National Archives catalogue number WO 171/1622.

 

Abbreviation

108742

2 i/c

Adj

ADOS

Amn

Appt

Bde

Br

Comd

Confce

Coy

CRE

Div

DMA

DZ

Eng

Equpt

FBE

Fd

Gall

GOC

HQRE

IO

LAD

LZ

ME

MR

MT

OC

Off

Op

OR

Pk

Pl

Rd

REME

Re Sup

RV

Sec

Sqn

Wef

Map Reference

Second-in-Command

Adjutant

Assistant Director Ordnance Services

Ammunition

Appointment

Brigade

Bridge

Commander

Conference

Company
Commander Royal Engineers

Division / Divisional

Divisional Maintenance Area

Drop Zone

Engineer

Equipment

Folding Boat Equipment

Field

Gallons

General Officer Commanding

Headquarters Royal Engineers

Intelligence Officer

Light Aid Detachment

Landing Zone

Mechanical Engineer

Map Reference

Motor Transport

Officer Commanding

Officer

Operation

Other Ranks

Park

Platoon

Road

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Resupply

Rendezvous

Section

Squadron

With Effect

 

Month and year : June 1944

Commanding Officer : Major J.H. Waters

 

2nd June 1944

Place: Bulford

 

Additional Airborne party formed and despatched to Air Transit Camp.

 

3rd June 1944

Place: Bulford

 

Final briefing of all Airborne parties.

 

4th June 1944

Place: Bulford

 

New type Air Compressor collected.

 

6th June 1944

Place: Field

 

'D' Day.  Lt. Reid killed on D.Z.  L/Sgt Rousseau & 4 O.R's missing.

 

7th June 1944

Place: Field

 

O.C's party move to transit area.

 

8th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Lt. Hall's party move on to transit area.

 

9th June 1944

Place: Field

 

O.C's party embarked Royal Albert Docks.  Dvr Hodgson evacuated.

 

10th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Lt. Hall's party embarked Newhaven.

 

12th June 1944

Place: Field

 

O.C. & party arrived France by Sea.

 

13th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Lt. Hall & remainder of Coy arrived France by sea.  7 - 3 tonners destroyed by air bombing during disembarkation.  1 O.R. Casualty.

 

15th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy moved to new location - Stores dump formed, workshops open.

 

16th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy employed on collection of Eng Stores, manufacture of booby traps & repair enemy equpt.  Weather clear.

 

17th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy employed collection Eng Stores & various jobs in Workshops.

 

18th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy bath-house started.

 

19th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Weather - High wind & heavy rain - Eng Stores difficult to obtain due to unloading difficulties.

 

20th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Unit location under shell-fire.  Dvrs Cutting & Aldous fatal cas. also Cpl Hall REME attached.  Cpl McDonald & 4 O.R's from LAD evacuated.

 

21st June 1944

Place: Field

 

Capt Dixon to HQRE as Adj.  Lt Hall promoted Capt & 2 i/c.  Lt Williams posted from 3rd Sqn w.e.f. 7 June.  Cpl Barker promoted L/Sgt.  L/Cpl Holvey promoted Cpl.  L/Cpl Setchell promoted Cpl.  Dvr Naylor promoted L/Cpl.  Spr Wiltshire promoted L/Cpl.

 

22nd June 1944

Place: Field

 

Div Amn Dump in D.M.A. destroyed by enemy action.  Coy strength now 3 Off 96 O.R's.

 

23rd June 1944

Place: Field

 

L/Cpl Cluett evacuated.  Cpl McDonald died from wounds.  Coy bath house - re sup drop of 100,000 sandbags & water supply equpt.  Weather fine & dry.

 

24th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Div HQ shelled with 150 mm enemy shells decide to have adequate shelter - stores problem created - War Memorial constructed and erected at Div Burial ground at Le Hom Church.

 

25th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Div HQ moved to new location - full flap applied on stores on shelters Coy employed on distribution of Eng Stores & manufacture of road direction signs.

 

26th June 1944

Place: Field

 

1-Sec pioneers attached to Coy for works.  Erection of Pegasus at Benoville Bridge.

 

27th June 1944

Place: Field

 

2-dumpers & 1 - 6 ton roller attached for rd maintenance.

 

28th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Work progressing without much interference.

 

29th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy employed on stores & work.

 

30th June 1944

Place: Field

 

Re - sup drop approx 70,000 sandbags.

 

 

Month and year : July 1944

Commanding Officer : Major J.H. Waters

 

1st July 1944

Place: Field

 

Company employed on Workshops and Stores commitments.  Final erection of Pegasus Br Sign.  Spr Rankine's slit trench but no damage apart from equipment.  Heavy rain.

 

2nd July 1944

Place: Field

 

Major Wilkinson called.  Heavy rain.  C.R.E's conference.

 

3rd July 1944

Place: Field


O.C. to 1 Corps stores meeting.  Heavy rain.

 

4th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Collection of 2 4 K.W. lighting sets.

 

5th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Company employed on stores and workshops commitments.

 

7th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Visit by C.E. 1 Corps.

 

10th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Div camouflage officer attached for advice.  Well Boring Section R.E. attached to Unit whilst on Div Water point at AMFREVILLE.

 

16th July 1944

Place: Field

 

O.C. attended investiture by Gen Montgomery.

 

18th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Goodwood meeting opened.  Air raid at night - no casualties.

 

20th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Stores ex Ship Yard.  Torrential rain - quarry flooded.

 

23rd July 1944

Place: Field

 

GOC inspected Unit at work - expressed himself as being very pleased with Unit spirit.

 

24th July 1944

Place: Field

 

CRE hurt and I.O. killed.  O.C. assumes appt as CRE.  Capt Hall as O.C. unit.

 

26th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Visit by Fd Pk Comd - 51 Div.  Formation of Bde Dump.

 

27th July 1944

Place: Field

 

Air raid at 0120 hrs - bombs on unit location, no casualties.  Lt Hutchinson joined unit from 34 RHU.

 

 

Month and year : August 1944

Commanding Officer : Major J.H. Waters

 

1st August 1944

Place: Field

 

Lt. Col. Hamilton assumed appt of CRE.  O.C. returned to Unit.  C.E. 1st Canadian Army met all unit Comds.

 

2nd August 1944

Place: Field

 

C.R.E's Confce.  Nothing definite at the moment.

 

3rd August 1944

Place: Field

 

Armoured bulldozer attached to Unit.  Driver Operators receive training.

 

6th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Weather very warm.

 

7th August 1944

Place: Field

 

O.C. recce for bathing points at Div Rest Area.  Workshops to make 20 ablution benches.  Weather very fine.

 

8th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Mine gapping store brought up to scratch in view of good progress by 1st Canadian Army.  Good weather continues.  C.R.E's conf.

 

9th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Preparation for Code work 'Paddle' completed by attachment of detachment F.B.E.  Weather very fine.

 

10th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Start on three - 3 tonner Office conversions.

 

11th August 1944

Place: Field

 

3 reinforcements arrived from residues.  Deep well yields 600 gals per hr.  Weather still fine.

 

12th August 1944

Place: Field

 

C.R.E's conference.  Weather continues fine.

 

13th August 1944

Place: Field

 

G.O.C. lecture to unit comds.  Engineer in Chief visit to Div area.  Weather remains fine but cooler.

 

14th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Supreme Comd's Allied Forces special order of the day.  Deep well reopened to improve flow.

 

15th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Heavy thunderstorm.

 

17th August 1944

Place: Field

 

80 ft Bailey Br attached for ops.

 

18th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Advanced bridging and stores detachment established Troarn.  Lt Hutchinson received injuries whilst engaged in recovering stone-crusher.  Weather remains fine.

 

20th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Advanced M.E. Section formed East of Troarn.

 

21st August 1944

Place: Field

 

Weather unsettled.

 

22nd August 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy move to new location Dozule.  Stores Pl ferry stores.  Workshops Pl take over timber mill complete with water driven plant.

 

23rd August 1944

Place: Field

 

Stores Pl complete ferrying of stores.  Approx 60 tons stores moved.  Weather still unsettled.

 

25th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Coy H.Q. moved to new location at Pont L'EVEQUE.  M.E. Detachment and Br Pl to St Benoit D'Herbertot.

 

26th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Remainder of Coy completed move.  80 tons of stores lifted during move.

 

27th August 1944

Place: Field

 

All attached bridging returned.  C.R.E's Conference.

 

28th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Half Coy given 24 hrs excused duty.  Transport to Trouville.  M.E. detachment relieved of all work.

 

29th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Airborne Div to return to England.

 

30th August 1944

Place: Field

 

Return of all engineer stores to Corps Field Park Company and ordnance stores to ADOS.

 

31st August 1944

Place: Field

 

CRE inspected unit.

 

 

Month and year : September 1944

Commanding Officer : Major J.H. Waters

 

3rd September 1944

All surplus stores and MT returned to ADOS 1 Corps.

 

4th September 1944

Coy less MT moved to 60 Transit Camp.

 

5th September 1944

MT moved to Transit Camp.

 

6th September 1944

Embarkation of main body postponed due to bad weather.

 

7th September 1944

Coy embarked ARROMANCHES for UK.

 

8th September 1944

Coy disembarked SOUTHAMPTON and arrived BULFORD.

 

9th September 1944

Preparation of G1098 deficiencies.

 

11th September 1944

Complete unit on disembarkation leave.

 

 

Appendix A

War Diary - Jul 44

 

To        O.C. 286 Fd. Pk. Coy. R.E.

From    Cpl. Wagstaff

 

PART I     BRIEFING BEFORE THE OPERATION OVERLORD.

Royal Engineer detachments were given a brief summary of the object of the invasion by Major Wood O.C. 591 Para. Sqn. R.E.

 

Next came the more minute briefing as to the various tasks the parties were to do.

 

The detachment of 286 Fd. Pk. Coy. R.E. was detailed as follows:

1.  To clear of obstruction air strips C & D.

2.  Clear road and verges of mines from fork road M.R. 108742 through Le Bas de Ranville to Le Mariquet back to fork road Mr. 108742.

3.  To establish a water point giving off 20,000 gall. per day within the area of Ranville, Le Bas de Ranville and Le Mariquet.

 

Parties were each detailed off as follows:

Two bulldozers with operators and 1 N.C.O. to clear airstrips C & D of obstructions to enable the next reinforcements to land at 21.00 hrs. D. day.

One bulldozer to be in reserve with operator at H.Q.R.E. plus six men.

One party of four men including 1 officer 1 Sgt. 1 Cpl. 1 Spr. clearing roads and verges of mines, and recce for water.

Briefing was very exact.  We were able to study a large scale model, large scale maps and also air photographs.

We made very good use of these materials after briefing until we knew practically everything.

 

PART II     INSTRUCTIONS ON LANDING:

Senior passenger to report to R.V. Copse M.R. 113739.  Report to Major Wood or 2 i/c Glider.  No. Equipment carried.  Casualties and damage to  equipment if any.  Also to ensure that the three other gliders were present and contact same.  To help with unloading if needed.

 

PART III     BEFORE THE TAKE OFF:

Messages were sent from the Supreme Commander Gen. Eisenhower, Gen. Montgomery which were read to us.  They wished us God Speed and Happy Landings and success in our effort.

 

Then we proceeded to an airfield somewhere in England where last minute details were being attended to regarding the take off.  We then made arrangements with the pilots of our respective gliders regarding mishaps before and after landing.

 

Jokes were by this time plentiful and the chalking of phrases on gliders was terrific.  On No.44 was written "Death where is thy Sting".

 

Pilots and passengers were feeling very jubilant and confident over the success of the whole project.

 

PART IV     THE TAKE OFF:

At approx. 01.20 hrs. we took off and with a flight of 2 hrs. and 10 mins. in front of us my fellow (O.C. No.44, Jeep and Trailer) and I tried to settle down, but the excitement got the better of us for we were standing behind the pilots most of the time.  Eventually we started to cross the sea, then the flak started to greet us and it made one think of happy landings.

 

Until that time it had been a pleasant trip, but now we seemed to be all over the sky.  In the midst of all this I suddenly realised we were going down, not knowing we had cast off.  When it was confirmed by the pilots that we were landing my pal and I braced ourselves for the impact and as we hit the L.Z. the pivot wheel of our glider folded up and came towards us at terrific speed.  Both pilots and passengers said afterwards they thought we had had it.  Actually it was a shock to find ourselves all in one piece, for it shook us up quite a bit.  No sooner had we stopped than another glider hit us but glanced off.  Finding that everyone was O.K. took up defensive positions and also saw we had quite a job of unloading.  Our glider (a tail unloading) was right down on its nose and the tail right up in the air.  Senior passenger        one on guard and two to start unloading.  On finding R.V.  which took me quite a time it was to learn that only one glider had reported other than men out of four.  So I decided to get back and unload.  On my way back I was pleased to hear an engine start up and by this means found No.43 glider (Cpl. Ponders).  So unloading the dozer on No.43 we made our way to No.44 and finished the unloading.

 

On my way to report to the C.R.E. 6 Airborne Div. we contacted another glider party with dozer completed coming from Ranville.  Immediately set two dozers clearing strips C & D.  Actually we cleared four strips and towed gliders off existing strip.

 

Finished this task at approx. 17.50 hrs. on D day.

 

The task was quite simple and took two dozers and 1 N.C.O. 8 hours approx.  We had a few interruptions from snipers which made you remember you were not still in England.

 

There was no heavy firing on the L.Z. and it seemed as if the surprise landing was a complete success.

 

We were not able to carry out tasks 2 and 3 owing to the fact that one glider did not report and various jobs were detailed by C.R.E. to men not engaged directly in clearing landing strips.

 

PART V     MY REACTIONS:

On crossing the sea and French coast and being able to observe the flak bursting around us, I definitely did not feel good, but after getting my feet on land once more I was in a better frame of mind.

 

My approach to the R.V. too was very careful.  I knew what I was likely to meet but did not know where it would come from.

 

But on contacting R.V. and finding everything O.K. my spirits went up tremendously.  I had to relax even then for a few moments because of what had passed.

 

It was good to see men you knew and was then confident that the plan was being carried out perfectly.

 

 

Appendix B

War Diary - Jul 44

 

To        O.C. 286 Fd. Pk. Coy. R.E.

From    2009860 Cpl. Ponder B.W.

 

My statement of the part I played in the Invasion of France

 

PART I:

My first actual briefing for the part I was to play in the Invasion of France was given to the party whom I was with on the afternoon 3 Jun. 44 by Major Wood O.C. 591 Para. Sqn. R.E. to whom we were directly responsible for the first part of the operation.  The party whom I was with consisted of 1 Officer 1 L/Sgt. two Cpl.s and ten sappers and drivers and we had been allotted three main tasks on landing.  These were as follows:

 

1.  Clear landing strips C & D for the second wave of gliders which were landing at 21.00 hrs. D day.

2.  To clear mines if any from roads and verges for the fork road M.R. 108742 through Le Bas de Ranville and Le Mariquet back to the fork road M.R. 108742.

3.  To establish a water point giving off 20,000 gall a day within the area of Le Bas de Ranville and Le Mariquet.

 

Having been allotted our tasks the party was detailed off as follows:

Two bulldozers and 1 Cpl. in charge to clear landing strips C & D of all obstructions.

One bulldozer to be held in reserve at Div. H.Q.R.E. which was in the Le Bas de Ranville area, also one jeep and compressor trailer plus five other men.

One party consisting of an Officer Sgt. Cpl. and one sapper as runner to clear mines and fix up a water point.

 

The equipment which we had at our disposal consisted of large scale maps of the area, also air photographs and a large scale model of the area of which we were going to operate, and from these we gained some first class information, also I would like to add that we were allowed to use the briefing room as much as possible which was a good point as you got the whole impression of the country well into your mind.

 

PART II     INSTRUCTIONS ON LANDING:

These were that the senior man in each glider providing he was not injured, to report to a copse M.R. 113739 where he would find Major Wood or the 2 i/c, and report glider No. casualties if any and also make contact with the senior members of the other three gliders, the object being to ensure that all had landed in the same area, and also so that each party would know where the others were in case they needed help to unload.  He would also get orders of what to do with his equipment.

 

PART III     JUST BEFORE THE TAKE OFF:

We had two messages read to us - one from the Supreme Commander and one from General Montgomery wishing us God Speed and Happy Landings and the success of our effort.

 

After this we proceeded to an airfield somewhere in England where everything was all action and last minute check-ups being made to all craft before the take off and then we had a last minute chat over a special cup of tea with our glider pilots regarding any mishaps on the way and the action to take on the touch down in France.  Jokes by this time were plentiful and many cracks were being made which I might say proved how jubilant and fully confident each one of us felt in the outcome of the operation.

 

PART IV     THE TAKE OFF:

At approx 01.18 hrs. 6 June 44 we took off on what has since proved one of the most successful operations ever carried out and certainly the biggest Airborne Landing of which I feel proud to think I was one of the chosen few from the Fd. Pk. Coy. R.E.  The flight was down to last 2 hrs. 10 mins. so the operator of the bulldozer we were carrying tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, but the excitement of this great moment had got us and we were well on our way before we settled down to our sweets, and thoughts which in my case were of those at home, but during that trip over I actually did something which I have never done in a glider before, that was I had a sleep, which is saying a lot for the flight, and the way our pilots were doing their job (they were grand fellows).  Eventually we hit the coast of France and with it all the flak that the Hun had left to throw at us, and then our troubles, and I must admit a slight fear when seeing the flak pass right through our wings, and I knew if we had a hit on the petrol we were carrying we should have what we call (Had it), but luck was with us and after much pitching and tossing about the sky I felt the old familiar jerk of the tow rope being cast off, and then after a few steep banks and dives we felt the glider touch solid earth.  Instantly I thought of the warning we had been given about bracing ourselves in case of rough ground, and although I carried the warning out I did not think it was needed as we were very fortunate as our pilots made a perfect landing.  The glider had no sooner stopped than we were out in case we were hit by another glider, which happened in quite a few cases.

 

PART V:

Arriving intact at the L.Z. and what happened from then onwards.

 

When I stepped out on to the L.Z. I told my operator just in case of other gliders hitting us, because as I looked up into the sky it seemed full of gliders banking and diving to miss the flak and coming in to land.  When the L.Z. was safe and free from incoming gliders I at once set out for the R.V. which was the copse I have mentioned before.  While I was making my way there the pilot and the operator were unlashing the equipment and getting ready to off load on my return, while the second pilot took up a defensive position outside the glider to warn the others in case of an attack.  While this was going on I was making my way to the R.V. which I did with great caution as I did not know if there were mines in the field which I had to cross, but it was a grand feeling to arrive at the RV and find someone you knew there and not the enemy.  On reaching the R.V. I found I was the first of the party to report, but the bulldozer being needed I was told by Capt. Semple 591 Para. Sqn. R.E. who was in command, to get the bulldozer to the R.V. as soon as I could, so I proceeded straight back to my glider where I found everything ready to off load.  This proved rather a bother as the ramp on the glider caved in, and when I had got the bulldozer on the troughs one of them folded up, so I had to borrow a jeep which was passing to pull the light trestle out and let the bulldozer come down with rather a bang.

 

During all this operation I had seen or heard nothing of the other parties until I was about to off load a trailer when who should arrive but the Cpl. who was in charge of the glider with a jeep and compressor on board, and it was a great feeling to see that someone else had arrived as well as ourselves.  With his help I managed to finish off loading and as it was getting rather light we knew we had to move fast to get off the L.Z.  After dispatching the bulldozer to the R.V. I went over to glider No.44 to help unload, but all our struggles were in vain as the glider was in a bad position, so we had to leave it until more help arrived.

 

From then while my fellow N.C.O. went and reported to the C.R.E. I carried on at the L.Z. with the bulldozers clearing poles and filling in holes and hauling wrecked gliders to the edge.  This task took us roughly eight hours and apart from occasional shelling and sniping it was like doing a job of work in England, which I think goes to prove what a complete surprise the operation was.

 

We were unable to carry out tasks 2 and 3 owing to one glider not arriving much to the remainder of the parties' regret, as it was a party that I myself had complete confidence in to go into action.  One thing I would like to stress is the good work the bulldozer drivers did, and they way they handled them, although they had not had the chance to get them working before we brought them out.

 

My own reactions when crossing the coast and meeting the flak, I must say we were far from happy and comfortable, but when we got on with the job everything soon seemed pretty normal again, for at this stage there was not much time for thinking, only of the job we were there to do.

 

Your obedient servant

Cpl. Ponder B.W.