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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

273 RE Sapper duties


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I have just started researching my paternal Grandfathers role in WW1 - Richard Towse Kirby and have got as far as I can without further assistance.


He was a labourer for NER in HULL , called up in 1916 into 273 Coy, Longmoor, then Salonika in September, His army record says Platelayer then later on Superior Platelayer.


As I understand it 273 did a lot of work on Decauville railways , basically pre fabricated, track. 


What would his duties be, what is the difference between a Platelayer and Superior platelayer and where can I go to find as many photos of the unit at work? I have found a couple  mentioning 273 on this forum by searching. If the track was prefabricated would he be doing the ballasting instead?


I see the war diary has not been digitised yet - when it is would it be worth getting a copy?


thanks for any help,



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Hi Al, Welcome to the Forum.

I can't help with the duties of a plate layer, but I have some knowledge of the railways on the Salonika front. Although there were a number of Decauville light railways built, standard gauge railways were extensively used and according to the Long Long Trail website, the 273rd were a standard gauge railway construction company. There were three standard gauge railways radiating form Salonika; due north the Jonction Salonique Conatantinople (JSC), north west the Oriental line to Belgrade and to the west the Salonika Monastir line, these would need regular maintenance and repair especially after enemy bombing raids and artillery attacks. In addition to the existing lines, a new 10 km long standard gauge line was built from Dudular on the JSC to Lembet. I would certainly try and get a look at the company war diary, it should give day to day details of what the company were doing. Unfortunately this will require a trip to Kew which hopefully will re-open next year. There is also an article in the Railway Gazette September 1920 on the Salonika campaign railways and I have a PDF of it. If you would like a copy send me a PM with your email address and I will send it to you.


Good luck with your research.

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Thanks GardenerBill - I have managed to find a reprint of the 1920 issue you mentioned.   At some point I would like to make a diorama depicting the 273 Railway Co in the Salonika campaign.  However having not built a kit since my 'Airfix' teens in the 1970's it will be a challenge ! 

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