This article looks at the service of the 277th Company Pioneer Corps during the Second World War and will help you to research those who served with the unit. This is one of a number of guides I have written to help you research soldiers who served during the Second World War:
I offer a Second World War Soldier Research Service.
The 277th Company Pioneer Corps
The 277th Company Pioneer Corps was formed at the No.5 Training Centre at Huyton, near Liverpool on 12 August 1941 from those undergoing training at the Centre and a draft from the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Its first commanding officer was Major George Patience Guyer M.B.E. Captain Wallace James Ignatius Daniel Gregory was second-in-command. Both officers were veterans of the First World War. The Company’s strength on formation was 6 officers and 390 other ranks. On the day the unit was raised, the 277th Company began to send men to Liverpool to act as fire watchers and shortly after, joined the No.17 Group. The Company remained at Huyton until 17 October 1941 when it moved to Aintree. Here, fire watching continued and there was nothing to report during 1942.
On 6 August 1943, the Company left Sefton Park Liverpool and moved to Grange Road in West Kirby, where its fire watching role continued. The 277th Company moved to Honeybourne near Evesham on 17 October where the unit provided working parties for the Royal Engineers. There was a lot of work on railway construction during this period. On 14 November, the Headquarters and five sections moved to Evesham while the other five sections were distributed in the surrounding area. The Company had a strength of 6 officers and 284 other ranks at the end of the year. On 23 February 1944, the Headquarters and five sections moved to Bruern Abbey Shipton near Shipton-under-Wychwood and the other five sections to Wargrave near Reading. Five sections of the Company moved to Cosham near Portsmouth on 30 and 31 March where they worked under the command of No.35 Group. These sections moved to Morestead on 6 April and were attached to the 107th Company Pioneer Corps four days later.
There was a fair bit of movement for the Company during the next six weeks before it was concentrated at Highlands House, St. Leonards-on-Sea near the end of June and beginning of July. One section was sent to Bulford on 15 August and the next day, the rest of the Company moved to a marshalling area in preparation for embarkation to France. On 20 August, the Company landed at Arromanches and moved to the No.60 Transport Camp. While in France, the Company operated close to Bayeux, at Saint-Martin-des-Entrées and Subles. The Company returned to Britain on 30 August and moved to Bulford Fields Camp the next day. Here, the unit remained until 26 September when they landed at airstrip B-82 Grave, near the village of Keent, Netherlands. Operation Market Garden had ended the previous day.
The Company spent the rest of the year in the Nijmegen area, mostly under the command of the No.60 and No.21 Groups. In February 1945, the Company left the Netherlands for an area near Kleve, Germany. The Company was still serving with the No.21 Group when it proceeded to Germany and in March, moved to the Reichswald Forest. For the remainder of its existence, the 277th Company served in both Germany and the Netherlands, including a long period at Enschede. On 27 October 1945, what was left of the Company after a lot of soldiers had been posted to other units arrived back at Dover. From the port, the Company travelled to Golf Club Camp at Bromborough, Cheshire where work began on the Birkenhead and Bromborough Docks. The last Company war diary ends on 31 October 1945.
War Diaries of the 277th Company Pioneer Corps
The most important documents for researching a unit which served in the Second World War are its war diaries. These were written by an officer of the unit and recorded its location and activities. There are often appendices in the form of orders, maps and reports. I offer a copying service for these documents which are held at the National Archives in London. Unfortunately, all five war diaries are poor and often provide little information other than the unit’s location and a vague description of its work. To supplement these diaries, I’d recommend also looking at the relevant Pioneer Corps group war diaries which the 277th Company served with.
- Date: 12 August – 24 December 1941
- Reference: WO 166/5760
- Notes: This is the best of the three war diaries covering the Company’s service in Britain, though only the period between August and October is detailed. The only appendix is a nominal roll of officers serving with the unit on 30 September 1941.
- Date: 01 January – 29 December 1942
- Reference: WO 166/10165
- Notes: A poor war diary where every month is covered in a single page. There are no appendices.
- Date: 01 January – 31 December 1943
- Reference: WO 166/13977
- Notes: Another very poor war diary with no appendices.
- Date: 01 January – 31 December 1944
- Reference: WO 171/3206
- Notes: Considering this war diary covers both the Normandy Campaign and the aftermath of Operation Market Garden, it is very poor. Officer and other rank field returns begin to appear from April, recording the officers serving with the Company each week and the number of other ranks. There is a daily situation report for November and December and a number of other appendices for the months.
- Date: 01 January – 31 October 1945
- Reference: WO 171/7404
- Notes: For the most part, a poor war diary, though there are more detailed entries during the last couple of months. There are the usual officer and other rank field returns and daily situation reports, along with a variety of other appendices.