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.
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.
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.
|'107971'||ADLARD||GEORGE||19/08/1917||281st||VILLERS-FAUCON COMMUNAL CEMETERY|
|'145831'||BANTICK||W||19/11/1918||280th||IPSWICH OLD CEMETERY|
|'161881'||BAUGHN||T||52||19/11/1920||30th Bn||SOUTH CERNEY (ALL HALLOWS) CHURCHYARD|
|'WR/347425'||BLACKBURN||WRIGHT||21||12/10/1918||30th Bn||ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'162154'||BOWSTEAD||ARTHUR JAMES||58||04/09/1917||30th Bn||CALAIS SOUTHERN CEMETERY|
|'WR/255241'||BRADBY||J W||06/08/1918||30th Bn||TERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETERY, WIMILLE|
|'WR/255786'||BREWSTER||HUBERT WILLIAM DUNCAN||42||24/10/1918||30th Bn||ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'68901'||BROWNE||ROBERT CHARLES||07/04/1915||114th||BORDON MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'55860'||BRUNSDON||ALFRED THOMAS||43||18/04/1915||113th||LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY|
|'WR/253662'||BUSH||ARTHUR HENRY||45||20/02/1919||271st||TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION|
|'WR/251499'||BUTTERWORTH||HENRY CHARLES||36||20/11/1918||114th||ABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'161944'||CLAYTON||OLIVER C.||42||20/07/1916||30th Bn||CARNOY MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'7890'||COKER||T||35||30/06/1918||282nd||DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN|
|'38896'||DYER||P E V||06/02/1919||280th||COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY|
|'143164'||ELLIOTT||L B||08/05/1918||282nd||DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN|
|'WR/253663'||FAIRALL||C. HARRY||32||30/10/1918||271st||PONT-DE-NIEPPE COMMUNAL CEMETERY|
|'WR/260016'||FIELD||A W||25/02/1919||271st||TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION|
|'160705'||FLOYD||W||20/07/1916||30th Bn||CARNOY MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'135755'||FOSSEY||WILLIAM||55||22/09/1916||270th||SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'161907'||FOX||J||47||21/07/1916||30th Bn||DIVE COPSE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAILLY-LE-SEC|
|'WR/253639'||FURNELL||JOHN HARRY||35||19/02/1919||271st||TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION|
|'162267'||GILBERT||PHILIP NICHOLAS||53||26/05/1917||30th Bn||CALAIS SOUTHERN CEMETERY|
|'WR/255765'||HANCOX||J||26/07/1918||30th Bn||LES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE|
|'201160'||HARRIS||J J||09/07/1917||30th Bn||DOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'68654'||HAYWARD||P||26||06/02/1917||114th||ABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'WR/251346'||HOUSEMAN||W||31||27/01/1919||114th||LES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE|
|'100082'||HUMPHREYS||HERBERT CHARLES||12/02/1917||113th||AVESNES-LE-COMTE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'309484'||JOHNSON||W||26/10/1917||30th Bn||DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN|
|[Captain]||KENTISH||HAROLD EDWARD||30/03/1918||281st||POZIERES MEMORIAL|
|'WR/251517'||KINDNESS||GEORGE||51||02/08/1918||114th||ABBEVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'181806'||LAWRENCE||H V||37||27/01/1917||270th||SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'201163'||LEACH||A||33||28/10/1917||270th||SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY|
|[Captain]||MALCOLM||JOHN EVELYN||26||19/02/1919||271st||TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY ALLIED EXTENSION|
|'WR/126030'||MURPHY||JOHN||22||28/02/1919||271st||HALLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY|
|'167234'||MURRELL||HORACE ALEXANDER||30/03/1918||281st||ARRAS MEMORIAL|
|'255791'||NAISH||THOMAS GEORGE||43||24/10/1918||30th Bn||ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN|
|'141787'||NIAS||F||33||11/03/1917||280th||AUBIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'WR/257483'||PALFREY||WALTER SAMUEL||42||07/05/1918||30th Bn||HORFIELD (HOLY TRINITY) CHURCHYARD|
|'WR/253717'||PAYNE||W||23/02/1919||271st||ATH COMMUNAL CEMETERY|
|'138993'||PEARSON||ALBERT||40||27/08/1916||270th||PIETA MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'515042'||PERRATON||CECIL HENRY||24||12/07/1918||282nd||PLYMSTOCK (ST. MARY AND ALL SAINTS) CHURCHYARD|
|'245311'||PIRIE||W||25/03/1918||113th||HARINGHE (BANDAGHEM) MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'WR/295051'||RENNIE||ANDREW||48||14/10/1918||270th||DOIRAN MILITARY CEMETERY|
|'251217'||REYNOLDS||B||26/11/1918||113th||ASCQ COMMUNAL CEMETERY|
|'WR/150088'||ROCKLIFFE||S||11/11/1918||30th Bn||LES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY, SANGATTE|
|'159274'||ROOKS||J R||27||07/04/1917||280th||AUBIGNY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION|
|'WR/255654'||RUSSELL||ARTHUR CECIL||42||13/09/1918||30th Bn||CHELTENHAM CEMETERY, PRESTBURY|
|'WR/201708'||STOREY||W||21/12/1918||270th||MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA|
|'145867'||VINE||R||26/04/1917||280th||ST. NICOLAS BRITISH CEMETERY|
|'181840'||WEBB||WALTER BUNCOMBE||40||03/10/1916||270th||SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY|
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.
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.