War Diaries of 21 Field Squadron, Royal Engineers



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1sep 42

Qassassin awaiting orders to move to Gebel Maryam for reorg



7 sep 42

142 field park Sqn is to be converted into X field squadron, the second field squadron for the 7th Armd Div and in its new role must be “desertworthy” by mid October.

This will involve reorg into HG Troop and three Field Troops , each of the later containing four sections, on of which should be an armoured section

12 sep 42

OC Major H R Carr agrees to title of 21


9 Oct

Sqn move to 4450.8765 65 miles 19:00 hrs “A” track – Hammmam – International Corner “C” track



10 Oct




11 Oct

 3 troop moves to 450.873 for training



21 Oct 42

1 tp moves out to join 2 troop in Deir Ragil 4245.8665 to prepare gaps in May, June and  Nuts minefields



22 Oct

Sqn hq and 3tp




    Ref. 6(a).
    Date. 7th Sept 1942

1.         GENERAL


a)    142nd Field Park Squadron R.E. is to be converted into ‘X’ Field Squadron, the second field squadron for the 7th Armd Division, and in its new role must be “Desertworthy” by mid-October.

b)    This will involve re-organisation into an HQ Troop, and three Field Troops, each of the later containing four sections, one of which should be an armoured section.

c)    Consequently the unit will have to double its size with a large intake from the Base Depot, and also re-equip itself extensively.

d)    The above will involve a period of intensive training for both old and new “Members”. Every opportunity must be taken during the limited time available.

e)    Although the unit is now in a “Sheltered” area, subjects which form part of the every day routine when operating in the Desert cannot be neglected. They must be rigidly enforced.

f)     Below subjects for training are divided into two categories:-

i.      These to be carried out under Troop Leaders arrangements.

ii.     These to be carried out under special arrangements made by Sqn HQ.

g)    Lieut J Ewart is appointed Officer i/c Training and he will be responsible for getting out programmes and making the special arrangements under (f) (ii) above.




a)    March Discipline

i.      Movement of vehicles in air formation.

ii.     Control of column on the move. Standard signals are given in Appendix “A”.

iii.    Halts. In moves of more than one hour, regular halts will be enforced, to rest drivers and inspect vehicles and loads. This will apply to all parties even of single vehicles on detached duty, and will often avoid accidents and breakdowns due to tired drivers and indifferently inspected vehicles.

b)    Driving

      The ideal to aim at is that every man should be able too drive.

c)    Navigation

      The ideal is also that every man should be able to navigate in the desert.

d)    Protection

      The question of protection against air or ground attack is dealt with in Appendix “B”.

e)    AntiGas

      Respirators must be worn once a week for a continuous period of a quarter of  an hour by all ranks. During this period normal duties will continue as far as possible. There must be no exemptions from this and Troop Leaders must select times for practice at which essential work likely to be interfered with,       (e.g., cooking of men’s meals) does not have to be carried out.

In addition short “Gas Alarms” should occasionally be given at odd moments  to ensure that respirators are kept reasonably near to hand.

      Decontamination rules must be known and understood by all.

f)     Hardening Training

 PT will continue to be carried out every day for half an hour before other  Parades.

 When within easy reach of the excellent bathing facilities afforded by this area, arrangements must be made for every member of each Troop to bathe in the middle of the day or early afternoon.

g)    Troop Administration

      Administration, Hygiene, 1st Aid, Cooking by Vehicles, and vehicle loading,  also security measures must be dealt with by Troop Leaders.

h)    Writing Reports and Sitreps

      NCO’s should be practised in writing reports and sitreps, and drawing sketch  maps and diagrams.

i)      Vehicle Maintenance

  Replacement of vehicles, particularly 15-cwts and water trucks is extremely difficult. It is therefore more than ever vitally important that Squadron  vehicles should be kept in sound mechanical condition by regular inspection and constant maintenance. Inspections MUST be carried out periodically by Troop Officers. Overdriving and overloading of vehicles must be watched for       and suppressed.



For the following subjects special instructions will be issued later:-

a)    Weapon Training

      Pistol, Rifle, Bren Gun and “Tommy Gun”.

b)    Minelaying and Minesweeping

      Including all known forms of our own and enemy, and mines and booby traps. Plotting and recording.

c)    Demolitions

      Including AFV’s, Aircraft, Dispersed Dumps, Bangalore Torpedoes.

d)    Bridging

      Folding Boat, SBG, H.10, and assault Boats and Bridges.

e)    Water Supply

      Pump management, water points, and purification.

f)     Night Marches

g)    Leaguer Drill

Open and close. Officers will consider the best form of leaguer for

(i)   Individual Troops. 

(ii) Sqn HQ Troop and one or more Field Troops together.This matter will be discussed later.

h)    R/T Procedure

      Practices for Officers and certain NCO’s will be arranged in conjunction with R.C.S.

i)      Co-operation with other Arms and Units


4.         POINTS TO NOTE

a)    In an Armoured Division speed is of paramount importance. Work should therefore be of sufficiently good quality for its purposes only. Labour, time, and particularly stores expended on un essential work are wasted.

b)    Troops must train to live and work quite independently.

c)    Training must be organised so as to benefit most the “newcomers” who will be arriving periodically into the unit.



(Sgd.)              major R.E.

In the Field   O.C., ‘X’ Field Squadron R.E.
CRE 7th Armd Div Copy No 1  
OC ‘X’ Field Squadron RE Copy No 2  
O i/c No 1 Troop Copy No 3  
O i/c No 2 Troop Copy No 4  
O i/c No 3 Troop Copy No 5  
War Diary Copy No 6 & 7  
File Copy No 8  



    Ref. 6(a).



1.         WARNING

The Commander will stand up in his vehicle. On seeing this vehicle commanders will stand by for signals. Note that the driver is NOT responsible for watching for signals, but merely obeys orders given by the vehicle commander. (If no NCO in vehicle, assistant driver watches for signals).


2.         HALT

Arm raised vertically to full extent.


3.         DISMOUNT

Hand moved up and down from the level of the shoulder downwards, and palm of hand down as in patting a large dog.


4.         MOUNT (and start up)

Hand and arm moved in circular motion, as if winding a starting handle.


5.         MOVE OFF

No special signal for this, but after “MOUNT” is given, vehicles will be prepared to move off when commander’s vehicle starts.


6.         FORM LEAGUER

Both arms raised above head to form a “Y”. When moving in air formation vehicles will halt, and then make the necessary adjustments to move into leaguer position.

When moving in line ahead, commander’s vehicle only will halt, remainder will move up and form leaguer left and right as ordered.


7.         LINE AHEAD

Extend arms sideways horizontally and swing upwards, bringing palms of hands together over the head. This signal is given for the move into line ahead from air formation.


8.         DISPERSE

Arm moved vigorously to and from across the body. Just below shoulder level. This signal is given for the move to air formation from line ahead.



Slow down, wheel right, wheel left, will be given as in the “Highway Code”.


10.       GENERAL

i.        Signals will be repeated throughout the column by vehicle commanders or assistant drivers.

ii.      Commander will continue to give the signal till all drivers are acting on it.




    Ref. 6(a).





1.         GENERAL

a)      As soon as the unit becomes involved in mobile operations in the desert, the question of protection becomes extremely important. The unit must be prepared for bombing and ground strafing from the air and possibly ground attack.

b)      Training should be directed so that every man knows what to do under the various circumstances likely to arise. Unless this is so, there is a danger of confusion, panic, and opportunities for hitting back at the enemy may be lost.

c)      The commander of any party however small, is responsible for:-

i.        The safety of his detachment.

ii.      No opportunity of hitting the enemy is lost.



This will normally be when in leaguer. The main headings under which this must be considered by Troop Leaders are :-

a)      Dispersion.

b)      Siting of available LMG’s, and detailing personnel to man them.

c)      Action of other personnel; every available man to open fire on enemy aircraft within range.

d)      Recce of ground in leaguer area, so that the unit can move without confusion at the shortest notice in any direction, if necessary at night, and without lights.

e)      Blackout.

f)       Patrols and listening posts.



a)      Action of vehicle crew if attacked. In the event of air attack all vehicles will halt unless orders to the contrary have been issued, should such orders have been issued, fire will be opened by LMG’s if possible.

b)      If vehicles have to halt, personnel from “B” vehicles will dismount and disperse and open controlled fire at hostile aircraft.

c)      When in “No Man’s Land” or anywhere where the enemy may be encountered, the column Commander (Senior Officer or NCO in party) must warn NCO’s i/c vehicles of this before starting, and decide on drill if enemy are sighted. It is the responsibility of the Column Commander to keep an eye open for hostile vehicles  and decide whether to destroy them or withdraw.



Before starting work, the Officer or NCO i/c party must:-

a)      Site and man  AAL MG’s.

b)      If necessary post lookout for approach of enemy vehicles.

c)      Decide what action the party will take if attacked from the air (e.g. there may be good cover nearby from which fire may be opened).

d)   Decide what action to take on approach of enemy vehicles, and recce a line of withdrawal ect.




October 1942

Commanding Officer: Major H R Carr

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices




1 Troop moves out to join 2 Troop in DEIR RAGIL 4245.8665 to prepare gaps in May, Hune & Nuts minefields. 2 Troop already there under orders 22 Armd Bde  (1 R.B.)





Sqn HQ  and 3 Troop (less det) move to join 1 and 2 Troops. Detachment 3 Troop rejoins 4th Fd Sqn. 2 sections of 2 Troop put under command 1 Troop.

Night of 22/23 – 4 lanes opened in Nuts minefield successfully, (including AP mines) by 1 Troop. Start line laid by 2 Troop. 





2 Troop (less 2 secs) moves off to 28 Armd Bde concentrate area. Work on gaps completed. Marking forward to start line and enemy minefield (Jan) started by 3 Troop at 13:00 hrs.7 Armd Div (bulk of) passed through Nut’s and gaps made by 4th Fd Sqn in Jan, but not Feb. Sqn warned to stand by with 1 Troop to assist 4th Fd Sqn at about 24:00 hrs. OC goes up to visit CRE at Div Tac HQ. CRE away but Comd 7 Armd Div orders up 1 Troop. OC returns, Troop already on move having been ordered up by W/T. OC with SSM and Armd 15cwt  plus W/T moves up to Tac HQ arriving 06:15 hrs on 24th Oct.





1 Troop leaguered near Tac HQ at 8842.2562 in reserve. Lays Army Track and maintains approaches to Jan in morning and afternoon. 14:30 hrs OC sees CRE receives orders for breaking Feb minefield. One party found from each of 1 & 3 Troops. Form up at 18:00 hrs. Only one Scorpion available with 1 Troop. 1 Troop has no contact with attacking infantry until start line is reached. Zero hour 22:30. Scorpion starts flogging in minefield at approx 23:50 hrs but breaks down after 100 yards.





Casualties from accurate enemy shelling on approach march, also MG & A/Tk gun fire from flanks. No 3 Gap (3 Tp S party), declared open first by CRE about 02:00 hrs. Scorpion worked again for short time before finally breaking down. No 2 Gap opened about one hour after No 3. Each Gap tested by passing carrier through to ½ mile beyond far side. Tanks passed through both, but some ran off gap and were blown up, heavy casualties were caused by accurate A/Tk gun fire.





After No 3 Gap was declared open, No 3 Troop returned to reform at Sqn leaguer. No 1 Troop reformed on Jan minefield No 2 Gap in reserve. OC at TAQ HQ about 05:45 hrs, party called for to ensure that tanks can pass through minefield to assist infantry on far side , as there is some doubt about mines on far side of No 2 Gap. CRE, OC Sqn, OC No 1 Troop and 12 men go out in 2 scout cars, 2 carriers, 1 white pick up and 3 Grant tanks about 06:45 hrs, and proceed into minefield in daylight. Very heavy fire opened out , sappers were sent back.





CRE & OC Sqn navigate 2 Grants through the minefield and return one Grant has tracked knocked off. Spr Booker with White goes back and picks up crew. All the party was safely evacuated. Sqn rests and reforms parties on axis and gap maintenance in evening. Visited by CRE 13 Corps in morning. Div Corps Comd says Sappers did well. Casualties – 8 killed & 19 wounded, total 27. CRE spends night with Sqn.





Sqn moves back to old leaguer area 4238.8668.





Sqn moves back again to area 438.865 near 143rd Fd Pk Sqn & 4th Fd Sqn, to prepare for next operation. Lieut Deavin and party from 3 Troop carry out successful recce of new and widened Gaps in Feb minefield and work back fro new Gaps to Jan minefield.





No 1 Troop on maintenance of May, June & Nuts minefields Gaps. 





Arranged with 4th Fd Sqn allotment of recruits, this unit received 4 Cpls & 17 Sprs. OC recce’d tracks to Jan. 





No 1 Troop on improvement to tracks to Jan. 3 Troop on minefields maintenance. Warning received ref move of CRE , 143 Fd Pk Sqn & 4th Fd Sqn. Arranged recce of 4 Fd Sqn work to take over same. Div Comd also CRE expressed satisfaction with work of Sqn in making Gaps in Feb. 





Main party of 7 Armd Div moves North. Sqn comes under comd 4th Lt Armd Bde. 08:00 hrs 2 Troop ordered to concentrate Sqn area and arrive 13:00 hrs. Comd  sees Comd 4th Lt Armd Bde OC 1 KRRC & Lieut Bents  143 Fd Pk Sqn and arranges to take over above.





Strength of Unit 8 and 267










November 1942

Commanding Officer: Major H R Carr

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Area 438.865 1 01:30 W/T message from 4Lt Armd Bde. Sqn to move up to new area near Bde HQ in DEIR-EL-RAGIL first light.  
    06:30 Sqn moves as ordered. OC reports to HQ for orders. Sqn visited by CE 13 Corps.  
    11:30 Conference at Bde HQ orders for advance issued. 2 Tp moves under command HCR. 3 Tp under command Derbyshire Yeo. Tps move out to their units. 1 Tp in support 1 KRRC, relieves detachment 143 Fd Pk Sqn who depart, also 3x3ton lorries of Hawkins Mines to CRE.  
  2 09:30 OC visits CE 13 Corps. 4 LAB ordered to move to N Sector.  
    13:00 2 & 3 Tps recalled from Armd Regts. Sqn concentrated.  
    16:00 Moves behind 3 RHA thro all gaps in May Minefield then N to Lancaster gate – (elements lose contact in dark & get bogged).  
IMAYID area 3 01:30 BEACHY HEAD – IMAYID Relay Stn Area, Sqn close leaguers, disperses to 439.896  
    10:00 OC to Bde HQ for orders, maintenance and bathe. W/S equipt collected from BURG-EL-ARAB.  
  4 06:00 Orders received by W/T to move Sqn up to Bde area. Whole Bde found moving off – pursuit is on via TEL-EISA-TELEL AQAQIR & S down SIDI-ABD-EL-RAHMAN track. Bde takes 2000 prisoners, leaguers S of DABA. Leaguer shot up by Armd Cars Spr Lawton (1Tp) wounded by bomb.  
FUKA 5 06:00 Moved with NZ Div – 7 German tanks, one Russian 76mm gun destroyed SE of FUKA after action. Cleared way thro dummy minefield for Bde. Spr Mills F E & Mills E A S (2 Tp) killed by shellfire, Spr Powell B D wounded.  
    18:00 Sqn leaguered S of FUKA escarpment with Bde HQ, first rain during night.  
FUKA 6 13:00 Moved N on SIDI-HANEISH under command 1 KRRC, further rain, going getting difficult. 1 Mk III destroyed, leaguered S of escarpment.  
  7   Further rain, spent day moving about 8 miles W – transport bogging badly, M13 & Mk III destroyed.  
  8   1 Tp detached to mark and clear gap in unmarked minefield across MATRUH-SIWA track and recced gap thro minefields to W.  
  9   Moved on towards MSHEIFA and then redirected on SIDI BARRANI (less 1 Tp). Shot up by ME 109’s no casualties. Joined main coast road Kilo 95 – contact with enemy rearguard, and leaguered Kilo 120.  
SIDI BARRANI 10   Move SW round SIDI BARRANI and then on to road near BUG BUG, in contact with enemy rearguard, recced route thro minefield, tanks tried to ascend HALFAYA in dark – 3 casualties on tellermines. Sqn less 1 Tp concentrates foot of HALFAYA 21:00 hrs. At 22:00 hrs 2 & 3 Tps start to sweep road up, covered by 1 KRRC  
    23:30 1 Tp rejoins Sqn  
HALFAYA Area 11 02:00 Sweep 3000 yards complete – 57 tellermines removed. Bde ascends pass first light. Det from 1 Tp under Lieut Blockley with leading tanks clears road at top.  
    08:00 Sqn moves up to top of HALFAYA – strafed by ME 109’s. 2 x 210mm guns destroyed. SIDI AZEIZ LG recced – moved via MUSAID-CAPPUZZO to TRIGH CAPPUZZO and leaguered. Lieut Harley sent to fetch QM’s Party.  
TRIGH CAPUZZO 12 08:00 Bde moved on S of GAMBUT & TOBRUK leaguered near HAGFET GNABEL  
ACROMA area 13   Moved N on ACROMA, recced routes round minefields and on to coast road. Bde turned W and leaguered on top of escarpment S of GAZALA cleared mines of main coast road at GAZALA and recced EL AGHEILA and MRASAS for water. Det under Lieut Barnsley & L/Sgt Mutch sent out with Royals and SA Armd Cars. OC, Lieut Deavin & Det proceed along coast road via TMIMI directed on MARTUBA  
GAZALA 14   Many belts of mines found and lifted. TMIMI LG’s recced, also UMMER RZEM water supply. Booby trapped mines first found UMM ER RZEM, leaguered Kilo 35. Section of 2 Tp sent with Royals directed on CHARRUBA  
GAZALA 15   Moved on via MARTUBA where LG’s recced and No’s 1 & 3 Tps rejoined – CARMUSET W of GIOVANNI BERTHA and leaguered. Lieut Harley & QM’s Party rejoin Sqn HQ & 2 Tp, which moves to TMIMI and gets bogged.  
GIOVANNI BERTA 16   Raining hard, tps dried out in farmhouse, waiting to replenish. Lieut Deavin & 2/Lieut Westwater patrolled 26 miles W and cleared some prepared charges near DE MARTINO. Bombed by He III’s. Lieut Barnsley joins with B Echelon.  
SLONTA 17   Bde moves on W via main road. LAMLUDA-Southern loop to SLONTA – ran into enemy rearguard there. Sprs, leading Bde twice shot up by Armd Cars. Very wet. HQ & 2 Tp rejoined.  
  18   Pushed on to MARAUA – very wet – many mines.  
  19   Pushed on to BARCE – very wet – many mines, bridge on escarpment above BARCE blown, diversion completed by 16:00 hrs in 3 hrs. 26 prisoners (2 German) taken by Lieut Barnsley recce’ing first into BARCE. Leaguered there after recce’ing for booby traps. Bad accident on escarpment with No 1 Tp Armd 15-cwt. Sprs Hind, Dodd, Ayres, Jones J N killed.  
BARCE 19   Sprs Sinclair, Wheeldon, Miller H N, Skeats, James, Beechy and L/Cpl Sharpe wounded. Mines found on LG and approaches.  



Recce party 1 Tp proceeds via EL ABIAR and recce party 2 Tp up TOCRA road, latter report large crater on escarpment. 3 Tp moved up – start work 13:30 hrs road through by 17:00 hrs, with assistance 50 SA Armd Car & 50 KRRC & RHA personnel.

2 Tp recce party proceeds ahead. 3 Tp leaguers at head of escarpment. Dvr Goss killed in Bantam by tellermine

BENGHASI 21   Bde with Sqn less 1 Tp proceed via TOCRA to BENGHASI, many mines. Leaguer in Main Rly Stn. Recce Docks for traps. 1 Tp rejoined via REGEIMA having lifted 165 tellermines and got badly bogged on EL ABIAR track.  
BENGHASI 22   Established WP near FUHEIHAT – maintenance.  
BENGHASI 23 16:00 Moved to MAGRUN with Bde leaving WP in action. Received orders rejoin 7th Armd Div AGEDABIA area. Sqn moves off and OC proceeded ahead with Lieut Harley.  
AGEDABIA 24 11:00 08:00 hrs. OC saw Major Walker A/CRE, and Sqn arrives less 3 Tp, leaguers N of main 7th Armd Div HQ on ANTELAT track, recce for WP at RIDOTTA, PESSANA & ZUETINA. 3 Tp returns to MAGRUN to clear LG and verges off road. Sprs Allan and Pollard (2 Tp) killed by lifting tellermines.  
AGEDABIA 25   Det under Lieut Blockley with 4 Lt Armd Bde Column moving S and Det under Capt Ewart with Royals Column moved on BIR BETTAFAL. Recovered most of sec sent out with Royals from GAZALA  
AGEDABIA 26   Lieut Blockley’s Det returns. Party sent to ANTELAT to arrange W/Point for F.M.C.  
AGEDABIA 27   Sqn less dets moves to XB.86.99, vehicles for workshops left with MT Sgt. 3 Tp mending road craters. Recce party to HASSEIAT & BELANDAH LG’s.    
AGEDABIA 28   No 2 Tp det returns. LG’s recce party returns.  
AGEDABIA 29   Det from 2 Tp to 4 Lt Armd Bde for minefield recovery work.  
AGEDABIA 30   Water recce carried out by 2 Tp between main road and sea. Casualties for this month are Killed 9 – Wounded 10 – and 27 sick. Total strength now: Officers 8 – OR’s 221  


December 1942

Commanding Officer: Major H R Carr

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices

Map Ref





Strength of unit: - 8 and 221

Sqn ordered to make and mark tracks AGEDABIA – GTAFIA – BIR – ES SUERA. Recces made and work started.






Sqn moved to (X)B8981. Work on tracks continued.





OC sick and evacuated with jaundice. 1 Tp moves under command 4 Lt Armd Bde. Further tracks started from GTAFIA – (X)C0460 – MAATEN BETTAFAL – (X)B8176 – BIR EL GINN and MAATEN BETTAFAL 10 replacement vehicles received from 4 Fd Sqn RE





Autopatrol from SAEC sent to help with track construction.

Capt Ewart returned to his tp and reported Spr Whittle killed by thermos bomb 2 days previously, also Sprs Lee & Knight wounded





Continued work on tracks.





Continued work on tracks. 2 reinforcements received.





3 Tp found well at (X)B9599 and tested. Estimated 500 galls per hour yield.





CRE decided to make well a Water Point and 143 Fd Pk Sqn take over. 1 Tp moved off 30 miles SOUTH with 4 Lt Armd Bde.

CE Eighth Army visited CRE and saw all unit comds of Div Engineers. Reinforcement situation discussed. 2/Lt Westwater took small party to lift mines in front of 65 A/Tk Regt.

CE inspected the unit. After Sqn Parade CE met all Officers present.





Quiet day. No work, so football was organised.





Lt Deavin & a party from 2 Tp with a bulldozer from 143 Fd Pk Sqn left to do ground markings for RAF near MAATEN BETTAFAL. 3 Stukas attacked them, put bulldozer out of action and wounded L.Cpl Rumble. Remainder of unit engaged on maintenance of desert tracks.





Sqn move to BLEIDET Et TARATIT, expecting to do minefield XXXXXXXXX





Strength 2 Officers and 44 Ors

Water recce carried out – unsuccessful.






Recce party to CRYSTAL’S RIFT (X)G8969 to find way across for Bde.


Pumped well at (X)C6946  but water very saline.


Moved with Bde past CRYSTAL’S RIFT to (X)G6475

(X)G6475 14  

Tp went west with KDG and cut 3 gaps in fence along AGHEILA – MARADA track. Swept for mines but none found. 1 Section 6 NZ Fd Coy placed under command.


Moved to (X)A2186. Enemy contacted. Shells fell near Tp area.


Moved 4 miles SW near Bde HQ


1 Section 6 NZ Fd Coy  returned to their unit.


Whole Bde moved to (R)Z8316. After tank battle Lieut. Blockley destroyed 1 Mk III, SOUTH of NOFILIA

(R)Z8316 19  

Moved to (R)Z4115


Moved to NOFILIA. Area searched for mines, some “T” and “S” mines discovered and cleared.

(R)Z8328 21  

Tp employed on water recce, but apart from the main wells in NOFILIA which had been blown, there was little water in the area


Moved to (R)Y8530

(R)Y8530 25  

Recce det sent to GASR BU HADI to pump well there and report on mining


Tp moved up to SIRTE to clear road, WEST of the town.

Spr McIlveen wounded.


SIRTE 27  

Moved back to Bde area.

  28   Moved to (R)X9853  
(R)X9853 29   Moved with Bde to area BIR EL ZIDAN (R)X6663  
  30   Started Bde W/Point at (R)X6952. Well 80 ft deep.  
  31   Laid small Hawkins minefield across GHEDDAHIA – BU NGEM Road, at (R)X4824  
      Strength 2 Officers and 43 Ors  



Report on Road Demolitions and Mining between



Copy No 3  


Initial hasty clearance carried out by 21 Fd Sqn RE,

except from kilo 15-27 and kilo 128 – L.G. (kilo 136)  




The enemy intention during his retreat along the road from EL-AGHEILA has been not only an attempt to slow down the advance of the army, but also a deliberate plan to cause as many casulaties as possible to any one trying to repair his demolitions. This he tried to achieve by liberal use of anti-personal mines and many varieties of booby-trap both of which, as a means of killing or maiming, seem to appeal greatly to the perverted mind of the German.


METHOD                    (a)The 5 main types of road obstruction that were 

met were:-                     (i) Blown bridges, up to 60ft gap.

(ii) Blown culverts, up to 15ft gap.

Pairs of 15ft craters.

Rows of filled barrels placed across the road, some booby-trapped.

Mines in the road and verges.


                                      (b) As nearly all these demolittions were ineffective in themselves, on account of the fact that vehicles could make diversions out on either side of the road, the enemy had resorted to placing mines in all likely places for such diversions. These consisted of a few Teller-mines an tracks which vehicles had made previously, and round about them Shrapnel-mines placed without any regard for pattern. Very few demolitions were met which did NOT have mines on either side of the road, the usual number being 4 to 12 Teller-mines and 12 to 24 Shrapnel-mines. (Some of them buried a foot deep).


In places where mines had been placed in pot-holes on the road they were nearly always found to be stretching for about 100 yards on either side of the road as well. These were generously placed near a kilo stone, and were easily spotted from the enemy habit of placing a Jerrican on top of the kilo stone which had mines around it.


BOOBY-TRAPS           Apart from plain mining the following booby-traps 

were found:-

9i)     Approximately one Teller-mine in five with anti-lifting devices.

(ii)     Teller-mines lying on the surface, exposed and apparently unarmed with the pin IN and the arming wire still wrapped round the igniter, but with anti-lifting devices underneath.

(iii)     One Teller-mine on top of another connected by a pull igniter.

(iv)     5 barrels filled with earth across the road. One or two had Teller-mines with pull igniters pegged down to the road, so that they exploded when the barrel was moved.

(v)     Some of the barrels had a large charge in them, being packed with shells etc., and were placed on top of culverts, so that when pulled away they blew in the top of the culvert.

(vi)     A lorry partialy across the road, with a wire from one axle connected to a pull igniter in the side of a Teller-mine; this mine on top of, and connected by a pull igniter to another Teller-mine, which in turn had a pull igniter underneath pegged into the ground with wire.

(vii)    “S” mines with pull igniters under debris.


CLEARANCE              One Tp., carried out hasty clearance of this stretch of road in 4½ days.


(a) Personnel employed.. Another Tp. Assisted them for two days, but were engaged on MARBLE ARCH L.G. for the remainder of the time.


(b) Method of clearing. The task set was to clear the tarmac of mines and make safe traffic diversions round all obstructions. Small parties with detectors managed to do this quite swiftly.  

(c) Drill employed. At some stages it was possible to “leapfrog” sections down the road, setting them each a certain stretch to do.

Generally however it was found safer, where the mines were thickest, to make a whole Tp. follow on behind a recce party and for sections or small parties to drop off and clear up, while the remainder proceeded on to the next obstruction, by making a wide diversion.


Date: 21st Dec 1942                                                         John Laing

A/OC, 21st Field Squadron R.E.





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