The Gloucestershire Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers

Background

See this general history of the RE Railway Construction Companies

Imperial War Museum photograph Q10336. Construction work at the Locomotive Depot at Rang-du-Fliers, 25 June 1918.

Raising of the companies

A meeting took place in Cheltenham on 22 December 1914, at which it was explained that War Office permission had been granted for the raising of a Railway Construction Company of 120 men. The permission was given by Lieutenant-Colonel William Danvers Waghorn, formerly of the North West Railway of India, who would go on to become a Brigadier-General and the Chief Railway Construction Engineer to the British Armies in France and Flanders.

Waghorn

The company was raised from a list that had been compiled of former members of the 1st Gloucestershire Royal Engineers (Volunteers), a unit which had been disbanded in 1908. The recruitment drive was organised by Major George Arthur Peake, the former second-in-command of the Volunteers.

Peake

The first contingent soon departed from Cheltenham and moved to the RE depot at Longmoor in Hampshire, where it was given the formal title of the 113th (Railway) Company RE.

More men continued to join and provided enough for a second unit, 114th (Railway) Company RE, and a telephone section (that was transferred to the Inland Waterways RE), to be established.

Peake carried on, raising 270 and 271 (Railway) Companies RE. After a period at Longmoor, they went overseas on 14 November 1915 and 12 January 1916 respectively, with the former going on to Salonika.

The raising of 30th (Railway) Labour Battalion RE

Peake was promoted to Acting Lieutenant-Colonel to take command of this unit, that he raised between 17 March and 25 May 1916. One company was raised in Bristol, while the other three were from Cheltenham and still largely made up of former Volunteers. He finally relinquished command on 16 January 1919 and was allowed the continued honorary use of the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The battalion was completed by the enlistment by a travelling recruitment office of men from Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. For example, the office visited Curzon Hall in Birmingham and enlisted men there on 26 April 1916.

The battalion’s “A” Company, which went to France on 17 May 1916;
“B” went on 7 June 1916 and I believe that it became 281st Army Troops Company RE;
“C” went on 29 June 1916 and believe that it became 70th Wagon Erecting Company RE;
“D” went on 22 July 1916 and believe that it became 282nd Army Troops Company RE.

Deaths of men of the companies

The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list 52 men as serving with one of the units named above. Their origins reveal that the originally strong Gloucestershire element was whittled down by losses and transfers, as men from other geographic backgrounds were sent to replace them or expand the companies.

NumberSurnameForenamesAgeDied onUnitCemetery
'107971'ADLARDGEORGE19/08/1917281stVILLERS-FAUCON COMMUNAL CEMETERY
'145831'BANTICKW19/11/1918280thIPSWICH OLD CEMETERY
'161881'BAUGHNT5219/11/192030th BnSOUTH CERNEY (ALL HALLOWS) CHURCHYARD
'WR/347425'BLACKBURNWRIGHT2112/10/191830th BnETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY
'162154'BOWSTEADARTHUR JAMES5804/09/191730th BnCALAIS SOUTHERN CEMETERY
'WR/255241'BRADBYJ W06/08/191830th BnTERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETERY, WIMILLE
'WR/255786'BREWSTERHUBERT WILLIAM DUNCAN4224/10/191830th BnETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY
'68901'BROWNEROBERT CHARLES07/04/1915114thBORDON MILITARY CEMETERY
'55860'BRUNSDONALFRED THOMAS4318/04/1915113thLONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY
'WR/253662'BUSHARTHUR HENRY4520/02/1919271stTOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION
'WR/251499'BUTTERWORTHHENRY CHARLES3620/11/1918114thABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'161944'CLAYTONOLIVER C.4220/07/191630th BnCARNOY MILITARY CEMETERY
'7890'COKERT3530/06/1918282ndDUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN
'38896'DYERP E V06/02/1919280thCOLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY
'143164'ELLIOTTL B08/05/1918282ndDUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN
'WR/253663'FAIRALLC. HARRY3230/10/1918271stPONT-DE-NIEPPE COMMUNAL CEMETERY
'WR/260016'FIELDA W25/02/1919271stTOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION
'160705'FLOYDW20/07/191630th BnCARNOY MILITARY CEMETERY
'135755'FOSSEYWILLIAM5522/09/1916270thSALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY
'161907'FOXJ4721/07/191630th BnDIVE COPSE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAILLY-LE-SEC
'WR/253639'FURNELLJOHN HARRY3519/02/1919271stTOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION
'162267'GILBERTPHILIP NICHOLAS5326/05/191730th BnCALAIS SOUTHERN CEMETERY
'WR/255765'HANCOXJ26/07/191830th BnLES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE
'201160'HARRISJ J09/07/191730th BnDOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY
'68654'HAYWARDP2606/02/1917114thABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'WR/251346'HOUSEMANW3127/01/1919114thLES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE
'100082'HUMPHREYSHERBERT CHARLES12/02/1917113thAVESNES-LE-COMTE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'309484'JOHNSONW26/10/191730th BnDUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN
[Captain]KENTISHHAROLD EDWARD30/03/1918281stPOZIERES MEMORIAL
'WR/251517'KINDNESSGEORGE5102/08/1918114thABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'181806'LAWRENCEH V3727/01/1917270thSALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY
'201163'LEACHA3328/10/1917270thSALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY
[Captain]MALCOLMJOHN EVELYN2619/02/1919271stTOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION
'WR/126030'MURPHYJOHN2228/02/1919271stHALLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY
'167234'MURRELLHORACE ALEXANDER30/03/1918281stARRAS MEMORIAL
'255791'NAISHTHOMAS GEORGE4324/10/191830th BnST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
'141787'NIASF3311/03/1917280thAUBIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'WR/257483'PALFREYWALTER SAMUEL4207/05/191830th BnHORFIELD (HOLY TRINITY) CHURCHYARD
'WR/253717'PAYNEW23/02/1919271stATH COMMUNAL CEMETERY
'138993'PEARSONALBERT4027/08/1916270thPIETA MILITARY CEMETERY
'515042'PERRATONCECIL HENRY2412/07/1918282ndPLYMSTOCK (ST. MARY AND ALL SAINTS) CHURCHYARD
'245311'PIRIEW25/03/1918113thHARINGHE (BANDAGHEM) MILITARY CEMETERY
'WR/295051'RENNIEANDREW4814/10/1918270thDOIRAN MILITARY CEMETERY
'251217'REYNOLDSB26/11/1918113thASCQ COMMUNAL CEMETERY
'WR/150088'ROCKLIFFES11/11/191830th BnLES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE
'159274'ROOKSJ R2707/04/1917280thAUBIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
'WR/255654'RUSSELLARTHUR CECIL4213/09/191830th BnCHELTENHAM CEMETERY, PRESTBURY
'97996'SCOTTWILLIAM07/11/1918281stVIS-EN-ARTOIS MEMORIAL
'WR/201708'STOREYW21/12/1918270thMIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA
'145867'VINER26/04/1917280thST. NICOLAS BRITISH CEMETERY
'181840'WEBBWALTER BUNCOMBE4003/10/1916270thSALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY
'269528'WILSONARCHIBALD16/11/1917270thDOIRAN MEMORIAL

One officer who is identified by CWGC as being with one of the companies was attached to a Field Company when he died and is not shown in the table above.

Records

Some of the companies have left war diaries, held at the National Archives within collection WO95. All of those of the units in France have been digitised and can be downloaded for a small fee. The diaries illustrate the wide ranging nature of the construction work (from track laying, to bridging and tunnelling) and the presence of the Gloucestershire men in almost all of the rear sectors of the British Expeditionary Forces area of operations.

Links

The Royal Engineers

Railway Construction Companies