Royal Engineers HQ Platoon duties/sergeants duties in combat

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by johneowens, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    My father was a Sergeant, possibly Staff Sergeant in the 240th Field Company operating on the Belgium-Holland border in October 1944, engaged in (Bailey) bridge building and motor transport. And on occasion doing infantry duties.

    As far as I can tell, his company had a HQ Platoon and 3 other platoons

    Can some kind person tell me:

    ~ what were HQ Platoon duties within the Company?

    ~ the 240th Company seems to have had only 9 officers with a major as CO.

    ~ each platoon seems to have had 4 sergeants. What would the duties of a sergeant have been? What kind of jobs and responsibilities would they have?

    Many thanks


  2. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    If you go to the LINKS option on the upper bar and enter, scroll down until you find TRUX and enter.

    TRUX is a series of files which contain information that deals with organization and equipment in service units for the
    Normandy campagin.

    Select the Royal Engineers it should cover your requirements, most RE Field Companies/Squadrons were commanded by majors
    and made up of 3 Troops and HQ Troop
  3. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Select portal from the bar at the top of the page. On the left find 'Trux 21 Army Group'. It is part of this forum.

  5. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks, Mike. I think I've found it at I've seen this previously - and it does show Staff Serjeant Military Mechanist and transport serjeant in relevant units. Unfortunately, it only lists personnel and equipment, not duties and responsibilities.

    I guess I will need some other sources. Can anyone suggest anything else, please?

    Many thanks


  6. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Have you tried the RE Museum see if they can enlighten you.
  7. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks "oldman"

    Yes, I called them. They don't seem to have archives and don't seem very interested in research. More interested in showing their memorabilia.

    I was a tad disappointed.

    But, presumably, there was some sort of Army Manual at the time, which set out duties and responsibilities that would-be sergeants and so forth had to learn to achieve promotion. Surely, there are copies somewhere around and soldiers did not learn these kind of things by osmosis?


  8. MarcD

    MarcD Grandson of Royal Engineer

    Hi John,

    If nothing else helps in your search, if you get the opportunity to read the war diaries of that particular Fd Coy (or any RE Fd Coy), I have found them to be quite descriptive of tasks carried out, and much of the focus is on the officers - who, what and where etc.

  9. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks, Marc. Yes, I have the unit's war diaries. My father was a M/TSergeant, presumably motor transport, but have not much that is specific e.g would an officer or a sergeant supervise the building of a Bailey, leading a convoy of fuel or water supplies? Might a HQ Platoon sergeant be a dispatch rider? Or would that be OR's! Etc. etc?


  10. borneo72

    borneo72 Junior Member

    A troop commander, Lieutenant, would normally supervise the building of a bailey, but a Platoon Sergeant would not be a dispatch rider. This would normally be a private soldier or Lance Corporal.

  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have not found a definitive official description of duties in a Field Company. However all units had Transport NCOs and their duties are similar.

    Transport Serjeant will be responsible for the administration and discipline of the drivers of unit vehicles. He will be responsible to the administrative officer, in this case a Lieutenant. Not all those who drive vehicles are in fact Drivers IC and not all Drivers IC (a recognised trade) actually drive vehicles. He will have limited responsibility for the vehicles. 240 Company does not seem to have been a divisional company so will be part of a group which will have a Transport Officer and a REME detachment who will have the technical knowledge of vehicles.

    Transport NCOs have motorcycles to enable them to visit detached vehicles and to escort them on moves.

    The Field Company will have spent most of its time on bridge building, mainly Bailey Bridges. The Transport Serjeant will not have a role in this. The bridge components will be delivered by RASC Bridging Companies and erected by the task platoons.

    I hope this has not made things more confusing.

  12. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Many thanks, Mike and Dave.

    Your responses are really helpful, and resonate with what my father told me. As I mentioned above, he was a M/T sergeant and later staff sergeant, and became so well before he went over on Juno with the Canadians on D-Day. He frequently mentioned riding motor cycles, which fits with Mike's comment re. Visiting detached vehicles. But, I also remember a story of him driving a large Canadian truck near Caen, and him realising he had not seen any other Allied troops for a while. Concerned that he might have to liberate a Nazi-occupied town by himself, he turned back!

    His service record when he joined the TA/RE in July 1939 (with the 511th Field Park Coy) lists him as Driver IL. (Could be Driver IC). In June 1940, he mustered as a Driver IC. In November 1942, there is then an entry in his record that reads something like "Trng Bd Trng C--t---- at MT Depot", which is presumably something like Training Board Training ?...... At Motor Transport Depot". And, after that, "Passed Unit SME Ripon", which I think if the Royal School of Military Engineering at Ripon, Yorks. So, that's his background pre-D-Day.

    So, a couple more questions, please? What is a Driver IL and a Driver IC?

    And, what did a HQ Platoon do compared with the other 3 platoons in a RE Fld Coy?

    As far as I can tell, the 240 was attached to the Canadian 3rd Infantry on D-Day and immediately after, but by the time they got to Belgium they came under the command of various divisions, including the 49th West Riding and the 2nd Btn Glosters.

    My very specific query relates to my father being wounded at Wuustwezel in Belgium during Operation Rebound. Writing from Sint-Lenaarts/St Leonard on 21 October 1944, the 240's CO reports 3 seriously wounded, including my father, and 2 slightly wounded as a result of a tank shell hitting a passing convoy of the 2nd Btn Glosters. I assumed the incident occurred at Sint-Lenaarts. Local Belgian historians, however, have confirmed the incident occurred at Wuustwezel , 7 miles away, and that the tank shell hit a petrol tanker and several other trucks in the convoy. Another driver of a water truck was killed.

    The 240 WD also records that on the same day 2 officers and 5 L/sergeants were watching a demo of Bailey bridgebuilding at another location nearby. Meanwhile, another officer was attached to another Fld Coy.

    So, my other question is - from the above evidence - what role might my father and other men from the 240th have been performing in visiting Wuustwezel?

    Any further help appreciated

    Many thanks

    Best wishes

  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    The easy bit first. A Transport NCO, corporal or serjeant, would be promoted from Driver IC. He would be a reliable person who had learned his trade over a period of time as did quartermasters. Driver IC is simply Driver Internal Combustion. In 1939 there were still Drivers HT (Horse Transport) so a distinction had to be made. Driver IC was a trade. There were people driving vehicles who were not Drivers IC and did not receive a tradesmans pay. There were also driver mechanics. These did the same job as Driver IC with the additional skill of minor repair work. A proportion of drivers in any unit were driver mechanic.

    The Headquarters Platoon was administrative. It did not normally build things or knock them down, or clear mines. They were signallers, clerks, drivers, cooks, batmen etc. All essential to maintain a unit in the field.

    More later.

  14. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Many thanks, Mike. Very helpful - and of course it fits the info I got from my father.

    Looking forward to the "more later"


  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I have not yet studied Juno in depth although I have a lot of material hidden away. I have found the following.

    240 Field Company RE.
    1 Corps Engineers

    Juno. Nan White.
    D Day H+12 hours. This is the time of arrival. They actually landed later but still on D Day. A flight of LST three of which carried some of 240 Field Company.

    LST Serial 1556.
    83 men.

    LST Serial 1557.
    4 X M14 halftracks.
    1 X 15cwt water.
    1 X 15cwt compressor.
    1 X 15cwt Wireless.
    3 X 3ton 4 X 4.
    40 men.

    LST Serial 1558.
    3 X 3ton Winch.
    16 men.

  16. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks, Mike.

    My father told me that he landed on Juno at 4pm. I will not be able to check the 240th's WDs until Tuesday, at which time I will send you a transcript.

    Are LSTslanding craft?

    Best wishes

  17. ploughman

    ploughman Junior Member

    In the 1980s (If I remember correctly) the regular manning of the RE Squadron I was in 52 part of 22 Engr Reg at Perham Down

    HQ Troop
    1 Troop
    2 Troop
    3 Troop

    These 3 Troops would be made up of a Lt usually straight out of Sandhurst or going back there soon.
    A Staff sergeant, Sergeant, 2 x Full Corporal and up to 3 Lance Corporal positions. Approx 20 Sappers.

    Support Troop (This would include Plant and MT)
    Staff Sergeant.
    Plant Sergeant and Plant Corporal
    MT Sergeant and MT Corporal
    and usually 2 lance corporal positions in both MT and Plant. (At least one of MT and Plant would be RE Fitter)
    REME Corporal + 2 x L/Corporal REME
    Approx 20 Sappers.
    (However while only having positions for some ranks there was often more actually in place occupying lower positions.)

    The HQ Troop
    As far as I can remember would include.
    Major I/C
    Capt 2IC
    Capt QM
    WO2 SSM
    WO2 QMSI
    WO2 QMSI Plant
    Staff Sergeant Chief Clerk
    Staff Sergeant, Sergeant, Corporal and 2 x L Corporal Surveyors.
    Sergeant QM + 1 x Corporal
    Sergeant ACC + 1 x Corporal ACC Usually allocated to the main regimental kitchen under the Regiments master chef.
    Sergeant + Corporal Signals (Not Royal Signals but RE)
    Sergeant Pay Corps, again usually allocated to Regimental HQ office.
    Corporal Clerk
    2 L/ Corporals and 2 Sappers as general clerks.

    Duty Driver appointed from the troops daily.

    As elsewhere in the Army the day to day running of the troops was done by the Sergeants with the LTs as a figure head.
    Frequently not to be seen for days on end by us in the troops.
  18. johneowens

    johneowens Active Member

    Thanks, Bryan. This seems to resonate with my understanding of what I read in the WDs and on this thread.

    So, applying this info to my second question, a plausible answer might be that, as an MT sergeant from the HQ platoon of his unit, he was leading a support squad comprising members of his unit resupplying the 2nd Glosters Btn convoy with fuel and water - or escorting the convoy to a new location at or through Wuustwezel. Meanwhile, the officers were off the scene somewhere else.

    Best wishes

  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Yes. A big Landing Ship. Normally carrying some 60 vehicles. I have only shown those from 240 Company.

    LST plan.jpg

    This is a later version than used on D Day. The early ones had a lift instead of a ramp.

    4pm is before any of these could have landed. Logically there would have been an advanced party to carry out a reconnaissance and meet the personnel and vehicles as they landed. I will see if I can find it.

  20. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    That was easy.

    83 men from 240 Field Company RE landed from LSI(L) Glen Lamont. A mixed bag of personnel for the Beach Groups and 102 Beach Sub Area were scheduled to be landed by the Ferry Service. The Ferry Service used whatever craft were available, usually those that survived to return from the assault waves..The actual craft and the actual time could not be predicted.

    The big LSI(L)s (Landing Ship Infantry, Large) were anchored well off shore. 4pm would be H+8 hours. Given that the journey time from ship to shore was two hours it could well be eight hours before this group landed.


Share This Page