’ Brotton was injured in the incident with shrapnel in his hand for the rest of his life. Sgt Shaw is buried in Bergen Op Zoom.

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