Friday, October 23, 2009

59 Sqn History Outline 1945 - 1960

59 Field Company
1945 – 1960

November 1945
Major RP Hutchinson assumed command of the Company.

January 1946
Major AE Arnold assumed command of the Company.

January 1947
The Company moved to Athens, Greece.
Here they built their 21st Bridge, which has included all types of Bailey bridges, plus reinforced concrete types.
The Company moved to Egypt.

May 1947
59 Field Company disbanded or held in “suspended animation”, having no set role in ORBAT.
32 Assault Regiment formed up in Perham Down (Tidworth).
This was the first of its kind in the World.
59 Company was reformed as 44 Field Company.

44 Field Company re-titled 59 Field Squadron.
The title “Squadron” was usually held by the RAF, this was the first time that an Army Unit was given this Title.

1952 Royal Engineer Cap Badge Change
The Cap Badge change incorporated a few changes:
Change of Monarch
Change of design
Change of colour

Centre section (Garter) changed from GR to ER. King George to Queen Elizabeth.

1889 to 1952 1952 to Present
The centre Garter saw Royal Engineers removed and placed on a scroll below the garter, replaced with “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense” = Evil to him, who evil thinks”
The colour changed from Bronze to Gold & Silver.

Un-changed since 10th July 1832, was the Motto “Ubique” = “Everywhere”, worn under the “Bomb, mounted on the epaulet and then moved to the collar, made of Brass.
The number of flames to the grenade in 1922 was set as nine-flamed grenade.

59 Field Squadron re-titled 59 Airfield Construction Squadron.
Still based at Perham Down.

January 1955
The Squadron assisted 32 Assault Regiment, to carry out Divisional crossings of the River Avon.
Afterwards, the Squadron helped Recce three sites for the RAF, for possible new Airfields in Somerset/North Devon areas.

August 1956
The Squadron left 32 Assault Regiment and Perham Down.
The Squadron formed up at Chatham, under command of the School of Military Engineering (SME).

November 1957
Major CTP Holland assumed command of the Squadron.
The Squadron then moved to Ripon, under command of 38 Corps Engineer Regiment, in preparation for the move to Christmas Island.

Christmas Island - Operation Grapple
The British Independent development of a series of Nuclear weapons began in 1952 and ended in 1958.
The first couple of series of tests, were conducted near the Monte Bello Islands, off the north west coast of Australia.
By 1955, it was decided to test a megaton weapon, which would be ready in 1957.
Christmas Island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was chosen.
The Engineers were tasked with constructing the base camp, a balloon anchorage complex, roads, water, electrical supllies, two airfields, port facilities and a flying boat port.

Major Engineer Units:
Jan 56 – Mar 57 28 Field Engineer Regiment
12, 55, 71 Field Squadrons
64 Field Park Squadron

Aug 57 – Feb 58 25 Field Engineer Regiment
37, 39 Field Squadrons

Feb 58 – Nov 58 38 Corps Engineer Regiment
48, 59, 61 Field Squadrons
63 Field Park Squadron

Nov 58 – Nov 59 36 Corps Engineer Regiment
20, 24, 57 Field Squadrons
46 Field Park Squadron
After evacuation of the Island in May 1960, 73 Field Squadron assumed the care and maintenance of the Island, until it was fully restored to the Gilbertese inhabitants in 1964.

February 1958 - Christmas Island
OC - Major C. Holland
SSM - WO2 L. Batty

The Squadron was deployed to Christmas Island, tasked with constructing 55 miles of roads using the conventional Barbour-Knox Ashphalters. The Squadron had to quarry its own rock, using explosives and intensive use of D7 & D8 Bulldozers.
The Squadron was also tasked to build a second Airfield.

October 1957
The Squadron was deployed to 17 Port Training Regiment at Marchwood.
Each day, the Squadron travelled to Hurn Testing Grounds, to be taught how to use the Barber-Greene layer & finisher. Which we were to operate on Christmas Island.
Under the instruction of M.E.X.E. staff, the Squadron mastered the complicated operating techniques and laid several miles of road, in the testing area.

November 1957
Flown out to Christmas Island, flying across America.
A prolonged delay was caused by no Star-mixers.
All we could do, was prepare the working areas, amass heaps of crushed rock from the Quarry.

January 1958
Finally our Mixers arrived and were set-up.
Laying started on the 13th January.
We were organised into two sections:
Dawn to Mid-day
Mid-day to Dusk
Each Section had 15 men (theoretically), a Sgt in charge, a Checker, a Layer operator, a Screed operator, two Roller drivers, two Surveyors, three Shovel men, two Rakers, one Brazier man and a Fordson tractor driver.
Sgts Sumpton and Kray were in charge of the shifts
It was quickly found that laying an Aircraft hardstanding, was totally different to a road, laying to a specified depth was harder to achieve.
Keeping in a straight line was the hardest and soon the Barber-Greene's became "Wavy-Davy" by title.
To obtain a Plane Surface, the hardstandings had been Surveyed and levels calculated, a system of wooden blocks varying from 1/4 inch to 2 inch thick, were built up to the required depth and placed on the ground in front of the Barber-Greenes at 10ft intervals. The two Surveyors were responsible for setting out these blocks and checking them with boning rods.
Sprs Ablett & Eeles were the Barber-Greene operators and tasked with keeping "Wavy-Davy" in a straight line.
The afternoon shift was hated by the Roller drivers, for the ashphalt took an extra 1/2hr to cool to rolling temperature.
Sprs Ross & Johnstone have spent numerous evenings, after everyone has left, on thier knees feeling for ridges and peering at the mountainous bumps shown up by the tractor headlights.
Spr Thompson had the difficult job of filling the 1,000 gallon Water Bowser from a lagoon, without getting it bogged down.
Sprs Tinsley & Theobald had the dirtiest job, they used the M.C.I spraying system.
From early morning until late at night, they could be found filling, heating or spraying thier M.C.I, laying a tack coat. The frequent site of these two bitumen-coated figures, trundling to or from the laying site, will be remembered by all.
During this time, the mixing Plant steadily increased, until a record of some 62 tons per hour was reached.
The Barber-Greene could lay 120 tons per hour, but this was not reached, until the Starmixers 40 & 38 had thier machines at full stride.
Then with a single strip of road 12 ft wide, progress finally reached one mile per day.
12,000 tons were laid on the Airfield in two months and since then, 20 miles of double road and 12 miles of single road have been laid, part of this 12 miles was done by the advance party of our relief squadron, here to learn the secrets of our trade.

December 1958
The Squadron returned to Hoo, Kent, under command of the SME.
The Squadron was commanded by Major James, 2IC was Captain "Taffy" Ward, with SSM Black and SQMS Holdstock.
When Major James left, he was followed by Major Hugh Cunningham (susequently General).
When Capt. Ward left, he was followed by Capt. Simpson.

February 1958
It is believed that the Squadron absorbed 66 Independent Field Squadron, whilst based at Hoo, still carrying out Combat Engineer Training.
The Squadron demonstrated various items of equipment, including Rafts on the River Medway.
Upnor Hard 1959

There was Industrial problems in the Docks during this time, the Squadron was sent to Marchwood to learn how to load and unload ships.
This was before Containers, ships cargo was unloaded and loaded by Stevedores, on a first in and last out principle.
This training proved useful in the Cameroons.

January 1959
The Squadron came under orders to move to Southern Cameroons.

The 1st Kings Own Royal Border Regiment were sent out to replace the Nigerian Army and along with the RAF at Mumba and Barmenda, would form part of the Battalion Group.
59 Field Squadron were tasked to help with administration problems, plus help the Area Works Officer and his team, to construct accommodation Camps.

The Battalion Group were there to cover the period of the Nigerian Independence on 1st October 1960, and the British Cameroons Plebiscite on 11th February 1961.
The administration became confused even more than normal, due to a Mau Mau type Rebellion, being waged across the Territories Eastern Border, in the Republic of Kameroun.
Fulane Horseman
August 1959
Buea was the Administrative Capital.
The Squadron flew out to the Southern Cameroons, a month before the main body was due.
The Squadron was reduced in size to 152 All Ranks – HQ section, 2 x Small Troops and a sizeable Plant section.
Those left behind, moved into Gordon Barracks and continued to support SME.

6th August
LST “Empire Curlew” ( A Tank Landing Ship) loaded 75 of our vehicles in Cardiff Harbour, complete with Stores, total of 400 tons. A Small group of lads travelled on the ship.

The Main body of the Squadron flew out to Lagos in Nigeria, where they joined the ship.
The ship sailed down the Coast and docked at Tiko, a small Port, normally used for Ships carrying Bananas and Timber Exports.

After arriving in the Cameroons, the vehicles were lifted off by the “Curlews” derricks. The vehicles were then driven along the railway line, by men soaked by rain and sweat from the high humidity.
The 400 tons of Stores took 2.5 days to un-load onto the railway, working 24 hours a day.
The Ship returned to Lagos for the next flight of troops in.

12th August - Buea camp
The first flight arrived at Buea Camp (30 miles Inland), where the advance party helping the AWO had set up basic accommodation and facilities.

The Camp had to house 64 Officers, 100 Sergeants and 600 Ranks, it had to be completed in 4 weeks.
A Tent City was started to be erected.
In the first week, all the hut foundations (CGI Huts for Offices and Stores) were laid and the site took an ‘orderly’ look. Though due to the heavy rains, foundations would be washed away overnight, indeed, even walls vanished.
Due to the main part of the 1st flight being drivers and administration, local labour had to be used.
18th August
The 2nd Flight arrived – 2 Troop.
They immediately tackled the water problem, allowing foundation building to be secure.

23rd August
The 3rd flight arrived, with the remainder of 1 Troop.
Building the Camp huts began in full earnest, with a working day being 14-16 hours long, 7 days a week.
In 4 weeks, the entire Base was completed.
Capt R. Simpson 2 i/c

The 1st Kings Own Royal Border Regiment arrived on the Troopship “Devonshire”, which had sailed on the 31st August.

1 Troop moved up country to Bamenda, with a French Foreign Legion Liason Officer, to cover trouble in the French Cameroons.

The Squadron tackled the road problem from Buea to Bamenda, which was a dirt track. This was flattened and widened in 1960.
The only Tarmac road on our arrival, was from the Coast to Buea.
The Squadron sent out Patrols into the jungle along the border and although the Squadron seized some small arms, by and large, the country was peaceful.
The Plebiscite took place without trouble and the Country joined the French Cameroons and became the present Kameroon.
Everyone enjoyed trips down the coast and on occassions, stayed in an old Plantation House, where there was good Fishing available.
Alternative Witchcraft Medicine.
The Squadron returned to Chatham on the SS Asturias.
The Squadron was disbanded, shortly after its return.

Story taken up in 1963 Reformation - section.