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Pioneer Corps in Europe WW2 1944 - 1945

Bodenplatte

War Hero
A major effort for the Corps in NW Europe was smoke generation.

1600980949333.png
 

Bodenplatte

War Hero
Many Jewish men who fled Germany and arrived in the UK enlisted in the Pioneer Corps. The link is to a chilling book about one of them who ended up after WW2 as a Nazi Hunter, bringing Rudolf Hoess and many others to face justice.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16130338-hanns-and-rudolf
I think I'm right in saying that the Pioneer Corps was a badge of convenience for many of the German Jews who reached England. They were usually employed in intel and translating roles, not as military labourers.
 
I've inherited some medals & service records of my Grandad's who served with The Pioneer Corps during WW2.
The medals include a France & Germany Star, and his records show overseas service between 15 Jun 1944 & 31 Aug 1945.
I take the codes to mean he was with the 21st Army group in North West Europe - hence the star - but the rest of the code means nothing (dates?)
He was possibly attached to 160 & 282 during this time.
I can find nothing online.

Would anyone please know WHERE in Europe he would be based?
What the Pioneer Corps would be doing during that time?
I note they did not come home on VE day in May, but stayed on until August - was that purely logistical?

Any information gratefully received.

Contact the Royal Pioneer Corps Association, either on their website or Facebook group or page. The Admin there is very helpful to the family of veterans, and will probably be able to provide you with more information (copies of unit war diaries for example).
 

Tyk

LE
I think I'm right in saying that the Pioneer Corps was a badge of convenience for many of the German Jews who reached England. They were usually employed in intel and translating roles, not as military labourers.

Interesting if it's true, it would be a sensible cover for sneaky beaky type stuff without raising eyebrows.
 
I think I'm right in saying that the Pioneer Corps was a badge of convenience for many of the German Jews who reached England. They were usually employed in intel and translating roles, not as military labourers.

IIRC, I heard one émigré interviewed many years ago saying he joined the Pioneers thinking they were the corps of engineers since that was the name used for engineers where he came from, and I forget which country it was he mentioned. But he realised his mistake shortly afterwards.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
IIRC, I heard one émigré interviewed many years ago saying he joined the Pioneers thinking they were the corps of engineers since that was the name used for engineers where he came from, and I forget which country it was he mentioned. But he realised his mistake shortly afterwards.
German Engineers are Pioneren.
 

XPara Mugg

War Hero
My "aunt" and godmother, a woman with a very mysterious background, told of the time she spent as an ATS Sgt cook* at a couple of large country houses. The "guests" were high ranking German officer PoWs who deserved, and received high quality food and hospitality. She was a very competent cook and patissier, who just happened to also be a highly competent linguist, fluent in German and French. She had polished her languages while training in Switzerland on the real Cordon Bleu course and in European hotels in the 30s. A coincidence of posting? I think not.

She had been briefed on not letting slip that she was a linguist and to just listen, casually but carefully, during her duties. True to form, the Germans ignored the mere serving woman and, occasionally spoke carelessly. Perhaps nothing important but it all added to the picture.

Now, back to the thread: Many of the staff who carried out menial tasks and small repairs (it was, apparently a game for the Germans to inflict minor damage/sabotage to the fabric of the building, as well as searching for, and finding, "hidden" microphones) were Pioneer Corps. The Germans complained at the house being staffed by technical troops but were mollified that, in the British Army, The Pioneer Corps were just general duties dogsbodies with no particular expertise.

However, these particular "pioneers" were mostly Jewish and all native German speakers whose skills lay in emptying bins, cleaning the house, a bit of painting and plastering etc. and listening. Again, once the Germans had been told they were menial labourers, they disappeared from the Germans' sight. The Germans remained, of course, vigilant in the presence of the British officers and Provost Corps guards.

As for Auntie Jean, after the war she became a ladies' companion and lived in the basement apartment of a Bayswater mansion along with a few similar ladies. Her job seemed to be accompanying wealthy (mostly Jewish) American women on tours of Eastern Europe. I had masses of random Yugoslav, Hungarian etc. trinkets and souvenirs from her. This was in the 50s and 60s. After the wealthy american tourist market changed she was employed in some capacity by the American Rice Council. This seemed to involve travelling round Eastern European farming areas, into the Balkans and even Ukraine and the Caucasus. All at a time when it was pretty much impossible to obtain a visa to these areas.

You can't imagine how much I wish I had asked her what it was all about. But, in hindsight, if it was interesting, I don't suppose she would have told me.

*My real Aunt, who was also an ATS Sgt cook, always maintained that she just couldn't understand how Auntie Jean had managed to get to the position of Sgt without having gone through the usual recruit training and promotion courses. Of course, it had to be because she was 'posh'. Hmmm. Auntie Jean never said. And they shared a flat for nearly the last fifteen years of Jean's life.
 
I've no idea which battle this was but a WWII Chelsea Pensioner told me about an attack his battalion was on that got stalled and how impressed he was seeing a Guards battalion move through their positions at the double with bayonets fixed. Only for their attack to stall because they ran into a Pioneer company that wouldn't let them onto a bridge that they were repairing and were defending with fists, picks and shovels.
So the equivalent of RAF loadmasters then!
 

Bodenplatte

War Hero
. . . . .
You can't imagine how much I wish I had asked her what it was all about. But, in hindsight, if it was interesting, I don't suppose she would have told me. . . . . .

Your post confirms my recollection that many refugees from wartime Germany ended up wearing Pioneer Corps uniform, so thanks.

I also had a close "Aunty" who actually lived with my parents and me for a few years after the War. She was a wise woman, and I learned much from her, and I recall, perhaps to my discredit, that I thought more of her than my natural mother. It now pains me to say that, but that's how my childish, selfish, little mind worked.

She had worked amongst internees on the Isle of Man, and when asked she just said that she had "run a canteen."
Then in 1945 she went to Control Commission Germany, and when I asked her what she did there, the most she came out with was "Foreign Office Intelligence."
She was engaged to a Polish pilot who was killed in Italy; she never spoke of him, but she had a photograph of them together, in a prominent place, until the end of her life in the 1960s.
 

Chef

LE
My "aunt" and godmother, a woman with a very mysterious background, told of the time she spent as an ATS Sgt cook* at a couple of large country houses. The "guests" were high ranking German officer PoWs who deserved, and received high quality food and hospitality. She was a very competent cook and patissier, who just happened to also be a highly competent linguist, fluent in German and French. She had polished her languages while training in Switzerland on the real Cordon Bleu course and in European hotels in the 30s. A coincidence of posting? I think not.

She had been briefed on not letting slip that she was a linguist and to just listen, casually but carefully, during her duties. True to form, the Germans ignored the mere serving woman and, occasionally spoke carelessly. Perhaps nothing important but it all added to the picture.

Now, back to the thread: Many of the staff who carried out menial tasks and small repairs (it was, apparently a game for the Germans to inflict minor damage/sabotage to the fabric of the building, as well as searching for, and finding, "hidden" microphones) were Pioneer Corps. The Germans complained at the house being staffed by technical troops but were mollified that, in the British Army, The Pioneer Corps were just general duties dogsbodies with no particular expertise.

Possibly Trent Park:

Second World War[edit]
Sir Philip Sassoon died in 1939 and the house was requisitioned by the government for use during the Second World War.[6] Trent Park was used as a centre to extract information from captured German officers. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, captured Luftwaffe pilots were held initially at Trent Park. The rooms at Trent Park had been equipped with hidden microphones that allowed the British to listen in to the pilots' conversations. This provided information about the German pilots' views on a number of matters, including the relative strengths and weaknesses of German aircraft.[10]

Later in the war it was used as a special prisoner-of-war camp (the 'Cockfosters Cage'[11]) for captured German generals and staff officers. They were treated hospitably, provided with special rations of whisky and allowed regular walks on the grounds. The hidden microphones and listening devices allowed the British military (MI19) to gather important information and an intimate insight into the minds of the German military elite. An example of the intelligence gained from Trent Park is the existence and location of the German rocket development at Peenemünde Army Research Center, when General von Thoma discussed what he had seen there. This led to the area being targeted for a heavy bomber attack by the RAF. Intelligence was also gained on war crimes, political views, and the resistance in Germany that led to the attempt to assassinate Hitler. Eighty-four generals and a number of lower-ranking staff officers were brought to Trent Park.

More than 1,300 protocols were written by the time the war ended; a selection of these was published in English in 2007 under the title Tapping Hitler's Generals.[12][13] Selected transcripts were dramatised in the 2008 History Channel 5-part series The Wehrmacht. In the episode The Crimes, General Dietrich von Choltitz is quoted as saying in October 1944: "We all share the guilt. We went along with everything, and we half-took the Nazis seriously, instead of saying 'to hell with you and your stupid nonsense'. I misled my soldiers into believing this rubbish. I feel utterly ashamed of myself. Perhaps we bear even more guilt than these uneducated animals." (This in apparent reference to Hitler and his supporting Nazi Party members.)[14]

The transcripts from Trent Park are also included in the 2011 book Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying, The Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWS by historian Sönke Neitzel and social psychologist Harald Welzer. In its review of the book, Der Spiegel reports:

Many Wehrmacht soldiers became witnesses to the Holocaust because they happened to be present or were invited to take part in a mass shooting. In one cell conversation, army General Edwin Graf von Rothkirch und Trach talks about his time in the Polish town of Kutno:
I knew an SS leader pretty well, and we talked about this and that, and one day he said: 'Listen, if you ever want to film one of these shootings? ... I mean, it doesn't really matter. These people are always shot in the morning. If you're interested, we still have a few left over, and we could also shoot them in the afternoon if you like.
It takes some sense of routine to be able to make such an offer. The fact that the people involved did not try to keep their activities a secret demonstrates how much the perpetrators took for granted the "mass shootings of Jews", as one of the POWs in Trent Park called it.[15]
 

XPara Mugg

War Hero
Possibly Trent Park:

Yes. Obviously you are right. It is likely to be Trent Park. However, in conversations it seemed that the locations were quite small, only small numbers of Germans. I have no proof but it was as though she was talking of a network of houses, perhaps with Trent Park as the hub. It was a few conversations over forty years ago. She certainly said she had worked in more than one house. One was somewhere in Surrey, Surrey Commons was mentioned. Also somewhere in Yorkshire, perhaps Lancashire (up North anyway), which was mentioned along with Luftwaffe references. I think the Trent Park link is strongest because it was in this area, North of London that my father met her. He was working between the various companies and locations working on Mosquito development.

Thanks for the info..
 

Chef

LE
Yes. Obviously you are right. It is likely to be Trent Park. However, in conversations it seemed that the locations were quite small, only small numbers of Germans. I have no proof but it was as though she was talking of a network of houses, perhaps with Trent Park as the hub. It was a few conversations over forty years ago. She certainly said she had worked in more than one house. One was somewhere in Surrey, Surrey Commons was mentioned. Also somewhere in Yorkshire, perhaps Lancashire (up North anyway), which was mentioned along with Luftwaffe references. I think the Trent Park link is strongest because it was in this area, North of London that my father met her. He was working between the various companies and locations working on Mosquito development.

Thanks for the info..

Happy to help. I believe the main part is part of Middlesex University these days. The other half used to use the stables at one end of the grounds.

There was a documentary on the place a while back. Possibly Timewatch.
 
There's a good little history regarding the Pioneer Corps in 21st Army Group here: The Pioneer Corps, British Army of the Rhine 1943-46 – The British & Commonwealth Military Insignia Database

160 Coy is mentioned as spending several months at the end of the war dealing with Russian and Yugoslav ex-PoWs.

Re German and Austrian Jews: Provided they were assessed as posing no security threat, interned German and Austrian Jews were eventually allowed to join the Pioneer Corps. It was initially the only part of the British Armed Forces they were allowed to join. However, it wasn't long before they were allowed to apply for other postings and many of them became Commandos, Para Pathfinders, Int Corps and other areas where German-speakers would be useful. A German Jew by the name of Louis Hagen provided an excellent account of this process in his book 'Arnhem Lift'. He was initially interned on the Isle of Man as a refugee, but then joined the Pioneer Corps as soon as they were allowed and later joined the Glider Pilot Regiment.
 

Bodenplatte

War Hero
A German Jew by the name of Louis Hagen provided an excellent account of this process in his book 'Arnhem Lift'. He was initially interned on the Isle of Man as a refugee, but then joined the Pioneer Corps as soon as they were allowed and later joined the Glider Pilot Regiment.

Louis Hagen is one of the men in that recently discussed photo taken in the garden of Stationsweg 8, Arnhem, along with another Glider Pilot and several men of 21 (Indep) Para Coy. He is almost totally obscured by another man in the most commonly reproduced version of the photo, but there were obviously several consecutive shots taken (or maybe frames from a moving film) as he can be seen more clearly in other versions. He stands behind the man who is signing the houseowner's Visitors Book.

 
Louis Hagen is one of the men in that recently discussed photo taken in the garden of Stationsweg 8, Arnhem, along with another Glider Pilot and several men of 21 (Indep) Para Coy. He is almost totally obscured by another man in the most commonly reproduced version of the photo, but there were obviously several consecutive shots taken (or maybe frames from a moving film) as he can be seen more clearly in other versions. He stands behind the man who is signing the houseowner's Visitors Book.

Cheers, I hadn't seen that thread. Yeah, lots of German/Austrian Jews in 22 Independent Coy (6 Abn Div) as well. There are a few in Ranville CWGC Cemetery with the same style of gravestone ('Hans Schmidt, served as Joe Bloggs').
 
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