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Terry_Reeves

Royal Engineers Special Brigade

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Terry_Reeves

Jonathon

He almost certainly enlisted under the Derby Scheme and had his service deferred, possibly because of his profession. No 2 Company was equipped with 4 inch Stokes Mortars. Helfaut was the the Special Brigade Depot, about three miles south of St Omer. The depot HQ was in the mairie and adjoining schoolhouse, both of which still stand. Helfaut Common was the technical area for new recruits and also the sort of demonstrations mentioned. The SB also carried out experiments with equipment there. The July and August entries for 1917 are for the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele.

TR

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JonathanHacker

Thanks for this Terry.

Yes, I'm reading 'Chemical Soldiers' at the moment, so tracing events at Helfaut in 1915. What other lines of investigation would you suggest - is a visit to the museum at Chatham worthwhile? (I live about 110 miles from it.) Am I likely to find out to which section my grandfather belonged - and hence discover more accurately where he went and what he did? Is the War Museum in London likely to help in any way.

Jonathan

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eddiepinkard
Over the past few years I have been compiling a roll of men who served in the RE Special Brigade and Special Companies. This formation was responsible for Britains chemical warfare effort.

I am now able to identify some 2-3000 of these men but would like to hear from any forum member who has information about any individual whom they believe served in the Brigade.

In particular, I would be interested in number and rank, any snippets of personal information, and in the case of those men who were killed, the location of any town or village war memorial that they may have been commemorated on.

If I can help anybody with identifying men whom they believe were in the Specials I will be pleased to do so.

Terry Reeves

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China Hand

Dear Terry

Very interested to see this, as my grandfather Sgt William Barr was with M Special Company, after being transferred from some "ordinary" sapper unit ...I have done so some work on this, including looking at War Diary and visiting sites of some their "stonks" in France and Belgium some years ago, but all my notes etc are in store in UK as I have been working out in China (Shanghai five years, now Hong Kong) since 2002. I must dig out the file when next home ! I have only a few artefacts, only his dog tag (his number, from memory, is 106315...or maybe 103615...something like that... .) and also a copy of a privately produced listing, by his unit I assume, of their actions. I was unable to ever discuss any of this with him, as he passed away before I was born.

I note several other replies mentioning "appropriate qualifications" - my grandfather was a chemistry teacher pre-war, which was allegedly one reason he was transferred.

Rather ironically, his son, my uncle Jimmy Barr who was an RAF doctor c. 1945-1947, was involved in the disposal of German chemical gas stocks into the Skagerack and North Sea post WW2...there is a family anecdote of how Jimmy, home on leave c. 1946 and unable for security reasons to explain to his father what he was doing, when leaving to go back to work rather pointedly said "oh, I better take my gas mask...", in attempt to drop a very large hint as to what he was up to ! It worked, apparently...it being 1946...

Equally ironically, William Barr's grandson (i.e. muggins :) ) spent many happy hours (ahem...not :( ) in "noddy suit" and gasmask while a 1980s-vintage TA soldier, AND was involved on margins of some Scottish Office civil service activity relating to public concerns c. late 1990s about disposal of chemical weapons in the North Sea...talk about chickens coming home to roost !

Anyway, when I get access to my files again in a few months, I will see if there is more I can add on the WW1 stuff.

Regards

Graham Thompson

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Terry_Reeves

Graham

Very many thanks for your contribution. I look forward to seeing the rest.

Terry Reeves

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China Hand

OK :) Probably March/April afore I get back again.

BTW, what does your Latin tag mean ? I am too young to have done it at school ? :(

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eltoro1960

"In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags"

Oh you bad man Terry :rolleyes:

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China Hand
"In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags"

Oh you bad man Terry :rolleyes:

Nice one :)

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Guest

This is my first post on any forum. I hope I get it right!

My Grandfather was Thomas Edward George McCathie (No. 106311) d.o.b 07/03/1890

I have his Short Service record (O/R and Officer)

He was a chemistry graduate of London University and taught chemistry.

He was in London University OTC & 2/15th London Regt (Terr Force) April 1909 - 1915

Transferred to RE as a Pioneer (19/7/1915)

He propted Cpl (same day), and Sgt (17/01/1916)

25/04/1917 - discharged for the purpose of app?? to a Temp. Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in RE (In the field)

Certified as taken up duties 26/04/1917 in E Special Coy RE

1yr 281days service:

Home : 19/07/1915 - 01/08/15

BEF France: 02/08/1915 - 25/04/1917 - 28 (and later) 24 Section, "E" Coy, No 2 Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers

He married my Guernsey Grandmother on 29/03/1918 in Hampton (Where he had been to school and taught -Why not in Guernsey?)

I have a Medical Board Report on him at "B.Base" dated 19.11.1918

Age 28. Total Service 3.11/12 (8/12 at home, 39/12 abroad)

Disability: Infuenza. Date and place of disability: 03/11/1918 Templeave (That seems like damn bad luck so near the end!)

Essential facts : Influenza with lung complications

Specific military conditions : INFECTION ON ACTIVE SERVICE (their capitals)

Finally I have a peculiar document from his National Archive record (attached) that seems to say that he must relinquish the acting rank of Capt. - dated 03/03/1919

I would be grateful for any extra information out Grandpa Mac - who sustained the family Winemerchant firm in Guernsey throughout WW2 and died in te family home here 31/05/1948

NiallMcC

post-43647-1233691776.jpg

post-43647-1233692188.jpg

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eddiepinkard

Hi Terry,

I am currently researching my Grandfathers WW1 experiences, and was hoping you may be able to help.

I have made a couple of general posts on the main message board, and recieved some very helpful replies that seem to confirm my Grandfather, Fredric William Pinkard, was enlisted in to the RE Special Engineers Companies.

From his medal card (attcahed below) his Regimental Number was 106195 and he arrived in France on the 17th July 1915.

post-42261-1235303829.jpg

From what I have read in the available books about the Special Brigade, timings wise this would appear to fit with their formation. I suspect my Grandfarther, with presumably many others, was head hunted for this unit as he would at the time have recently graduated with a chemistry degree, and had just strated teaching chemistry at a Grammar School in wales. It would appear that if this was the case he may have arrived in France with time spent for basic little military training - do you know if this was common?

I know that by may 1916 he had transferred as a Sergeant to the Devonshire Regiment, where he was commissioned and I can trace his movements to the end of teh war quite accuratley. I am planning a trip to France later this year and would like to follow his route through France as acuratley as possible.

I woudl be most greatful for any help you could give me find out which of the spcial companies he served with and their locations and actions between July 1915 and may 1916.

Regards,

Ed Pinkard

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Terry_Reeves

Niall

I think I have some information. I'll contact you via the forum e mail.

Terry Reeves

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Terry_Reeves

Ed

He was one of the original specials and would have served in either 186, 187, 188 or 189 companies. His date of arrival in France shows that he was one of the first daft of 82 men to arrive at Helfaut, the newly created Special Companies Depot, at Helfaut, just south of St Omer. The Depot HQ was in the marie and adjoining school house, both of which still stand. These men were armed with revolvers and the range firing practice took place in a chalk quarry at the bottom of the hill as the road enters Wizernes going north. the quarry is still there and is used by the French army as a rifle range.

He would have taken part in the Loos battle of September 1915, the first of the gas operations. I early 1916 the companies were expanded into a brigade sized formation, each of the original companies forming the nucleus of one of the newly formed battalions. The problem is you will need to know which company he was with once that changeover took place to have any chance of finding which specific operations he took part in.

TR

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eddiepinkard
Ed

He was one of the original specials and would have served in either 186, 187, 188 or 189 companies. His date of arrival in France shows that he was one of the first daft of 82 men to arrive at Helfaut, the newly created Special Companies Depot, at Helfaut, just south of St Omer. The Depot HQ was in the marie and adjoining school house, both of which still stand. These men were armed with revolvers and the range firing practice took place in a chalk quarry at the bottom of the hill as the road enters Wizernes going north. the quarry is still there and is used by the French army as a rifle range.

He would have taken part in the Loos battle of September 1915, the first of the gas operations. I early 1916 the companies were expanded into a brigade sized formation, each of the original companies forming the nucleus of one of the newly formed battalions. The problem is you will need to know which company he was with once that changeover took place to have any chance of finding which specific operations he took part in.

TR

Hi Terry,

Thank you very much for the response, I will definatley be making a trip to Helfaut to see this for myself. Do you have any advice on the best way to try and find out which of the 4 companies he ws in? Is there a register anywhere/

Regards,

Ed

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jeremym

Ed

My father, George Oswald Mitchell (G.O.M.), also joined one of the RE Special (gas) Companies on the same day as your grandfather - 17 July 1915. G.O.M. was transferred from the 1/6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, at the time in the front line in the Ypres Salient, to join 186 Special Company RE. Unfortunately, I don't have a complete list of his comrades in this company, but maybe Terry will be able to come up with the answer. My father kept a trench diary covering the early days at Helfaut up to the Battle of Loos. There are extracts from this and from the accounts of some of his comrades, as well as photographs of Helfaut, in my book Shrapnel and Whizzbangs - a Tommy in the Trenches 1914-18, which has just been published.

I haven't been to Hellfaut myself, but I hope to get there. Good luck in trying to find out more about your grandfather.

jeremym

(Jeremy Mitchell)

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eddiepinkard
Ed

My father, George Oswald Mitchell (G.O.M.), also joined one of the RE Special (gas) Companies on the same day as your grandfather - 17 July 1915. G.O.M. was transferred from the 1/6th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, at the time in the front line in the Ypres Salient, to join 186 Special Company RE. Unfortunately, I don't have a complete list of his comrades in this company, but maybe Terry will be able to come up with the answer. My father kept a trench diary covering the early days at Helfaut up to the Battle of Loos. There are extracts from this and from the accounts of some of his comrades, as well as photographs of Helfaut, in my book Shrapnel and Whizzbangs - a Tommy in the Trenches 1914-18, which has just been published.

I haven't been to Hellfaut myself, but I hope to get there. Good luck in trying to find out more about your grandfather.

jeremym

(Jeremy Mitchell)

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for the note. I had already bought and read your book, and found it incredilby interesting. It would seem that my Grandfather and your father are likely to have known each other, at least at Hellfaut, if there were only 82 men in the original draft.

I will keep digging and see what else I can find about his time with the special companies.

Thanks again for getting in touch,

Ed

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Terry_Reeves

Eddie and Jeremy

There may be a way to discover who the men in this draft were. I will contact you both off forum.

Terry Reeves

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jeremym

Ed

Delighted that your grandfather and my father almost certainly knew each other at Helfaut - and probably took part together in many subsequent engagements when gas was being launched. I'm glad you found my book interesting. Since it was published just before Christmas, I have discovered (with the help of forum colleagues) that two of the medal ribbons G.O.M. handed down to me were the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Order of Leopold, Knight Rank, almost certainly awarded for his part in The Belgian 2nd Division's attack mentioned on p.68 of my book. Do you think your grandfather might have been in the same battle?

Terry

I look forward to hearing from you. In my father's diary, he mentions travelling to Helfaut on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 July 1915 with a group from the West Yorks Brigade HQ to Helfaut, but doesn't give their names (apart from his friend Rob, also from 1/6th Bn West Yorks) or their number.

jeremym

(Jeremy Mitchell)

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Guest asbeddall

Terry

I have just found my wifes great uncles service records on Ancestry and found that he was a Sapper in No.4 Special Company. He was Henry Hugh Brook of Bournemouth who enrolled in late 1915 when he was 30 and was mobilised in March 1916. His Regimental No was 145732. He was posted to France 14/9/1916 where he remained with the Company until September 1916 when he was sent to hospital, initially in France and then (in December) to Fort Pitt Hospital in Chatham with Sebboreah. He left hospital in January 1918. He married in April 1918 to Lilian Maud Joule (and I am wondering if this was to a nurse he met given the timing and her lack of connection to his home town) and was demobilised in 1919. He lived until 1960. I would be most interested in any info on where he may have been in France and the activities of No.4 Special Company during that period.

Andy Beddall

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Guest asbeddall

My apologies - on my previous post it should say that Henry Brook remained wit his Company until September 1917 when he was sent to hospital.

Andy

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Guest ChristopherG

Hello Terry

My Grandfather Ernest S Gilbert (born 1899), Regt No 335186 joined the RE and we think he was involved in gas duties. Have you by chance come across his name as I have yet to find anything other than his medal card? He trained as a pharmacist after the war.

Chris

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Terry_Reeves

Andy

Your best bet is the Company war diary which is held that the National Archives. The reference is here:

WO 95/333 Army Troops: 4 Special Mortar Company Royal Engineers 1917 Jan. - 1919 June

The company were equipped with 4 inch Stokes Mortars which fired, amongst other things, chemical ammunition.

TR

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Terry_Reeves

ChrisG

His number suggests that he could have served with the SB, probably joining them in the latter half of 1918. Can you assist with anymore information, as it is almost impossible to find out any more unless we can identify the company or battalion he was with?

TR

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Guest ChristopherG

Thanks Terry

I know no more yet but will see what I can discover.

Chris

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mick lowry

Hi Terry

I have recently started to look into my half brothers family history. He is 70 and lives in Sydney Australia and even less able than myself when

using computers.

His Grandfather George Dawson enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regt.(Pte 1565) on 16/08/15 in Birmingham where he lived.

His service record indicates he transferred to Royal Engineers 22/02/16 and was posted as a pioneer to spec. bde. He arrived in France

17/03/16 and joined No.4 Special Brigade "On service" 20/03/16. The one page of his record i have (casualty form - active service) reads as follows:-

20.3.16 Joined unit from depot

12.4.16 Admitted 4 Slaly hos (thats what it appears to say)

15.4.16 Discharged 4 Slaly hos

06.5.16 Rejoined unit from Hosp.

28.6.16 Died from wounds gas poisoning in 4th Lond. F.A.

His details are as follows:-

George Dawson

Royal Warks. Regt. Private 1565

Royal Engineers Pioneer 129977

Born/lived Birmingham 1885

Died 28.6.16 age 31

Buried Bully-Grenay, communal cemetery, british extension, Pas de Calais, France

Grave no. II A 5.

Another spec. bde. pioneer A.A. King age 33 is buried next to him in II A 6 so i guess they were together at the time.

I think they may have been involved in 19th London Regt. operation order 66 (night raids on German Trenches) which i think was around the Bully

crater area (Fosse 10 near Sains en Gohelle). I noted that a previous member had posted an enquiry viz a viz the same operation where it is

reported "our troops were gassed by our own gas".

Would you be able to confirm this. Also to enable me to conclude my research on George Dawson are you able to tell me where he might have been

between 20.3.16 and 28.6.16 other than the dates previously mentioned. Do you think he might have been at Verdun.

I would be most grateful for any info you can give.

Would also like to here from jeremeym if he reads this.

Kind regards

Mick

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stephen p nunn
Over the past few years I have been compiling a roll of men who served in the RE Special Brigade and Special Companies. This formation was responsible for Britains chemical warfare effort.

I am now able to identify some 2-3000 of these men but would like to hear from any forum member who has information about any individual whom they believe served in the Brigade.

In particular, I would be interested in number and rank, any snippets of personal information, and in the case of those men who were killed, the location of any town or village war memorial that they may have been commemorated on.

If I can help anybody with identifying men whom they believe were in the Specials I will be pleased to do so.

Terry Reeves

Terry - in my signature (below) is one Corporal Tindale from 'H' SC RE. I have his details, medals, pictures and a story associated with him if you are interested. Do you known anything about him please?

Thanks.

SPN

Maldon

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