BEF Movement and Maintenance.

Discussion in '1940' started by Trux, Sep 22, 2022 at 9:48 AM.

  1. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    As we go into autumn and the days get shorter and colder I hope to post some of my thoughts and findings concerning the vaste amount of activity going on away from the forward areas.

    Below I post a list of topics which I plan to cover. Much of the work has been done but some tidying up is needed and the list may be modified. The list will one day provide a list of contents with post numbers to make it easier to find sub topics.

    A logical place to start is the detailed planning and Movement Control required to get the BEF to France and into its forward positions.

    As always I have to thank forum members for their generosity in providing documents and information. I will give credit in the appropriate places.

    Mike.
     
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  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    BEF MOVEMENT and MAINTENANCE.

    Contents.

    PART 1
    Embarkation.
    Movement Control.
    Movement orders.
    Unit lists.

    PART 2
    Ships and shipping.
    The BC (Bristol Channel) convoys.
    The DB and MB (Southampton to Brest) convoys.
    The Southampton to Channel ports convoys.
    Poole to Caen petrol coasters.
    Ammunition coasters.
    Train ferries.
    The ships.

    PART 3
    Ports.
    British Ports.
    French ports.
    Dock operating units.

    PART 4
    Lines of Communication.
    LoC Headquarters.
    LoC Communications.
    Advanced depots.
    Advanced workshops.

    PART 5
    Base depots.
    Base areas.
    RAOC stores depots.
    RASC supply depots.

    PART 6
    Rail.
    Railway construction.
    Railway operating.
    Locomotives.

    PART 7
    Infrastructure.
    Buildings.
    Roads.
    Forestry.
    Labour.

    PART 8
    Personnel.
    Medical.
    Reinforcements.
    Leave.

    PART 9
    The last formation to cross the Channel.
    1 Canadian Division’s move to France.

    Mike.
     
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  3. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Part 1
    Moving the BEF to France.

    Formations moving overseas to France followed a standardised procedure. The arrangements were in the hands of Movement Control which coordinated movement to the ports, across the Channel and forward to the operational areas or base areas.

    Personnel were carried in personnel ships which were the peacetime cross channel ferries plus some ferries from other routes. The ferries typically carried some 1,500 men each.

    Vehicles were carried by Motor Transport ships which were cargo ships each capable of carrying 180 vehicles. Motor Transport ships did not have passenger accommodation so having delivered vehicles to the docks, and seen them safely embarked, drivers boarded a personnel ship. There were some unaccompanied vehicles destined for either Ordnance Base Depots or RASC Reserve Vehicle Parks.

    Sailing dates, and thus the dates on which vehicles and personnel were to report to the docks, were set by Movement Control. Vehicles typically had to arrive at the docks in Road Parties five days before the personnel arrived in Rail Parties. MT ships sailed three days before the unit personnel. This allowed time for vehicles to be loaded onto ships, for the ships to cross the Channel and unload the vehicles before the personnel arrived. For Southampton to Cherbourg sailings personnel would normally be able to travel to the docks by rail and board the personnel ship in the afternoon. The ships would then leave the docks, form a convoy in the Solent and cross the Channel overnight.

    Divisional units were divided into four flights, each crossing on different dates. One flight consisted of the Divisional Headquarters plus administrative units while the remaining three flights each consisted of one infantry brigade plus supporting units which included a Field Artillery Regiment, a Field Company RE, an antitank company and a Field Ambulance RAMC.


    The build up of the BEF in France was planned in some detail. There were in fact several plans:
    W4. The despatch of the original two corps and four divisions in September and October.
    W4a. The despatch of the RAF Air Component of the BEF.
    W5. The despatch of the Territorial Army Divisions in January and February.
    WP. ?

    Four Regular divisions, 1, 2, 3 and 4, were sent in September.
    One Regular division, 5, was sent in December when the personnel and equipment were available.
    One Territorial division, 48, was sent in January 1940.
    Two Territorial divisions, 50 (Motor) and 51, were sent in February.
    Two Territorial divisions, 42 and 44, were sent in April.
    Three incomplete Territorial divisions, 12, 23 and 46, were sent for labour and training.

    Initially there were two corps, I and II, with III being formed later. It was also planned to form two Army Headquarters.

    Essential Corps, GHQ and Line of Communication troops were sent in order to meet the maintenance and supply needs of formations.

    In between these movements of complete formations the many base facilities were developed and personnel were sent to France to work on the rear area infrastructure.


    The RAF.
    The organisation of the RAF in France was somewhat complicated. Initially there were two separate forces:

    The Air Component of the RAF provided army co operation and air defence for the BEF and came under the command of the BEF.

    The Advanced Air Striking Force was a part of Bomber Command based in France so as to be within range of industrial targets in Germany.

    In January 1940 the two RAF forces were combined to form the British Air Forces in France. The Air Component was then no longer under army command but still under the operational control of BEF GHQ. The Advanced Air Striking Force could now be used in support of the BEF as well as in support of the French Army and in strategic bombing.

    In any of the above scenarios the BEF was responsible for the construction and maintenance of airfields for RAF use, for road, rail and signals communications for the RAF in France, for defence of airfields and for the handling of vehicles for the RAF.



    Details of the sailing of Regular Army divisions which went to France in September and October are not available but 51 Division, consisting of Highland Scots Territorial Army units, A & Q war diaries and appendices give a full and clear account.

    The arrangements for the despatch of the Territorial Army Divisions in January and February 1940 were very similar to those for the Regular Divisions in September and October 1939.

    - Advance Parties arrived in France to carry out reconnaissance and make arrangements for receiving the divisions troops and vehicles.
    - Brigade groups of units, each including three infantry battalions, an anti tank company, an artillery regiment and an engineer company crossed to France and moved to concentration areas.
    - Divisional troops, all those not included in the brigade groups, crossed to France.
    - The necessary Corps and Army units to support and maintain the division crossed to France.
    - The necessary Line of Communication troops crossed to France.

    Mike
     
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  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Although 5 Div was formed in December 1939, 17th Infantry Brigade at least has been in France since 18th October.

    2nd Northampton's War Diary includes a diagram of their life boat allocation on the Southern Railway ferry S.S. Canterbury. "Secret", of course !

    PC290926.JPG
     
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  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Rich is perfectly correct of course. All three of the divisions brigades were sent to France as independant brigades in early October. Division headquarters and the supporting RE, RA, RASC etc. arrived later to form 5 Division in France.

    I do like the appendices to War Diaries. They have all manner of interesting snippets. Most diaries are content to say troops were assigned to lifeboats and rafts.

    Mike.
     
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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    51 Division moves to France.

    51 Division Embarkation Instructions.

    The following edited extracts are from the A & Q (Adjutant and Quartermaster Departments) War Diary, 51 Division. My copy was kindly sent to me by forum member Browno from Edinburgh. 51 Division was largely composed of Highland Scots units. The appendices are very detailed and clearly illustrate the amount of planning that was required to move a division.

    On 11th January the undermentioned officers will take part in a personally conducted tour round Docks to see the existing arrangements for the embarkation of MT and personnel.

    To be detailed by:
    OC 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. 1 officer.
    CRA 51 Division. 4 officers.
    CRE 51 Division. 4 officers.
    OC 51 Division Signals. 1 officer.
    HQ 152 Brigade. 4 officers.
    HQ 153 Brigade. 4 officers.
    HQ 154 Brigade. 4 officers.
    OC 51 Divisional RASC. 3 officers.
    ADMS 51 Division. 2 officers.

    The party will move on an Aldershot and District bus to be arranged by Movement Control. Time Table as follows:

    Depart:
    Headquarters 51 Division 8.45 hours
    Royal Arms, Heath End. 8.50 hours.
    Fire Station, Borden. 9.15 hours.

    Arrive:
    Road Convoy Regulating Post, Hendy’s Garage, Southampton. 11.00 hours

    Possible hour of return about 16.30 hours.

    The officers to be detailed will be the officers earmarked to be in charge of units Road Transport on the move to Southampton.

    Officers attending will take steel helmets and gas masks. They will take the solid portion of a sandwich lunch but opportunity will be afforded to obtain a drink of some sort during the day.

    Officers will carry note books in which to make notes of a lecture to be given on ‘Movements through a port’.

    An officer, not below the rank of Major, will be seconded to Movement Control.

    Similar arrangements were made on 8th January for officers in charge of rail parties.

    Mike.
     
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  7. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    51 Division Advance Party.

    Warning Order. 7th January.
    Advance Parties will proceed by road to the port of embarkation on 15th January

    Executive Order.
    The following personnel will form Advance Party from Divisional HQ, proceeding by road to port of embarkation (Southampton) on 15th January.

    Officers.
    Lt. A Cargill.
    Capt. J.E. Prain.

    Other Ranks.
    2 batmen.
    1 clerk to be detailed by Camp Commandant.
    3 drivers.

    Vehicles.
    ‘Q’ 8cwt truck.
    Camp Commandant’s 2 seater.
    Anti gas officer’s 4 seater.

    The advanced party will have the same numbers and window stickers of the same colour as parent units, but with a white label in addition. These labels will be provided by Movement Control.

    The following will comprise the Road Party arriving at the port of embarkation on 17th January.

    Divisional Headquarters.

    Officers.
    Major C.A. Eweigbergh.
    Capt. T. Shanks.
    Lt. I.D. Campbell.

    Other Ranks.
    3 batmen
    28 drivers.
    Transport sergeant
    Transport corporal.
    1 ‘G’ clerk
    1 ‘Q’ clerk
    1 ‘O’ clerk

    Vehicles
    All remaining vehicles excluding;
    ‘G’ 4 seater.
    ‘G’ 6 seater.
    Total 27 vehicles
    .

    Employment Platoon.
    1 other rank
    3 drivers

    Vehicles.
    3 30cwt trucks.
    motorcycle

    Commander 51 Division and G1 will move to Port of Embarkation under separate arrangements, accompanied by two drivers and one batman. ‘G’ 6 seater (M606) and ‘G’ four seater (M783) are earmarked for this purpose.

    Remaining personnel of Division HQ will comprise the Rail Party arriving at port on 23 January.


    51 Division Advanced Parties.
    Proceed to port of embarkation on 15th January.

    152 Brigade.
    4 officers, 8 other ranks and 4 vehicles.

    153 Brigade.
    4 officers, 8 other ranks and 4 vehicles.

    154 Brigade.
    4 officers, 8 other ranks and 4 vehicles.

    Divisional Cavalry Regiment (Fife and Forfar).
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Headquarters RA.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    75 Field Regiment.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    76 Field Regiment.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    77 Field Regiment.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    HQ Divisional RE.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    239 Field Park Company.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    236 Field Company.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    237 Field Company.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    238 Field Company.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Signals.
    1 officer, 8 other ranks, 1 vehicle and 6 motorcycles.

    Headquarters RASC.
    1 officer, 3 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Ammunition Company.
    1 officer, 3 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Petrol Company.
    1 officer, 3 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Supply Column.
    1 officer, 3 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Field Ambulance.
    1 officer, 2 other ranks and 1 vehicle.

    Mike
     
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  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    51 Division Road and Rail Parties.

    Approximate strength of road and rail parties.
    (These figures were liable to small alterations.)

    Road Parties were typically scheduled to arrive at the docks two or three days before the sailing date and to sail three days before the rail parties so that the vehicles could be disembarked and ready to join the rail parties. The road parties delivered vehicles to the docks and supervised their loading onto Mechanised Transport ships. These ships were large ocean going cargo ships capable of carrying approximately 180 vehicles. Since these ships rarely had much space for passengers only a small number of army personnel could sail with the vehicles. The personnel were accommodated in barracks or camps near the docks and then embarked on personnel ships which sailed at the same time as the vehicles and three days before the remainder of the unit personnel.

    To assist in identifying the unit to which vehicles belonged Movement Control issued coloured square stickers to be placed on the windscreen. 51 Division had blue stickers. In addition Advanced Parties had a white sticker. These stickers were necessary since Southampton was a busy port with convoys carrying troops and vehicles of more than one formation to more than one destination.

    HQ 51 Division Artillery.
    Road Party. 2 officers, 14 other ranks, 9 vehicles and 3 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 4 officers and 10 other ranks.

    HQ 51 Division RE.
    Road Party. 2 officers, 15 other ranks, 9 vehicles and 4 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 5 officers, 16 other ranks and 1 bicycle.

    Division Signals and LAD.
    Road Party. 5 officers, 220 other ranks, 115 vehicles and 80 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 16 officers and 283 other ranks.

    239 Field Park Company and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 76 other ranks, 52 vehicles and 9 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 1 officer 99 other ranks and 1 bicycle.

    Divisional Cavalry Regiment (Fife and Forfar) and LAD.
    Road Party. 27 officers, 477 other ranks, 113 vehicles and 42 motorcycles.

    Petrol Company RASC.
    Road Party. 7 officers, 300 other ranks, 92 vehicles and 21 motorcycles.

    Supply Column RASC.
    Road Party. 15 officers, 456 other ranks, 123 vehicles and 38 motorcycles.

    Hygiene Section.
    Road Party. 5 other ranks, 4 vehicles.
    Rail Party. 1 officer, 24 other ranks and 8 bicycles.

    HQ Divisional RASC.
    Road Party.7 officers, 29 other ranks, 8 vehicles and 3 motorcycles.

    Provost Company.
    Road Party. 1 officer, 108 other ranks, 10 vehicles and 92 motorcycles.

    Postal Unit.
    Road Party. 5 other ranks and 4 vehicles.
    Rail Party.1 officer, 20 other ranks and 3 bicycles.

    HQ 152 Infantry Brigade and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 37 other ranks, 23 vehicles and 4 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 7 officer and 33 other ranks.

    152 Brigade Anti Tank Company.
    Road Party. 1 officer, 20 other ranks, 16 vehicles and 1 motorcycle.
    Rail Party. 3 officer and 46 other ranks

    4 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    6 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    4 Battalion Cameron Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    HQ 153 Infantry Brigade and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 37 other ranks, 23 vehicles and 4 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 7 officer and 33 other ranks.

    153 Brigade Anti Tank Company.
    Road Party. 1 officer, 20 other ranks, 16 vehicles and 1 motorcycle.
    Rail Party. 3 officer and 46 other ranks

    4 Battalion Black Watch.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    5 Battalion Gordon Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    6 Battalion Gordon Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    HQ 154 Infantry Brigade and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 37 other ranks, 23 vehicles and 4 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 7 officer and 33 other ranks.

    154 Brigade Anti Tank Company.
    Road Party. 1 officer, 20 other ranks, 16 vehicles and 1 motorcycle.
    Rail Party. 3 officer and 46 other ranks

    6 Battalion Black Watch.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    7 Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    8 Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    75 Field Regiment RA and LAD.
    Road Party. 6 officers, 276 other ranks, 187 vehicles and 30 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 27 officers, 329 other ranks.

    76 Field Regiment RA and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    77 Field Regiment RA and LAD.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 96 other ranks, 65 vehicles and14 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 23 officers, 679 other ranks and 35 bicycles.

    236 Field Company RE.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 57 other ranks, 35 vehicles and 13 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 3 officers, 195 other ranks and 1 bicycle.

    237 Field Company RE.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 57 other ranks, 35 vehicles and 13 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 3 officers, 195 other ranks and 1 bicycle.

    238 Field Company RE.
    Road Party. 3 officers, 57 other ranks, 35 vehicles and 13 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 3 officers, 195 other ranks and 1 bicycle.

    152 Field Ambulance RAMC.
    Road Party. 2 officers, 53 other ranks, 41 vehicles and 5 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 10 officers and 182 other ranks.

    153 Field Ambulance RAMC.
    Road Party. 2 officers, 53 other ranks, 41 vehicles and 5 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 10 officers and 182 other ranks.

    154 Field Ambulance RAMC.
    Road Party. 2 officers, 53 other ranks, 41 vehicles and 5 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 10 officers and 182 other ranks.

    Ammunition Company RASC.
    Road Party. 11 officers, 389 other ranks, 104 vehicles and 51 motorcycles.

    Antitank Regiment RA and LAD.
    Road Party. 7 officers, 274 other ranks, 171 vehicles and 38 motorcycles.
    Rail Party. 13 officers and 299 other ranks.

    At this time it was not possible to give a firm date for the movement.


    Liaison Officers
    Major J.E. Sterling, 6 Seaforths, is appointed 51st (Highland) Division Liaison Officer with Movement Control (Aldershot Command). His address from 0900 hrs Wednesday 10th January will be c/o Movement Control, The Warren, Heath End, Farnham (Tel. 0211). He will remain there until the last unit has left Aldershot and after the departure of Divisional Headquarters will act as the Divisional Commanders representative in all matters affecting the move from Aldershot to the Port.

    Major H.P. Lindsay, 6 Black Watch, will similarly be attached to Movement Control (Southampton) from a date to be specified later.

    It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of unit and sub unit commanders reading and rereading-
    a) ‘Instructions for officers commanding units ordered overseas’ issued under this headquarters 12 December 1939.
    b) ‘Instructions for officers and other ranks arriving at Southampton in charge of convoys or single vehicles’ also issued under this headquarters 12 December 1939.


    The main body of the division will embark and sail in four flights.

    1st Flight.
    Divisional Headquarters.
    Headquarters Divisional RA.
    Headquarters Divisional RE.
    Headquarters Divisional RASC.
    Divisional Signals.
    Divisional Cavalry Regiment.
    Field Park Company.
    Divisional Petrol Company.
    Divisional Supply Column.
    Provost Company.
    Postal Unit.
    Employment Platoon.
    Intelligence Section.
    Hygiene Section.
    Field Cash Office.
    8 Company Transportation Base Depot.

    Road Party proceed to the docks on 18th January.
    Rail Party proceed to the docks on 23rd January.

    2nd Flight.
    152 Brigade.
    One Field Regiment RA.
    One Field Company RE.
    152 Field Ambulance RAMC.
    Divisional Ammunition Company.

    Road Party proceed to the docks on 21st January.
    Rail Party proceed to the docks on 26th January.

    3rd Flight.
    153 Brigade.
    One Field Regiment RA.
    One Field Company RE.
    153 Field Ambulance RAMC.
    154 Field Ambulance RAMC.

    Road Party proceed to the docks on 24th January.
    Rail Party proceed to the docks on 29th January.

    4th Flight.
    154 Brigade.
    One Field Regiment RA.
    One Field Company RE.
    51 Antitank Regiment RA.

    Road Party proceed to the docks on 27th January.
    Rail Party proceed to the docks on 1st February.

    Advanced Parties ensured that all necessary preparations had been made on the far side of the Channel and received units in the Assembly Area, Staging Areas and Concentration Area.
     
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