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Terry_Reeves

Royal Engineers Special Brigade

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Terry_Reeves

Cowgate

Thank you for the information. He was killed in action, as the war diary shows. The company were "recovering material" which is almost certainly another way of saying they were recovering either gas cylinders or Livens projector tubes. The location is actually given in the war diary as:

FORTHEM Sheet 20, Belgium, followed by a map reference A.20.a8.7

If you post a separate message asking if someone has a copy of that map, I'm sure that someone will respond with an image of the area in question.

TR

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Harry20

Terry

many thanks for the helpful info re my relative's place of death. I hope to access a map to trace exactly where.

When you talk of recovering mortars etc does this mean collecting mortars which the RE's had fired and which hadn't exploded?

Were men allocated to this as an exclusive task, or would they also have been involved in firing the mortars?

thanks

Cowgate

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Terry_Reeves

Recovering the tubes that they were launched from. The Livens projector was a tube buried in the ground and normally fired in batteries of 25.

TR

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Harry20
Recovering the tubes that they were launched from. The Livens projector was a tube buried in the ground and normally fired in batteries of 25.

TR

Recovering the tubes that they were launched from. The Livens projector was a tube buried in the ground and normally fired in batteries of 25.

TR

Many thanks Terry

Cowgate

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Harry20
Cowgate

Thank you for the information. He was killed in action, as the war diary shows. The company were "recovering material" which is almost certainly another way of saying they were recovering either gas cylinders or Livens projector tubes. The location is actually given in the war diary as:

FORTHEM Sheet 20, Belgium, followed by a map reference A.20.a8.7

If you post a separate message asking if someone has a copy of that map, I'm sure that someone will respond with an image of the area in question.

TR

Terry

can you please double check the map reference - I have someone who has offered help but who suggests the ref is incomplete.

many thanks

Cowgate

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MyGenes
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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nick ward408

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

Hi Terry,

Might be able to help each other here,I have a chap sgt William Alphonsus Hanby MM 48560 'Z' special coy RE.

He is on the Littlehampton Memorial,this is what I know about him, he worked for Duke and Okenden Drilling Organisation in Littlehampton,this firm specialised in water wells so my guess was he carried on with this in the RE's?He was gazetted for his MM 16 nov 1916 but I don't know what for,he was killed 6th april 1917.there is a seperate plaque with his name on which is on the site of his place of employment.I know zero about these special coys so if you could tell me anything or where to look I would be most grateful,I am an ex Sapper myself so would be greatly interested.As additional info I have just spotted he was HQ,and entered theartre 25.8.15.

REgards

Nick Ward

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PGL

Terry,

Can you shed any light on this man:

Name: Ernest Bowthorpe

Birth Place: Norwich

Residence: Norwich

Death Date: 2 Sep 1917

Enlistment Location: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Rank: A/R.S.M.

Regiment: Corps of Royal Engineers

Number: 312123

Type of Casualty: Died

Theatre of War: France and Flanders

Comments: Formerly 7952, Norfolk Regt. (Depot Spec. Bde., R.E.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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Terry_Reeves

Nick

Thanks for the information. Originally Z Company was formed to operate flame weapons but these had been dispensed with by the time of Sgt Hanby's death. His death is noted in the Company War Diary on the 7th April 1917 " A /Sgt WA Hanby died of wounds at 1st Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. This NCO had an exceedingly gallant record having been twice mentioned in despatches and holding the Military Medal." The Company was conducting Livens Projector operations in the Arras area on 3-4 April, 1917, so it is most likely that it was then he received his mortal wound. The War Diary can be found at the National Archive in WO 95/486.

If you want to read up on the activities of the Special Brigade, Donald Richter's book "Chemical Soldiers" would be a good place to start.

TR

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Terry_Reeves

PGL

Sgt (A/RSM) Ernest Bowthorpe, sadly, committed suicide on 2nd September 1917, shooting himself in the head. He was buried the following day. This would have meant a board of inquiry into the circumstances of his death, however the proceedings appear not have survived, assuming that one took place.

TR

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nick ward408

Hi Terry,

Thats great stuff so thank you very much indeed.

REgards

Nick

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PGL

Terry,

I'm a bit stunned by that reply, to be honest.

Not too stunned to say thanks though, I greatly appreciate the reply.

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michaellynn9
PGL

Sgt (A/RSM) Ernest Bowthorpe, sadly, committed suicide on 2nd September 1917, shooting himself in the head. He was buried the following day. This would have meant a board of inquiry into the circumstances of his death, however the proceedings appear not have survived, assuming that one took place.

TR

Hi Terry, many thanks for this information, I hope you don't mind if I ask a couple of other questions.

Would you have any idea when A/RSM Bowthorpe joined the Royal Engineers Special Brigade, and how did he end up in the Special Brigade?

He married my great grandmother in Belfast in November 1915, and at that time he was a SM in the Norfolk Regiment. The Norfolks had been based in Hollywood near Belfast before the war, so that explains what he was doing in Ireland. I have read through all the posts here and it appears that many of the men in the Brigade were "headhunted", could this have been the case here?

Any info would be much appreciated.

Michael

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Terry_Reeves

Michael

From 1916 onwards, transfer to the Brigade was compulsory. Ernest Bowthorpe was probably transferred because of his rank, to fill a specific post. His number suggests he was transferred around August 1916. A large number of men from the Royal Artillery and the infantry were sent to the Brigade at this time.

TR

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michaellynn9
Michael

From 1916 onwards, transfer to the Brigade was compulsory. Ernest Bowthorpe was probably transferred because of his rank, to fill a specific post. His number suggests he was transferred around August 1916. A large number of men from the Royal Artillery and the infantry were sent to the Brigade at this time.

TR

Many thanks Terry, I appreciate your coming back to me.

Michael

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KevinBattle

I apologise in advance for not having tracked through the previous 10 pages of posts, but I wonder if you have this chap?

Name: BAKER, GEORGE. Rank: Driver

Regiment/Service: Army Service Corps

Unit Text: Mechanical Transport,

Secondary Regiment: Royal Engineers

Secondary Unit Text: attd "G" Special Coy.

Age: 24. Date of Death: 29/04/1918

Service No: M/299984

Additional information: Son of Henry and Mary Ellen Baker, of "Holmwood," Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London.

Grave/Memorial Reference: VI. A. 13. Cemetery: CHOCQUES MILITARY CEMETERY

I'm just refreshing the Acton and Chiswick areas RoH's and came across this. If you have any further information to help flesh out this chap, I would appreciate it.

Whilst here, do you have anything to add for this chap too? I know it's not a Special Company, but if I don't ask I'll never know what you might have!!

Name: PENDEREL-BRODHURST, BERNARD RICHARD. Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers

Unit Text: 82nd Field Coy.

Age: 27. Date of Death: 01/10/1918

Additional information: Son of James George Joseph and Henrietta Lee Penderel Brodhurst, of Churchdale House, Harvard Rd., Chiswick, London; husband of Winifred Hadley (formerly Swain), of 3632, Third Avenue West, Vancouver City, British Columbia. Formerly 13th Kensington Bn. London Regt. and Artists' Rifles.

Grave/Memorial Reference: V. C. 2. Cemetery: ST. VAAST POST MILITARY CEMETERY, RICHEBOURG-L'AVOUE

Thanks in advance, Kevin

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Terry_Reeves

Kevin

I can't help with the specifics for either man, the best place to look is the National Archives. For George Baker, you should consult WO 95/242 for G Company's War Diary and see if it provides any information about his death.

Penderel-Brodhurst has a file at the NA: WO 374/53306 PENDEREL-BRODHURST, 2/Lieut B R 1914-1918

TR

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tweety396

Hi,

I'm afraid that I haven't searched through all of the pages to see if you have this information already but I wanted to add details of my relative.

Name: Samuel Oakes

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment: Royal Engineers

Unit: "Z" Special Company

Age: 21

Date of death: 06/05/1917

Addition information: Son of Frank William and Mary Oakes of 36 Burngreave St, Pitsmoor, Sheffield.

Transferred to Royal Engineers from 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster. We think he had been studying engineering at university before the war. Killed in action near Vimy, possibly escorting a convoy that got bombarded though providing an escort is not what "Z" company did on a regular basis. Buried in Beaulencourt British Cemetry near Ligny-Thilloy.

I would be interested if you can add any more information about him and hope what I have may be helpful.

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Terry_Reeves

TamPhilSam

Thanks very much for your post.

Pre-war, Samuel Oakes was a student studying for his Inter BSc at Sheffield. He served in the ranks of the Y & L and attended Cadet School. He was commissioned into the 12th East Yorkshire Regiment as Temporary 2 Lt on 10.6.16 and was transferred to the RE in the same rank on 10.11.16, serving with Z Company.

The company, with its HQ at Bienvilliers, was tasked to take 250 Livens Projectors along with their associated propellant charges and detonators to a forward position in 20 GS horse drawn wagons, led by guides from Z Company. The position was 250 yards below the crest of a ridge and they were met there by men from G and P companies who were to assist in carrying in the equipment.

The incident in which he was killed was the Special Brigade's biggest single loss of life during the war. It was recorded by Lt Bansall of Z Company and took place near Vaulx.

"The first ten wagons, containing the projectors only, had arrived at their destination and had been off - loaded with the exception of one, of which one horse was wounded and the wagon temporarily abandoned, but this was only a very short distance from the off-loading point. Carrying parties, each of a strength of 54 under an officer, were provided by G and P Special Companies R.E. to assist in the work of moving the material from the off-loading point to the firing point.. These parties were commencing their task when two other GS wagons containing the charges arrived, one of which off-loaded, and the other rendered derelict by casualties to the horses at the off-loading point. Four more wagons then appeared on the scene, containing the bombs. (All these wagons were at intervals of 100 yards) Unfortunately, the carrying parties were grouped thickly round the off-loading point, when a chance shell, probably from a minenwerfer, either struck the wagon containing the propellant charges, or landed on the ground immediately beside it. All the propellants were exploded, and then it was that 90 percent of the casualties occurred.

Immediately after the explosion, the enemy proceeded to search the ground behind the ridge with every piece of artillery that he could bring to bear against it. By this time, however, the survivors from the explosion had taken cover in "cubby holes" in the sunken road nearby, but during the bombardment a shell, landing on the top of the bank of the sunken road, buried more or less completely some seven or eight members of this unit. Of these, all were recovered except two. One however, died immediately afterwards. The other two were buried beneath several tons of earth, and the rescue was impossible."

Casualties in the Special Brigade were 14 killed from Z Company, 9 killed from G Company and 21 killed from P Company. In addition there were 5 Killed and 1 wounded from the ASC contingent. With the wounded the total casualties numbered 88. 9 of the 80 horses used in the operation also died.

TR

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Guest HenryHallett

These are the details of my great grandfather:

Pioneer Eric Hallett

193433

Roll: RE 101 B or 13 / 113

I am very interested in what he did in the forces and would appreciate any info. I have been told by my father that he was in the special brigade and "did stuff like throw gas behing enemy lines" - clearly dad wasn't that interested.

Thanks,

Henry

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Terry_Reeves

Henry

As your father intimated, he was involved in chemical warfare. Formation mentioned was formed in the summer of 1915 as the Special Companies RE, as a means of retaliating against the first German gas attack in Belgium in April of the same year. In early 1916 the four original special companies were expanded into a Brigade sized formation of 5 Battalions. Their principle objective was to dispense various gases from cylinders, Livens Projectors ( a crude but very effective mortar) and the 4 inch Stokes Mortar. Some units of the Brigade were responsible, for a short period, for flame weapons. The Brigade also launched smoke barrages and Thermite bombs. His service record appears not to have survived, which makes it difficult in the extreme to find out his precise unit which would throw more light on his activities.

His number suggests that he enlisted in the latter part of 1915, but did not go to France until the following year. Donald Richter's book Chemical Soldiers gives a good account of their development and activities. Published by Leo Cooper, 1994. ISBN 0 85052 388 5

TR

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bruce

Terry

Do you have anything more on one of "mine"?

W. McMillin was at Liverpool University. A Pioneer in the RE, the CWGC has him as 2nd Bn., Special Bde., whilst SDGW has him in the third.

He was killed on 25.7.16 and is buried in Y Farm Mil. Cem., Bois-Grenier.

I have a pic of his headstone, if it would help.

Intriguingly, he was born in Everton, enlisted in Liverpool, but his residence was chatham in kent!

Bruce

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Terry_Reeves

Bruce

I have no information about him I'm afraid, nor can I find any record of a Special Brigade operation on that date. It is possible however, that he may have been involved in setting up for a future operation, as they took some time to arrange.

TR

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tweety396

Hi Terry,

I just wanted to say thank you very much for the additional information you were able to give regarding my relative. I have passed the details on to other members of my family, it is of a very personal interest to me as we named our first child after him so I would hope in the future our son too would be interested to hear about his great, great (and perhaps another great!) uncle.

Thanks again.

Tammy

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PeterF
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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