511th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by johneowens, Jul 4, 2013.

  1. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    I just received my father's WW2 record. Dad and a friend – and hundreds of other men - enlisted in the TA in July 1939 as a Sapper and motor driver in the 55th (West Lancashire) Division of Royal Engineers, which was a 1st Line Territorial Army formation headquartered at Aigburth, Liverpool 19.

    At the outbreak of the Second World War, the TA was absorbed into the regular army. On 1 September 1939, the 600 men based at Aigburth were "embodied and posted" to one of the three field companies at Halton Camp, each with 200 men: Dad was posted to the 511th Field Park Company, other men to the 509th and 510th (see http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/35097-510-field-company-re/). Halton was located next to the River Lune so recruits could be trained in bridge-building.

    He remained with the 511th until May 1943, by which time D-Day preparations were under way, having been posted to various training camps between September 1939 and May 1943, including Halton (near Lancaster), Eaglescliffe (County Durham), Gainsford (County Durham), Bessbrook (Newry, NI), and Shorncliffe (Kent). In the 18 months between September 1939 and May 1941, he was promoted from Sapper to Warrant/Staff Serjeant.

    If anyone else can fill in any other details of the 511th, I would appreciate receiving them.

    Here's what I have. Dates indicate dates on record not necessarily when unit was posted to new location:

    • 600 men assembled at Tramway Road, Aigburth and marched to Lime Street Station, Liverpool, where they boarded a train for Lancaster. From Lancaster station, they marched to Halton Military Camp, Lancashire (now a suburb of Lancaster) where they each received a £5 bounty. On 3 September, they were mustered, each man receiving the King's shilling from Colonel ???, and split into the 3 separate field companies, each of 200 men. At the Halton Camp, located by the River Lune, they were trained to build bridge across rivers.
    • On returning to Liverpool, the 3 field companies were "bedded” at Dingle Vale School and, thereafter, each assigned to different postings in support of the war effort. By 1941 and 1942, the 509th and 510th had been attached to the 59th Division and posted elsewhere; the 510th, to North Africa.

    • 6 June 1940 Eaglescliffe Camp in County Durham.

    • 3 January 1941 Gainsford Camp in County Durham.
    • 1 November 1941, Bessbrook Camp, near Newry in County Armagh. Bessbrook was located close to the border with the Irish Republic. It seems the purpose of the posting was to enhance security in the North, both as a defence against the possibility of a Nazi invasion through the Irish Republic and the subversive activities of the IRA, which had launched its "Northern Campaign" and had courted allied in continental Europe.
    • Details of British Army action around Newry are sketchy, not to say non-existent. Certainly, the IRA was active. During the early years of the War, "volunteers" from the Republic attacked RUC and British Army facilities, including those in South Armagh.
    • The Bessbrook Camp comprised the famous Nissan huts, which were erected in the grounds of Derrymore House, Bessbrook, owned by the Richardsons of the Bessbrook Spinning Mill for the troops, while the officers lived in the main house (see the archaeological report at http://uas.society.qub.ac.uk/fieldsurvey/pdf/Derrymore%20WW2%20Army%20Base.pdf) Troops posted to Bessbrook trained on nearby Slieve Gullion.
    • If my memory serves me well, my father was wounded in the arm in April 1942 while stationed at Bessbrook. Again, if my memory is correct, it was during an IRA attack aimed at stealing British Army supplies. His record is obscure on this. However, it shows he was admitted to Dromore? or Donomore CRS for a few days. (I have no idea what CRS means.)
    • While at Bessbrook, Dad passed his unit's School of Military Engineering (SME) following his taking a course at Ripon (Yorkshire) to where the SME)s two training battalions had moved in September 1940, following German air raids on Shorncliffe, near Folkestone. The SME gave instruction in field work, bridging, electrical and mechanical work, military duties, and bomb disposal.
    • By early 1943, the IRA had lost the means and the will to conduct further operations. Its so-called Northern Campaign had proved ineffective and, indeed, as a military organisation, the IRA had all but ceased to exist. It is not surprising, then, to see that in May 1943 that the 511th was posted to Shorncliff Camp, presumably, to take part in the D-Day preparations. In any event, US troops arrived at Bessbrook in 1942 and remained there until just before D-Day. Before September 1940, Shorncliffe had been the home of one of the SME's two training battalions; the other was at Ripon, to where the entire SME moved in 1940 following German aerial attacks on Shornecliff (Source: http://www.reubique.com/bradford.htm).
    • Within weeks of moving to the south coast, Dad was reposted to the 280th Field Company at Maidstone, Kent, and then, to the 240th Field Company in late May 1943. Just over a year later, the 240th formed part of the British Liberation Army (BLA) that embarked UK on 3 June for the Normandy Landings (See http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/28101-240-field-company-re-albert-jefferies/.)
    As I say, if anyone has any further information on the 511th, I would like to hear from you. (Vets from the 511th used to be part of the 55th Division of Royal Engineers Veterans Association, based in Liverpool, but just two members are now left, neither of which were with the 511th.)

    A second line of enquiry is my father's Army record. I have managed to decipher most of it but am stumped by various abbreviations that are not in the list provided by the Army Personnel Centre. I would appreciate any help:
    • Listed sometimes as a "driver IC" "or driver IL"
    • "Granted RA and RW"
    • "Granted P/A?/P of Sgt". Looks like granted the post of Acting Sergeant - but what's the literal translation?
    • "Granted leave RALRRW"
    • "Granted leave SLR"
    • He was wounded in Ireland while posted to Bessbrook Camp, near Newry. The query is "Admitted to Dromores? CRS". Was this a military hospital?
    • "Attached to SMR"
    • "Granted leave LSR"
    • "Attended C of I"
    • "Passed unit SME Ripm?"
    • "Wounded ?.S.W. ...W.L."
    • "S.O.S. 21 A.Gp on evacuation to hospital in UK"
    • "Posted to H ® DPSn?"
    Any assistance or new information greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Best wishes


    Attached Files:

    Andy Kehoe likes this.
  2. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Greetings John

    Passed SME Ripon is School of Military Engineering Ripon

    "Granted P/A?/P of Sgt". Looks like granted the post of Acting Sergeant - but what's the literal translation?

    Post of Acting Paid Sergeant

    Attended C of I" ? Course of Instruction
    Hope these help
  3. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    RALRRW- I guess is another army draft code for embarkation
    Can you please post the documents?

  4. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Many thanks, "Oldman". Very helpful.


  5. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    One other thing, please. Do you have any info on the trucks shown in the first thrumbnail picture above? Are they Brit or Canadian? Any further details, please?

    Many thanks


  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi John

    As requested I've listed the units war diaries below. I wouldn't worry too much about the change in names, TNA wasn't very good at naming war diaries for search purposes etc. I'm 999.9% sure they are all of the same unit throughout the war.

    WO 166/3777 511 Field Park Company. 1939 Sept.-1941 Dec.
    WO 166/8208 511 Company 1942 Jan.-Dec.
    WO 166/12151 511 Company 1943 Jan.-Dec.
    WO 171/1633 511 Coy 1944 Jan.- Dec.
    WO 171/5556 511 Company 1945 Jan.- July, Sept.-Dec.
    WO 171/9423 511 Company 1946 Jan.

  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Look to me like Leyland Retrievers.
    Google image> https://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&gs_rn=19&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=06qA5mdAXQjp6O7aOZbc5Q&cp=15&gs_id=a8&xhr=t&q=leyland+retriever&safe=off&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.48705608,d.d2k&biw=1024&bih=655&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=W-fVUfLQNamh0QX56IGQCw
    I maybe wrong but I have asked one of the lorry gurus to have a look.
  8. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Many thanks, Owen. Certainly, looks like them. Presumably, made at that time at Leyland, lancs.


  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The census numbers of the lorries were certainly issued to Leyland Motors. They look like Retrievers but my copy of the Chilwell list shows "Lorry 3-ton 4x2 Machinery" and the Retriever was 6x4...and the vehicle on the right doesn't have a machinery body...

    Leylands also had a factory at Kingston, Surrey.

    The motorcycle is a rather nice pre-war civilian Norton. Beyond that the presence of a speedo probably makes it a post-1936 model but that it's not a 1939 type, I can't be more specific. It could be side- or overhead-valve.

    The later group of motorcycles (including the example with the horribly bent rear stand look to be WM20 BSAs.
    Owen likes this.
  10. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Many thanks, Rich. Most helpful



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