Chemical Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

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Chemical Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 02:03

Earlier tonight I began chasing down details of the Royal Engineers' Chemical Warfare companies....and especially how many of them existed as of September 1940 - the main Sealion invasion window - and in turn by the end of the year.

At this page http://www.orbat.com/site/uk_orbats/fil ... r%20II.pdf I found a COMPLETE listing for the Chemical Warfare Groups R.E. and constituent Companies for the period 1939-1945.

I have highlighted those Chemical Warfare units existing in the UK as of the end of 1940 in Red....

1st Chem Warfare Group RE Served with BEF 1939-40. IN GHQ Reserve Sep 1940 and
Dec 1941.
Arrived in India 11 Jun 1942. Converted 1 May 1943 as HQ XV Indian Corps Troops
Engineers.
Formed with 58th, 61st and 62nd Chem Warfare Coys RE. Added 67th Chem Warfare Coy RE by Dec 1941. (Seems to have been in existence as early as Sept. 1940 - my note)
2nd Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Sep 1940, when under WO Reserve in Home
Forces. Under GHQ Reserve Dec 1941.
Group later broken up.
Formed with 64th, 65th, 66th, and 67th Chem Warfare Coys RE. 67th Chem Warfare Coy RE gone
by Dec 1941 and 74th Chem Warfare Coy RE added.
3rd Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Sep 1940, when under WO Reserve in Home
Forces. Under GHQ Reserve Dec 1941.
Group later broken up (or possibly used to form 6th Army
Troops RE).
Formed with 68th, 69th and 70th Chem Warfare Coys RE. Added 75th Chem Warfare Coy RE by
Dec 1941.
4th Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Dec 1941 when under GHQ Reserve in Home
Forces. Group later broken up (or possibly used to form 7th Army Troops RE).
Formed with 71st, 72nd, 73rd and 76th Chem Warfare Coys RE.
5th Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Dec 1941 when under GHQ Reserve in Home
Forces. Placed under First Army Jul 1942. Converted 1943 as 5th GHQ Troops RE.
Formed with 77th, 79th, 80th , 86th and 87th Chem Warfare Coys RE. By Jul 1942 reduced to 77th,
79th and 86th Chem Warfare Coys RE.
6th Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Dec 1941 when under BTNI in Home Forces.
Converted 1943 as 6th GHQ Troops RE.
Organized with 81st and 82nd Chem Warfare Coys RE. May have added 87th by Jul 1942.
7th Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Dec 1941 when under GHQ Reserve in Home
Forces. Placed under First Army Jul 1942. Group later broken up (possibly converted as 7th GHQ
Troops RE).
Formed with 83rd, 84th, 85th and 88th Chem Warfare Coys RE. By Jul 1942 reduced to 83rd, 84th
and 85th Chem Warfare Coys RE.
8th Chem Warfare Group RE Raised in 1940. Converted 1943 as 8th GHQ Troops RE.
Organized with 89th, 90th, and 91st Chem Warfare Coys RE.
9th Chem Warfare Group RE Formed by Dec 1941 when under GHQ Reserve in Home
Forces. Disbanded or redesignated by 1943.
Organized with 92nd, 93rd and 94th Chem Warfare Coys RE.

Three chemical warfare training battalions were formed Sep 1939 and disbanded Jul 1943; designations unknown
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 10 May 2011 02:12, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 02:09

A first count gives me TEN Chemical Warfare Companies R.E. organised in three Chemical Warfare Groups (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) existing in the UK as of September 1940 and held in GHQ/WO Reserve...

...with a further THREE Chemcial Warfare Companies R.E. coming into existence some time before the end of 1940 as "8th Chemical Warfare Group RE"

In addition there were three Chemical Warfare training battalions in the UK as of 1940, whereabouts as yet unidentified.
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 02:17

Interestingly, the file WO 166/3580 for June 1940-1942 for the 67th Chemcial Warfare Coy held at the National Archive at Kew.....is sealed for another 29 years!

I have yet to check similar files for the other Chemical Warfare Coys...but I will :wink:

But in the meantime - until I reach the age of sevety-seven :lol: - can anyone assist me with the whereabouts/postings of at least those ten CW Coys of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chemical Warfare Groups during the summer months of 1940?
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Dunserving » 10 May 2011 13:19

Impressive bit of research. 77? Lucky beggar - by the time that file is opened I'll be heading into Telegram Territory (with thanks in advance to HM King Wiliam II or whatever he chooses to call himself when he gets the promotion).

Something must have happened for the file on one company to be sealed for 100 years - unless they all are.... Interesting.

It's clear that we had quite a capacity for using chemweps, and that each individual unit would have been comanded by a pretty junior officer. It would have to be - a company commander is usually a Major, not a Major-General - at least it is these days! Worth remembering that records may well show the location of the HQ of each company (Hawkhurst has been identifed for one on another thread) but the individual units would have been mobile - and when invasion considered imminent they would be spaced out along the likely coastal areas. Kent and Sussex, and not the entire coastline of the UK.

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Andy H » 10 May 2011 17:05

phylo_roadking wrote:Interestingly, the file WO 166/3580 for June 1940-1942 for the 67th Chemcial Warfare Coy held at the National Archive at Kew.....is sealed for another 29 years!

I have yet to check similar files for the other Chemical Warfare Coys...but I will :wink:

But in the meantime - until I reach the age of sevety-seven :lol: - can anyone assist me with the whereabouts/postings of at least those ten CW Coys of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chemical Warfare Groups during the summer months of 1940?
Hi Phylo

Save your candles I've spoken to the NA and that record is in fact OPEN and not closed for another 29yrs. The 29yrs is in relation to when the file was deposited with the NA. If a file is closed there is usually some info in how to obtain it under the FOI Act displayed when trying to order the doc. But on this doc if you click on the Ordering & Viewing options it will let do either. The women was very nice in explaining it-So no nasty melting soldier experiments for us to shock the world with :lol:

Regards

Andy H

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 18:41

Andy, thanks for that! Shall pursue...
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 18:56

In the meantime...elsewhere I've been supplied with a list of the WO files at Kew containing the Chem Warfare Groups/Coys' war diaries in 1940 -

WO 166/14 GENERAL HEADQUARTERS: Chemical Warfare (CW). 1940 July, Aug.
WO 166/3430 ROYAL ENGINEERS: CHEMICAL WARFARE GROUPS: 1 Chemical Warfare Group (CW). 1940 Apr., July - Dec. 1941 Feb.- Dec.
WO 166/3431 ROYAL ENGINEERS: CHEMICAL WARFARE GROUPS: 2 Chemical Warfare Group (CW). 1940 Dec.- 1941 Dec.
WO 166/3432 ROYAL ENGINEERS: CHEMICAL WARFARE GROUPS: 3 Chemical Warfare Group (CW). 1940 Sept.- 1941 Dec.
WO 166/3433 ROYAL ENGINEERS: CHEMICAL WARFARE GROUPS: 4 Chemical Warfare Group (CW). 1940 Oct.- 1941 Dec.
WO 166/3439 ROYAL ENGINEERS: CHEMICAL WARFARE GROUPS: 24 Chemical Warfare Group (CW). 1940 Oct.- 1941 July
WO 166/3575 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 61 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1939 Dec.-1940 Apr., Oct.-1941 Oct.
WO 166/3576 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 62 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Apr.-1941 Mar.
WO 166/3577 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 64 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 May - 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3578 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 65 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 June - 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3579 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 66 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 July - 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3580 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 67 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Aug.- 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3581 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 68 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Sept.- 1941 Sept.
WO 166/3582 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 69 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Sept.- 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3583 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 70 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Sept.- 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3584 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 74 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Dec.- 1941 Oct.
WO 166/3585 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 75 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Nov.- 1941 Nov.
WO 166/3586 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 76 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Nov.- Dec.
WO 166/3588 ROYAL ENGINEERS: COMPANIES: 78 Chemical Warfare Company (CW). 1940 Dec.- 1941 Oct.
WO 169/34 General Headquarters (GHQ): Chemical Warfare (CW) 1940 Aug.- Dec.

These are the files pertaining to the CW Groups/Coys BEFORE Dunkirk...

WO 167/855 Chemical Warfare (CW) Royal Engineers 1939 Sept.-1940 May
WO 167/885 1 Chemical Warfare Group Royal Engineers 1940 May-June
WO 167/920 58 Chemical Warfare (CW) Company Royal Engineers 1940 Mar.-May
WO 167/922 61 Chemical Warfare (CW) Company Royal Engineers 1940 May
WO 167/923 62 Chemical Warfare (CW) Company Royal Engineers 1940 May

I've a feeling the two I've highlighted might overall be the most interesting...
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 May 2011 20:22

In advance of getting hold of any of those, courtesy of ww2talk.com I've seen some of the content of WO 197/72 concerning the use of gas offensively and defensively in the BEF prior to the invasion of France.

In that file it was noted that one CW Group headquarters staff and three Chem Warfare Coys - the 58th, 61st and 62nd - had already arrived in France....and more were in training in England - I presume at the three training battalions. These were expected to arrive with the BEF at a rate of one per month...a rate that was accelerate to THREE per month after November 1940!

As we've seen, from April to September 1940 a further SEVEN joined the British Army - one more than was expected as of April 1940 :wink:

The document concerned - "The Offensive Use of Gas" - details the NORMAL equipment of a Chemical Warfare Comapny, Royal Engineers...

A CW company would have 240 Livens Projectors on its inventory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livens_Projector; a longer range item reaching out to 3,500 yards was in development as of April. I can find no trace of it in service so far...

The CW company also used the Ground Contamination Bomb - "Bomb, Ground, 6-lb" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomb,_ground,_6_lb as a defensive munition.

The "Chemical Mine" had the same characteristics of the Ground Contamination Bomb - but contained 4 gallons of Mustard for the defensive contamination of larger areas.

The CW companies also used the Bulk Contamination Vehicle - a pressure tank containing 130 gallons mounted on a 15cwt lorry, which could spray and area of 200 yards by 16 yards. These were for the heavy contamination of ground, ideally in a rearguard or withdrawal, to contaminate the terrain over which an enemy would approach; a C.W. company could run 36 BCVs if only using its truck drivers, or 50 if employing ALL the section's truck and lorry drivers.

The C.W. companies also had "gas generators"- basically gurt big tins that had a heating element or something in the bottom, that when heated generated a cloud of gas....but of course these were 100% weather dependent! They could of course also release various gases from cylinders - again weather-dependent.

At this point in the war, the Army also had stocks of WWI-era 4.5" and 6" gas artillery shell; the filled stocks of these had been evacuated from France IIRC. The document also notes that a similar round for the 25-pdr was in development and was expected by September - does anyone know if these arrived?
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Gooner1 » 11 May 2011 15:02

phylo_roadking wrote: - can anyone assist me with the whereabouts/postings of at least those ten CW Coys of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chemical Warfare Groups during the summer months of 1940?
Yes - they were all in GHQ Reserve :P

More documents worth checking

CAB 80/16/57 INTER-SERVICE CHEMICAL WARFARE COMMITTEE. FORMATION OF: Memo. by Asst. Chief of Imperial General Staff. 1940 Aug 19

CAB 81/15 Inter-Service Committee on chemical warfare Meetings 1 - 2, Papers 1 - 12 Covering dates 1940 Sept. 9 - Nov. 21

CAB 80/19/27 CHEMICAL WARFARE. Report by the Inter-Service Committee on Chemical Warfare. 1940 Sept 23

CAB 80/19/51 CHEMICAL WARFARE. Report. Appxs. I & II. Present stocks and rate of production of army and Air Force chemical weapons. Annex: Note from Prime Minister to General Ismay for C.O.S. Committee. Covering dates 1940 Oct 2

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 12 May 2011 16:08

- can anyone assist me with the whereabouts/postings of at least those ten CW Coys of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Chemical Warfare Groups during the summer months of 1940?
Yes - they were all in GHQ Reserve
....their physical whereabouts...
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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Gooner1 » 13 May 2011 13:30

phylo_roadking wrote: ....their physical whereabouts...
Well you know where they were not.

(defending the beaches)

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Dunserving » 13 May 2011 15:38

Gooner1 wrote:
phylo_roadking wrote: ....their physical whereabouts...
Well you know where they were not.

(defending the beaches)

Are you sure about that? If you KNOW, then surely you also know where they actually were. In which case why don't you give a sensible answer to Phylos question? What proof do you have that they were NOT near where they would be needed?

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by Andy H » 13 May 2011 16:34

Ok Gents thats enough playtime lets not start bouncing off the walls over this.

We are looking for the units location whilst under (or not) GHQ command

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by robert.c » 20 May 2011 19:55

my father served with 13th chemical warfare training battalion RE February 1941 - April 1941, 91st chemical warfare company April 1941 - October 1943 then it seemed to have changed to 91st field company somewhere between then and dday

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Re: Chemcal Warfare Coys, R.E. post-Dunkirk 1940

Post by phylo_roadking » 21 May 2011 15:15

Robert, there was indeed a major reorganisation of the CW Groups/Companies in 1943 and 1943 to create the large number of R.E. units required for the plans for OVERLORD; about 60% of the companies were reassigned as "plain" R.E. field units.
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