511th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers

Living History

I just received my father’s WW2 record. Dad and a friend – and hundreds of other men – enlisted in the TA in July 1939 as a Sapper and motor driver in the 55th (West Lancashire) Division of Royal Engineers, which was a 1st Line Territorial Army formation headquartered at Aigburth, Liverpool 19.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the TA was absorbed into the regular army. On 1 September 1939, the 600 men based at Aigburth were “embodied and posted” to one of the three field companies at Halton Camp, each with 200 men: Dad’ was posted to the 511th Field Park Company, other men to the 509th and 510th (see http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/35097-510-field-company-re/).

He remained with the 511th until May 1943, by which time D-Day preparations were under, and between September 1939 and May 1943 was posted to various training camps, including Halton (near Lancaster), Eaglescliffe (County Durham), Gainsford (County Durham), Bessbrook (Newry, NI), and Shorncliffe (Kent). If anyone else can fill in any other details of the 511th, I would appreciate receiving them.

Here’s what I have. Dates indicate dates on record not necessarily when unit was posted to new location:

  • 600 men assembled at Tramway Road, Aigburth and marched to Lime Street Station, Liverpool, where they boarded a train for Lancaster. From Lancaster station, they marched to Halton Military Camp, Lancashire (now a suburb of Lancaster) where they each received a £5 bounty. On 3 September, they were mustered, each man receiving the King’s shilling from Colonel ???, and split into the 3 separate field companies, each of 200 men. At the Halton Camp, located by the River Lune, they were trained to build bridge across rivers.
  • On returning to Liverpool, the 3 field companies were “bedded” at Dingle Vale School and, thereafter, each assigned to different postings in support of the war effort. By 1941 and 1942, the 509th and 510th had been attached to the 59th Division and posted elsewhere; the 510th, to North Africa.
  • 6 June 1940 Eaglescliffe Camp in County Durham.

  • 3 January 1941 Gainsford Camp in County Durham.

  • 1 November 1941, Bessbrook Camp, near Newry in County Armagh. Bessbrook was located close to the border with the Irish Republic. It seems the purpose of the posting was to enhance security in the North, both as a defence against the possibility of a Nazi invasion through the Irish Republic and the subversive activities of the IRA, which had launched its “Northern Campaign” and had courted allied in continental Europe.
  • Details of British Army action around Newry are sketchy, not to say non-existent. Certainly, the IRA was active. During the early years of the War, “volunteers” from the Republic attacked RUC and British Army facilities, including those in South Armagh.
  • The Bessbrook Camp comprised the famous Nissan huts, which were erected in the grounds of Derrymore House, Bessbrook, owned by the Richardsons of the Bessbrook Spinning Mill for the troops, while the officers lived in the main house (see the archaeological report at http://uas.society.qub.ac.uk/fieldsurvey/pdf/Derrymore%20WW2%20Army%20Base.pdf) Troops posted to Bessbrook trained on nearby Slieve Gullion.
  • If my memory serves me well, my father was wounded in the arm in April 1942 while stationed at Bessbrook. Again, if my memory is correct, it was during an IRA attack aimed at stealing British Army supplies. His record is obscure on this. However, it shows he was admitted to Dromore? or Donomore CRS for a few days.
  • By early 1943, the IRA had lost the means and the will to conduct further operations. Its so-called Northern Campaign had proved ineffective and, indeed, as a military organisation, the IRA had all but ceased to exist. It is not surprising, then, to see that in May 1943 that the 511th was posted to Shornecliff Camp, near Folkestone, presumably, to take part in the D-Day preparations. In any event, US troops arrived at Bessbrook in 1942 and remained there until just before D-Day.
  • Within weeks of moving to the south coast, Dad was reposted to the 280th Field Company at Maidstone, Kent, and then, to the 240th Field Company in late May 1943. Just over a year later, the 240th formed part of the British Liberation Army (BLA) that embarked UK on 3 June for the Normandy Landings (See http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/28101-240-field-company-re-albert-jefferies/.)

As I say, if anyone has any further information on the 511th, I would like to hear from you. (Vets from the 511th used to be part of the 55th Division of Royal Engineers Veterans Association, based in Liverpool, but just two members are now left, neither of which were with the 511th.)

A second line of enquiry is my father’s Army record. I have managed to decipher most of it but am stumped by various abbreviations that are not in the list provided by the Army Personnel Centre. I would appreciate any help:

  • Listed sometimes as a “driver IC” “or driver IL”
  • “Granted RA and RW”
  • “Granted P/A?/P of Sgt”. Looks like granted the post of Acting Sergeant – but what’s the literal translation?
  • “Granted leave RALRRW”
  • “Granted leave SLR”
  • He was wounded in Ireland while posted to Bessbrook Camp, near Newry. The query is “Admitted to Dromores? CRS”. Was this a military hospital?
  • “Attached to SMR”
  • “Granted leave LSR”
  • “Attended C of I”
  • “Passed unit SME Ripm?”
  • “Wounded ?.S.W. …W.L.”
  • “S.O.S. 21 A.Gp on evacuation to hospital in UK”
  • “Posted to H ® DPSn?”

Any assistance or new information greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

Best wishes


Attached Thumbnails

  • Corporal WTO with 511th at Eaglescliffe, late 1940-4.jpeg

  • Corporal WTO with 511th at Eaglescliffe, late 1940-2.jpg

  • L:Corp WTO at Eaglescliffe, 1940-1.jpg

  • L:Corp WTO at Eaglescliffe, 1940-2A.jpg

  • L:Corp WTO at Eaglescliffe, 1940-3.jpg

  • L:Corp WTO at Eaglescliffe, 1940-4.jpg

  • Serjeant WTO at Gainsford or Bessbrook, 1941-42-1.jpg

  • Serjeant WTO at Gainsford or Bessbrook, 1941-42-3.jpg

  • Corporal WTO with 511th at Eaglescliffe, late 1940-1.jpg

  • Corporal WTO with 511th at Eaglescliffe, late 1940-3.jpg

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