Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Terry_Reeves

Royal Engineers Special Brigade

Recommended Posts

Terry_Reeves
On 24/01/2017 at 23:32, RobertH said:

William Frederick Smallman 113439 Corporal

 

My great uncle.  As far as I can work out from various bits of documentation, as a 19 year old schoolteacher he enlisted into the 14th (T) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham Batt?) (Private No. 1114) 11 Dec 1914.  From his "Statement of the Services " it looks as though he was transferred to RE Chatham 31 July 1917?, and posted to M? company Royal Engineers 2 Sept 1915 (and promoted same day Pioneer to Corporal). According to another document he was in the 187th company 1st Special Battalion. He later applied for Admission to an Officer Cadet Unit (and a commission in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers) and his own application stamped 6 Dec 1917  says he served in no. 1 (or I? ) Special Company RE (mortar). He got his commission 29 May 1918 and embarked for India 19 July 1918, spending nearly the next 20 years there (and Burma). 

 

I assume from the date of him joining the RE's it is likely that he was involved in the Battle of Loos 25 September 1915, I would be interested to know how I could find out more information about him.

 

Many thanks.  

 

 

Robert

 

The 14th Bn RWR was a Kitchener Battalion not a territorial one. Authorisation was given to raise it on 2.8.14 and it was raised by the Mayor and City of Birmingham.  It is likely that he was a science master given that in 1915 the majority of men being recruited directly from civilian life or from other units were supposed to have some experience in chemistry.  His transfer to Chatham would have taken place  on 31 July 1915 and he was sent to "M" Company which was the depot company that most of the early specials were sent to prior to embarking for France.  Once there, they were sent to the newly established depot company at Helfaut, some 4 miles south of St Omer. It is likely he was billeted in one of the surrounding villages.

 

You are correct in thinking that he was a at Loos. Unfortunately there are no war diaries for these early companies.  At the beginning of 1916 the SB was expanded into a brigade, and the first four companies formed the basis of the battalions within the brigade. It is quite possible that he served with  1st Mortar Company, part of 5th Battalion. They have a War Diary which can be downloaded for a small fee from the National Archives website. 5th battalion covers 1 March 1916-31 August 1916 only and does not cover individual companies in much detail, but needs to be read. In February 1917 the individual companies became responsible for their own administration and kept their own diaries.

 

The references are:

5th Battalion WO95/122/3.

 

No 1 Special Mortar Company (four downloads)  WO95/487/1,   487/2   487/3 and 487/4.

 

A good general account of the Special Brigade is Donald Richters book Chemical Soldiers. ISBN 0-85052-388-5 

 

Hope this helps.

 

TR

 

 

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

Manipled Mutineer

 

His number was issued January/February 1916.  Unfortunately it is not possible to tell what battalion her served with as the numbers were spread across the Brigade.

 

A cylinder company was about 300 strong each divided into sections, a section being the RE equivalent of the infantry platoon. The number of sections varied. In 1915 there were 10 per company. On expansion into a brigade in 1916 there were 6 per company, but the sections were increased in size. In 1917 a further reorganisation saw the number of sections decreased to 5 but the men from the disbanded sections were shared out across the other sections in the company.

 

2nd Cpl Bromley would have been part of one of these sections, carrying in cylinders, often with substantial help from the infantry, digging the emplacements and setting up the cylinders and discharge pipes. He would have also beem responsible for the opening of a number of cylinders. With the introduction of the Livens projector in 1917, the cylinder companies were also responsible for digging these in and preparing them for firing.

 

TR

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Manipled Mutineer

Thanks Terry, that's very helpful and informative. I was relying on the helpful hints in Williamson, volume 3 for the tentative identification of the battalion  but I see that I can't place reliance on that. Sadly no service record is available, that I can find.  If I find out any positive information I would be delighted to share it, if still of interest?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

Thanks, I would be pleased to see any  information you might find.

 

TR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
brianmorris547

 

Terry

I am researching 21 Infantry Brigade, 7 Div at Loos 25/09/1915 and in particular 2 Yorkshire Regt in which my great uncle served. The Brigade WD (WO 95/1658/1) reports that the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Yorkshire Regt supplied carrying parties of 1020 men on the nights of 18th to 21st September inclusive to move 248, 264, 25 and 40 cylinders respectively to the front trenches. Each cylinder weighed 180 lbs and required 4 men wearing smoke helmets to carry it. There are reports of the discharge of the gas in the WD. Was this just the allotment for 7 Div. 

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves
1 hour ago, brianmorris547 said:

 

Terry

I am researching 21 Infantry Brigade, 7 Div at Loos 25/09/1915 and in particular 2 Yorkshire Regt in which my great uncle served. The Brigade WD (WO 95/1658/1) reports that the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Yorkshire Regt supplied carrying parties of 1020 men on the nights of 18th to 21st September inclusive to move 248, 264, 25 and 40 cylinders respectively to the front trenches. Each cylinder weighed 180 lbs and required 4 men wearing smoke helmets to carry it. There are reports of the discharge of the gas in the WD. Was this just the allotment for 7 Div. 

Brian

Brian, in short , yes.  The original estimates for 1 Corps were 2850 cylinders, but there was a shortage of them, the cylinders having to come from the UK to Audruicq and sent on to Loos. As late of the 24 September cylinders were still arriving.

TR

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
brianmorris547

Terry

Thank you

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Manipled Mutineer

Terry, one more question  if I may - to your knowledge, when men were drafted out of the infantry to support the expansion of the Brigade, was thereally any criteria applied regarding their prior experience, such that I might try and use in cross-examining the Census data to try and find my man?

 

Many thanks, 

 

Anthony 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves
On 12/02/2017 at 23:50, Manipled Mutineer said:

Terry, one more question  if I may - to your knowledge, when men were drafted out of the infantry to support the expansion of the Brigade, was thereally any criteria applied regarding their prior experience, such that I might try and use in cross-examining the Census data to try and find my man?

 

Many thanks, 

 

Anthony 

Anthony

 

No there wasn't. In fact CH Foulkes the  commander of the SB had realised before Loos that experience of chemistry was not really needed and informed the War Office of his view.

 

TR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Manipled Mutineer

Thanks Terry, that's useful to know. 

 

Regards,  Anthony 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Neill Gilhooley

Morning, Hope this is relevant - transfer to Chem. Sect?

1. Thomson, Thomas No.2051 Pte 9th Royal Scots. Address: Poulton Priory Farm, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Attested 28.8.14, age 25 yrs 1 mons. 14.9.15 to R.E. (Chem. Sect) - Enlistment Book

2. Thomson, Thomas RS Pte, Cpl 2051; RE 120616; RGA 2/Lt. France 26.2.15, Comm 21.7.18. Address: Board of Agriculture for Scotland, York Bldgs, Queen St, Edinburgh - MIC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

Neill

 

Many thanks, that is useful.

 

TR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ann Gordon

Can I add someone who served as Pioneer 129961 5th Bn Special Bde Royal Engineers?  His name is Ernest Goldie from Glasgow (born in Dundee). He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He was killed in action on Monday 9th October 1916. Prior to being in the Special Brigade, Ernest (my father's older brother) was Private, no: 4103, in the Highland Light Infantry, 9th Scottish Provisional Battalion.  He was born 23/03/1897, so was 18 yrs 7mths when he was killed.  A family history tells of him going home on leave to Glasgow only a few weeks before he was killed. His Mother and the woman who did the laundry had emptied his kit into a tub and poured in powder to kill the lice and fleas that infested the men in the army.  He was tall and goodlooking and was missed by his family for the rest of their lives.  I believe that when leave was granted, men going home to Scotland got a bit longer leave granted to them.  My sons and I would like to try and pinpoint (as near as is possible) where he may have lost his life - we think it may have been near Beaumont Hamel but so much was going on in the Thiepval area its hard to tell.  He was enlisted into Special Bde RE on 27/07/1916, so survived less than 3 months.

Any more info would be greatly appreciated. My son, a teacher at an army school, has just returned from the Somme with his class of 10 year olds and all - including the children - were greatly moved by the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Neill Gilhooley
On 20/06/2009 at 13:18, Simon Jones said:

2/Lt Bruce, R., 15th HLI.

Going back some now, but R. Bruce from ranks Royal Scots TF to comm 15th HLI could be:

Robert Bruce, 9th Royal Scots Pte 1471; comm 15th HLI 4.4.15 2/Lt; R.E. Major

https://neillgilhooley.com/9th-royal-scots/index/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves
13 hours ago, Ann Gordon said:

Can I add someone who served as Pioneer 129961 5th Bn Special Bde Royal Engineers?  His name is Ernest Goldie from Glasgow (born in Dundee). He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He was killed in action on Monday 9th October 1916. Prior to being in the Special Brigade, Ernest (my father's older brother) was Private, no: 4103, in the Highland Light Infantry, 9th Scottish Provisional Battalion.  He was born 23/03/1897, so was 18 yrs 7mths when he was killed.  A family history tells of him going home on leave to Glasgow only a few weeks before he was killed. His Mother and the woman who did the laundry had emptied his kit into a tub and poured in powder to kill the lice and fleas that infested the men in the army.  He was tall and goodlooking and was missed by his family for the rest of their lives.  I believe that when leave was granted, men going home to Scotland got a bit longer leave granted to them.  My sons and I would like to try and pinpoint (as near as is possible) where he may have lost his life - we think it may have been near Beaumont Hamel but so much was going on in the Thiepval area its hard to tell.  He was enlisted into Special Bde RE on 27/07/1916, so survived less than 3 months.

Any more info would be greatly appreciated. My son, a teacher at an army school, has just returned from the Somme with his class of 10 year olds and all - including the children - were greatly moved by the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Ann 

 

Thanks very much.  The only operation that took place on the date he was killed was North East and North  of Wulverghem, Belgium,  at 1:30 am against 119. 121 and 125 Infantry Regiments.  Unfortunately  the September to October war diaries for 5th battalion are missing so there is no detail. 

 

I will have a look around and see if there is any further information.

 

TR

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ann Gordon

Can I add someone who served as Pioneer 129961 5th Bn Special Bde Royal Engineers?  His name is Ernest Goldie from Glasgow (born in Dundee). He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He was killed in action on Monday 9th October 1916. Prior to being in the Special Brigade, Ernest (my father's older brother) was Private, no: 4103, in the Highland Light Infantry, 9th Scottish Provisional Battalion.  He was born 23/03/1897, so was 18 yrs 7mths when he was killed.  A family history tells of him going home on leave to Glasgow only a few weeks before he was killed. His Mother and the woman who did the laundry had emptied his kit into a tub and poured in powder to kill the lice and fleas that infested the men in the army.  He was tall and goodlooking and was missed by his family for the rest of their lives.  I believe that when leave was granted, men going home to Scotland got a bit longer leave granted to them.  My sons and I would like to try and pinpoint (as near as is possible) where he may have lost his life - we think it may have been near Beaumont Hamel but so much was going on in the Thiepval area its hard to tell.  He was enlisted into Special Bde RE on 27/07/1916, so survived less than 3 months.

Any more info would be greatly appreciated. My son, a teacher at an army school, has just returned from the Somme with his class of 10 year olds and all - including the children - were greatly moved by the experience.

 

 

Thanks Terry, I will look forward to anything you may be able to add to what we know so far - I am currently reading 'Chemical Soldiers' and other books but can't pinpoint anything definite.

Ann

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
brianmorris547

Terry

I did a FMP search on two names that appear in the Times OCL 29/09/1916, 129889 Sgt Jones J and 120568 Cpl Milnes A H today and it came back with a Court of Enquiry report into two men of the Special Brigade who were accidentally gassed in August 1916. Sgt Jones and Cpl Milnes are the first two witnesses named in the report. The papers are in the service record of 112150 James Burns who was one of the men accidentally gassed.

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

Brian

 

Many thanks.

 

TR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stiletto_33853

Terry,

 

I wonder if you could assist me regarding "Special Brigade, R.E. Factory" at Attaques. There is a 143063 James Ronnie Gibson, ex 12821 Highland Light Infantry that has popped up. He was interviewed at the factory and offered a Temporary Commission in an Infantry unit. Attended Gains Park Public School, Lanarkshire.

T/2nd Lt. 31/10/17, T/Lt. 1/5/19, joined the 8th RB on 10/1/18.

Never come across this Special Brigade Factory and was wondering their role within the Special Brigade.

 

Andy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

Andy

 

It was the phosgene filling plant at Coulogne on the outskirts of Calais. It was  a civilian factory owned by the De Laire family, who had originally been perfumiers and  had been closed for the war. The plant was used for producing phosgene for the leather and dye industries. The Ministry of Munitions took it over and sent out civilian workers from the UK, but it turned out to be a bit of a disaster, the men were apparently rather lazy and often drunk. In 1916 the Special Brigade took it over for the duration of the war, sending 200 men to work there. Later a mortar filling section was  set up, to fill 4 inch Stokes mortar bombs with phosgene

 

The men were quartered at Les Attaques, some 5kms  from Coulogne, where the SB also had their central cylinder store and employed an officer and some 30 men. They were co-located with 1st Base Park Company.

 

The factory still stands on the canal side on Rue d' Amerique and is still a chemical plant.  On the opposite side of the canal  is the appropriately named Rue du Gaz. It can be found on Google maps.

 

For your interest ASgt Gibson transferred to the SB in early 1916 as part of a mass transfer of mainly infantrymen to the 

 to the SB.

 

If I can help further let me know..

 

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stiletto_33853

Thank you very much Terry, great information. Just closing a few loose ends with the 8th Officers. If you would like his papers let me know WO374/27093, I presume he applied for a job in The Metropolitan Police after the war as New Scotland Yard wrote to the War Office asking for details on his service.

 

Thanks again.

 

Andy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves
3 minutes ago, stiletto_33853 said:

Thank you very much Terry, great information. Just closing a few loose ends with the 8th Officers. If you would like his papers let me know WO374/27093, I presume he applied for a job in The Metropolitan Police after the war as New Scotland Yard wrote to the War Office asking for details on his service.

 

Thanks again.

 

Andy

Andy, thanks. I would be pleased to see them.

 

TR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
craighasten

These are from a box of buttons and badges which I assume belonged to my great uncle who served with iM Company (George Spencer Ferguson). Are the ribbons part if the uniform?: there are red, green and back, 2 inches long and attached to a hollow glass tube with a rubber cap

 

IMG_0426.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry_Reeves

 Craig

 

The ribbons are nor part of the uniform, however in 1915 the SB was issued with a green, red and white arm band, the colours of the Italian flag,chosen by their command CH Foulkes to mark  Italy joining the war.  The Special Brigade and Divisional Gas Officers did use glass bulbs to take air samples when units were subjected to a gas attack. These were then sent to the Central Laboratory at Hesdin to determine what gas was used. I can't say the tube you have is one though as I have never seen one.

 

A thought has occurred to me however, the tube may be an ammonia capsule that SB men carried in case they inhaled drift gas.

 

TR

 

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
craighasten

Thanks Terry, presumably the ribbons would then indicate what the phial contained. I'll check with the RE Museum when it reopens in case they know. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...