Artizan Works Companies of the Royal Engineers

The Royal Engineers’ Artizan Works Companies were made up of skilled men from a variety of trades and were used for a wide range of work, initially hut construction and road making, in the lines of rear communication.

The information below comes from the history of the Directorate of Works (National Archives WO161/2) unless stated. Locations given in each case are those of Company Headquarters.

Watercolour "view of a row of Nissen huts set in a sunlit landscape of grassy lawns, fruit trees, and plants in large barrel pots. In the foreground, three young women in khaki uniforms relax on the grass" by Beatrice Lithiby OBE. Imperial War Museum collection ART2986. The huts would be typical of work of an Artizan Works Company and are apparently at Dieppe.

Watercolour “view of a row of Nissen huts set in a sunlit landscape of grassy lawns, fruit trees, and plants in large barrel pots. In the foreground, three young women in khaki uniforms relax on the grass” by Beatrice Lithiby OBE. Imperial War Museum collection ART2986. The huts would be typical of work of an Artizan Works Company and are apparently at Dieppe.

Four original companies formed

51st Artizan Works Company
August 1916 and 1917: Le Havre, then to Marseilles

52nd Artizan Works Company
December 1916 and thereafter: Boulogne

58th Artizan Works Company
January 1917 and thereafter: Calais

60th Artizan Works Company
April Rouen;moved to  1917 and thereafter: Abancourt. A detachment was at Etaples, later Boulogne and Dieppe

Expansion June 1917

1501st Artizan Works Company
June 1917 and thereafter: Boulogne. Later renamed as 922nd Area Employment Company and later 243rd Artizan Works Company (below)

1502nd Artizan Works Company
June 1917 and thereafter: Calais

1503rd Artizan Works Company
June 1917 and thereafter: Ardres

1504th Artizan Works Company
June 1917 and thereafter: HQ and half company at Le Havre, except for period in first half of 1918 when at Etaples. Other half company at Marseilles

1505th Artizan Works Company
June 1917 Rouen, moved to Etaples January 1918 and later to “Southern aerodromes” (possibly a similar story to 1506th, below)

1506th Artizan Works Company
As far as I can tell, the only one of these companies to have left a war diary (National Archives WO95/4057). Formed at Dieppe on 11 June 1917 and was still there when diary ends on 1 January 1918. It then moved to Etaples but around May 1918 went to Courban, attached to the Independent Air Force (the long-range bomber squadrons). Documents are not clear but it is possible that half of the Company went to Nancy at this time.

Area Employment (Artizan) Companies of the Labour Corps transfer to RE

Army Council Instruction 1303 of 1917 specified that no skilled man who possessed a skill that was required by a technical corps should be allowed to remain in a unit where that skill was not being used. Further orders established a number of Area Employment (Artizan) Companies which were to be under the control of the Labour Directorate. By late 1917 a total of 24 of these units had been formed and were part of the Labour Corps. I have yet to find the orders that eventually transferred some of them to the Royal Engineers but is is evident that five of them were:

240th Artizan Works Company
Converted from 919th Area Employment (Artizan) Company. At Boulogne from October 1917

241st Artizan Works Company
Converted from 920th Area Employment (Artizan) Company. At Ardres from May 1918

242nd Artizan Works Company
Converted from 921st Area Employment (Artizan) Company. At Abbeville (where it appears to have been from March 1916)

243rd Artizan Works Company
Converted from 922nd Area Employment (Artizan) Company (former 1501st Artizan Works Company, above) and possibly at Rouen and Dieppe

244th Artizan Works Company
Converted from 923rd Area Employment (Artizan) Company which had been at Trouville, moved to Cherbourg

Links

The Corps of Royal Engineers