This article looks at the role of field park companies during the Second World War and will help you research those who served with them. The page first explains what a field park company was, before looking at how it was structured and the types of soldiers who served with them. The second part looks at how you can research both a field park company and those who served with it. I’ve also written a wide variety of other guides to help you research soldiers:
I also offer a Second World War Soldier Research Service.
Field Park Company Royal Engineers
A field park company was a unit of the Royal Engineers which served in an infantry division during the Second World War. The company contained a workshop section which included lighting for the division’s headquarters, a bridging section which held bridging equipment and a field stores section which contained reserve stores and tools, and anti-tank mines. The equivalent in an armoured division was a field park squadron. Also serving with an infantry division were three field companies.
Structure and War Establishment of a Field Park Company
The following war establishment was published in March 1938 and remained in use for the early part of the war. A field park company was divided into a headquarters and three sections. There was a workshop section which included “a lighting set for divisional headquarters”, a bridging section “holding bridging equipment for immediate use of the division” and a field stores section “holding reserve stores, anti-tank mines for use of divisional engineers, and the divisional reserve of tools”. The company was commanded by a Captain who along with two subalterns, Lieutenants or Second Lieutenants served with the headquarters. The other ranks were distributed amongst the company as follows:
- One Company Serjeant-Major with the headquarters
- One Company Quartermaster-Serjeant with the headquarters
- One Mechanist Staff-Serjeant (Electrical and Mechanical) with the workshop section
- One Transport Serjeants with the headquarters
- Three Serjeants with one serving in each section
- Two Lance-Serjeants with one in the headquarters and one in the workshop section. Lance-Serjeant was an appointment and the men’s rank was Corporal
- Four Corporals with one in each part of the company
- Two Transport Corporals, with one holding the appointment of Lance-Serjeants, with one serving with the bridging section and one with the field stores section
- Sixty Sappers with fourteen serving with the headquarters, twenty-nine in the workshop section, nine with the bridging section and eight in the field stores section
- Seven Drivers Internal Combustion (I.C.) holding the appointment of Lance-Corporal, with one serving in the headquarters, one with the workshop section, three with the bridging section and two with the field stores section.
- Sixty-seven Drivers I.C. with ten serving with headquarters, seven in the workshop section, thirty-five with the bridging section and fifteen in the field stores section
In total, a field park company had three officers and 153 other ranks from the Royal Engineers. There were also two Drivers I.C. from the Royal Army Service Corps and a light aid detachment from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The light aid detachment was transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers when it was formed in 1942 and contained an officer, a Staff-Serjeant or Serjeant and eleven other ranks. Of the 153 soldiers from the Royal Engineers serving with the company, seventy were tradesmen. This meant that they had passed a trade test in a skill. There were sixteen types of tradesmen in the company, though most only had one or two soldiers in that specific trade. The exception was for the trade of Pioneer as there were thirty-seven of these tradesmen in a field park company. Other trades included Blacksmiths, Electricians, and Plumbers and Pipe Fitters.
For transport, a field park company had a bicycle, eight motorcycles, a four-seater car and forty-two lorries and trucks. There were also five trailers. The light aid-detachment had a motorcycle, a two-seater car and two 3-ton lorries, one for stores and one for breakdowns. The two Drivers from the Royal Army Service Corps each had a 12-cwt van. These transport figures should be seen as a guideline only, as there could be a great shortage of vehicles, especially early in the war and following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in May and June 1940.
The stores which a company carried were 435 axes, pick and 860 shovels. For bridging equipment, the company had 64 nine men assault boats, 32 two-man reconnaissance boats, five folding boat equipment boat units and two trestle units, as well as two sets of small box girder equipment. The company also had 1,000 active anti-tank mines and another 1,000 dummy mines. Again, these figures should be seen as guidelines. For weaponry, there were eleven .38 Webley revolvers, 145 Lee-Enfield rifles, two Rifle, Anti-Tank .55in, Boys and two light machine guns. The latter would mostly have been Lewis guns at the start of the war which were gradually replaced by the Bren gun.
Researching a Field Park Company
The most important document to research a field park company is its war diary. This was written by an officer of a unit and recorded its location and activities. They often contain a wide variety of appendices, including reports, orders, maps etc. especially when a company was taking part in a campaign. They are held at the National Archives and I’ve written a detailed guide on how to find them. I also offer a copying service for these documents. As field park companies usually served with an infantry division, the Commander Royal Engineers’ war diary for the division can be very useful. This war diary will contain information on all Royal Engineers units within that division and you’ll often find appendices which are missing from a field park company’s war diary.
It can be difficult to find out which division a field park company served with as the orders of battle are kept at the National Archives. I use Orders of Battle Second World War 1939-1945 by Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. Joslen as a handy reference. The war diaries of the division’s three field companies may also contain information regarding the division’s field park company. The WO 361 series which records enquiries regarding soldiers who went missing can be very useful, as they often contain eyewitness statements which can add more detail to a war diary. Enquiries for missing soldiers of the Royal Engineer are often grouped together in large files but there are a handful just on field park companies.
Researching a Soldier who Served with a Field Park Company
The most important document to research a soldier who served with a field park company is his service record. This will list all the units he served with and the time he spent with them so you can then view the correct war diaries from the National Archives. Any trade tests a soldier passed will also be recorded in the file. The service records are held by the Ministry of Defence and I’ve written a detailed guide on how to order one. You’ll receive a photocopy and most will be between eight and sixteen pages in length.
There aren’t a lot of digitized resources to search for Second World War soldiers but two of the most important are the War Office casualty lists and a collection of documents relating to prisoners of war on Findmypast. The War Office casualty lists record soldiers who were killed, died while in service, went missing, were taken prisoner or wounded. Often, the field park company the soldier was serving with was also recorded. You’ll also find the British Library’s digitized newspaper collection on FindmyPast. This is a useful collection to search if you’re researching a casualty or someone who won a gallantry award or honour. However, only a fraction of the archive has been digitized.
Citations for honours and awards can be found on the National Archives’ website as part of the WO 373 series. There is a small fee to download each citation though they are free to download at the National Archives. If you’re researching a soldier who was a prisoner of war and held in Germany, search the WO 416 series of German record cards. The cards have only been catalogued up to the surname Lusted.