Spanner-Monkey books?

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by von Poop, May 13, 2018.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    My brother enjoyed reading a copy of Bryan Perrett's excellent little Churchill book I gave him, but seems to have come away most impressed at the way tanks were returned to action.

    He asks:
    "After reading statements along the lines of '12 tanks knocked out, four completey, three holed, three broken tracks...' etc. etc. ...and 11 back in service!
    Is there a decent book on how the spanner monkeys both recovered and fixed these things so well?"

    Good question, I think.
    Can think of a few German-related titles, but would be interested in any recommendation of books that specifically cover the heroic oil-stained efforts of front depots & other REME type blokes. There must be some good memoirs or histories out there covering those who went to war with welders, spanners & springs. Perhaps specifically on returning tanks to service.

    (And in advance: please don't bother suggesting Ambrose/Belton's 'Death Traps' - could've been a worthwhile book on the subject if they hadn't plunged into the murky & ill-informed speculation side of things.)

    THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944. © IWM (B 9098) IWM Non Commercial License

    Loyd welding.jpg
    CL1 and Chris C like this.
  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There's quite a bit of info. in this pdf here:

    Gullachsen, Arthur (2016) "Destroying the Panthers: The Effect of Allied Combat Action on I./SS Panzer Regiment 12 in Normandy, 1944," Canadian Military History: Vol. 25: Iss. 2, Article 13. Available at:

    And refs. therein to the author's sources of information.

    "Abstract: This article is an examination of the operational record of the World War Two German Panther tank during the Normandy Campaign of summer 1944. Challenging its perception as mechanically unreliable, this article argues Allied combat action was responsible for a large percentage of Panthers that were out of action. Secondly, the inferior resources of the German tank replacement and repair program were no match for superior Canadian Army practices during 1944. To support these arguments the author examines Canadian and German wartime primary documents as well as multiple secondary sources."
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
    CL1 and von Poop like this.
  3. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There's also a couple of quite short, but very interesting chapters in "None Had Lances" - "The Story of the 24th Lancers" - on "Technical Topics" - by Colonel Patrick (Pat) R. MacIver - L.A.D - R.E.M.E - the first one (Chapter 8 - Titled - Technical Topics - UK p48-60) and the second one (Chapter 15 - Technical Topics - Normandy p146-152)

    Just glancing through them again I noticed this on p151 -

    "After 24th Lancers moved forward off Point 103, the L.A.D.'s workload of battle casualties reduced. S/Sgt Kett brought in a German casualty, a Panther tank with a steering fault. Before there was time to repair this and hand it over to Intelligence, the Regiment moved to Caumont area and the Panther joined the convoy, the E.M.E. driving and countering the reluctance of the Panther to make a right angle turn to the right by halting and turning three right angles to the left!"

    And on the same page in just the next paragraph...

    "We lived on cannibalisation and improvisation and our success was praised in a letter from Colonel W.A.C.Anderson to Mrs. (nb. it def says Mrs. so I assume that the Colonel was writing to Pat's wife - Rm ;-) Pat MacIver which included: "I never had to worry or even think about his department, everything goes quite smoothly and wrecks and shambles go back to him and in a very short space of time he has them in working order and they come rolling back to us again." The L.A.D. was a good team."

    Edit: There is a good picture of Pat MacIver on p48 of NHL. However he also seems to have attended the meetings of the Old Comrades of the 24th Lancers, as he appears to be pictured at one of their early meetings here:
    The "Old Comrades" of the 24L...

    Last edited: May 14, 2018
    Chris C, CL1 and von Poop like this.
  4. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I just looked to see what google had currently, on the REME and LAD in Normandy and found this: D-Day hero Wally Harris set to head back to Normandy next week

    ...albeit from a few years back, with a few pictures and details etc. including: "Mr Harris, who was a craftsman with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), landed on Gold Beach as part of the Allied invasion force."

    And: "His was one of the first regiments ashore. As part of the LAD (Light Aid Detachment) it was his job to stay close to the unit and keep all vehicles and equipment operational."

    I am still pondering whether there is "a decent book on how the spanner monkeys both recovered and fixed these things so well?"

    As even in the chapters Pat McIver wrote for NHL the things recounted often seem more to be about the atypical things that happened, rather than the basic details about their lives and how they actually got things done etc.

    That said, the first of Pat McIver's chapters on "Technical Topics - UK" is a bit more about the mechanics etc. and dealing with their various new vehicles, as they got them, and there's a lot that's potentially further quotable in it and in the ""Technical Topics - Normandy" chapter also, especially for example - this - from p149 of NHL...

    "Battle casualties had never been simulated in training, and the technical problems were very interesting. Shells penetrated tanks in an infinite variety of ways and places and no two problems were the same, but it was always a matter of patching holes and making good the damaged equipment, often replacing it by cannibalisation. Sometimes an armour piercing shell passed into the hull and damaged the turret cage, W/T set, driver's controls or the like; these, or an engine change were easy problems. Damage to the turret ring could be "beyond local repair", as was the brew-up when an enemy shell exploded ammunition in our tank. A difficult case occurred when the enemy shell ignited phosphorus grenades stowed in our tank: apart from the fire damage, the phosphorus stains were corrosive to the skin.

    While battle casualties could be full of technical interest, they brought personal misery with
    (here it is quite graphic for a few lines - Rm) - and the personal belongings of our friends. The E.M.E. undertook the unpleasant task of clearing the tank prior to starting work, until someone took pity and arranged for an R.A.M.C. hygiene corporal to be attached to the L.A.D for this work."

    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Great stuff, Ramiles.
    Getting a feeling he's likely going to have to get by on bits & pieces, which the more I think about it is mildly odd.
    In the plethora of minutiae and detailed titles, you'd think there might be more obvious books on the metal-bashing side.
    Chris C likes this.
  6. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek

    This is what I wanted for those working on Lancasters or trying to turn around aircraft in France 1940 and the Battle of Britain.
  7. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    These two volumes might have some of the information you are after in them.

    Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: Vol.1. Organisation and Operations 1939-1945
    Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers: Vol 2 Technical 1939-1945


    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg 4.jpg 5.jpg 6.jpg
    von Poop and Ramiles like this.
  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    I saw this one too:

    From the Archives


    From the Archives: An eclectic mix of stories from the history of REME
    Mike Sibbons

    Bloomsbury Publishing, 20 Oct 2016 - History - 184 pages

    Modern soldiers depend on their equipment, from the weapons in their hands and the tanks that support them, to the communications equipment that connect them to their commanders. Formed in 1942, the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) have maintained the British Army's equipment and kept their machines moving for nearly 75 years. REME have been involved in every single operation undertaken by the British Army since World War II, and the Corps has some fascinating stories to tell.

    This is a collection of some of the fascinating accounts unearthed in the archives and written about in the The Craftsman (the Corps Magazine) and The REME Journal (the publication of The REME Institution) – including the Birth of REME; Operation Grapple – UK Nuclear Testing on Christmas Island; and the Mystery of Mussolini's Boots. It provides unique insights into inspirational deeds and bravery and good-humoured fortitude that have characterised the British Army through the ages.

    All profits from the book's sale will go to the REME Benevolent Fund and SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

    As it says, an "eclectic mix of stories from the history of the REME" - with a half dozen mentions of Normandy (via search) and even a passing one of Caumont.

    Looking on Amazon for it there are some other similar REME examples, including more contemporary - i.e. in the section of "wot other books buyers also bought" etc.
    Chris C and von Poop like this.
  9. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    The Link below is to a Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers website - I would highly recommend everyone to read the 10 pages on "Recovery in the field" which follow on from the link. Also look back at other pages - most of which relate to Post War activities.
    If anyone is able to find a copy of the original "British Machine Tool Engineering" magazine of Jan/Feb/Mar 1944 I do hope they will share it with us all.
    The Link: RAEME Know-how ~ TofC ~ Applied Engineering Solutions in Operations and in the Field
    I'm off to read that again myself now, Noel
    von Poop likes this.
  10. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member is a website which does not seem to exist any more - it used to have a number of Manuals within the site, including one on making running repairs and one on recovery techniques (both of WW2 origin). I printed these off and will have a look for them tomorrow [now we will see if my filing system has survived a house move two years ago!]
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  11. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The spanner monkeys never seem to get the credit they deserve, but you can't win a modern war without them.
    von Poop likes this.
  12. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    In the Gullachsen's article to which Ramiles gave the link is mentioned Murray C. Johnston, Canada's Craftsmen at 50: The Story of Electrical and mechanical Engineering in the Canadian Armed Forces (2008).

  13. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    Reviving this thread to point to 3 items I have just put into "Resources". I originally downloaded these from the (now defunct) website: -
    Guide To Recovery - Recovery notes and vehicle data for A and B vehicles
    Notes on the use of cross country gear
    Improvised repairs to wheeled vehicles in the field

    Enjoy - Noel
    Aixman, von Poop and dbf like this.

Share This Page