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75 CRE (Works) RE Palestine Trans Jordan WWII

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I have started a new thread for some background information and photographs of work in WW II and later on the Haifa to Baghdad Military Road by 75 CRE (Works) RE MEF

First some background about a good friend of mine of 50 years, and who was there and took the photographs.

In September 1939 he was in Palestine on school holidays visiting his parents, which he did every two years (his father was a Royal Engineer during WWI in Palestine, and later appointed the Chief Engineer for Palestine Railways, his mother was a nurse in QAIMNS during WW1 more about these two later).  As all civilian transport back to the UK had been cancelled due to start of WW II, he reported to a British Army Base at Sarafend to see if he could join up, but only given a medical because there was no enrolling procedure for British subjects in Palestine at that time. His visa did not allow him to work in Palestine, and British dependants had to leave Palestine via ship to South Africa. (His mother left for South Africa on a troop ship but it was torpedoed in the Mediterranean sea(more about this later).  But with some string pulling he was allowed to work as a civilian on the Haifa Baghdad military road construction, but only on the section in Iraq which was a neutral country at the time. Bearing in mind he was 16/17, and was working and living with RE soldiers (all in civilian clothing due to Iraq neutrality, and all former Iraq Petroleum (IPC) employees) in Iraq, with his father remaining in Palestine & mother en route to South Africa. Eventually in Aug 1940 at Sarafend, he was appointed Surveyor/Road Foreman Iraq & Trans Jordan with 75 CRE (Works) RE MEF working as a civilian.

In October 1942 he was "absorbed" into the British Army, traveled to Sarafend, and onwards to Moascar, Egypt for a two month wait for his army service number to come through from the UK, and was then transferred back to 75 CRE (Works) RE MEF to his old job on the Haifa to Baghdad Military Road, but now officially a Sapper. On 9 August 1943 he was transferred to Kent Troops RE (Demolitions) at Athlit? Palestine, and then 18 November 1943 seconded to the IPC to demolish an oil pipe line that was 100's km in length until June 1944.  July 1944 he was transferred to the TA (Reserve) but working for IPC until Oct 1946, and then a full time employee of IPC. His first task working full time for IPC was to repair the oil pipe line he had blown up whilst with 75 CRE Royal Engineers. He was good at demolition, so it took two years to repair.

So he left UK for Palestine 1939 for a school holiday, and did not see the UK again for 7 years! He worked for IPC on the oil pipe lines and pumping stations until 1960.

He met his wife, a ballet dancer with the Hungarian State Opera at a reception arranged by King Faisal II at the Royal palace in Baghdad. The opera was touring through the Middle East on their way to Australia, they married in Baghdad early 1950's. They remained friends with the King and family, taking the Kings children on trips to the desert. But the King was executed in 1958. When the political situation in Iraq worsened, after 1958, they did not feel safe, and left for the UK 1960.

Bit of a boys own action man in his day, but never talked about it much, which was a shame really. On return to UK he and and his wife never really adjusted to life in the UK, it was all a bit tame and lacking excitement. He was always a desert man, and he said a cup of tea never tasted right unless it had some sand in it. They purchased a Austin A40 in the 1950's and and they both made several trips from Iraq to UK via Hungary and return, and also to North Africa.

I hope you enjoy the photo's and I look forward to comments and questions.

 

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Sapper,  78 CRE (Works) RE,  MEF   taken in 1944

 

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Capt Squires, & Staff Sgt Maclean and driver with Chevrolet Utility at HBR Camp G.E.1 on the Trans Jordan Iraq border August 1940.

 

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Caterpillar Grader on auto patrol at work on the Haifa Baghdad military road being operated by 75 CRE (Works) RE  1940. The engine on this grader did not work, it was towed via a cable by any available heavy vehicle.

More photos to follow.

B series

 

 

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A 1930's Marmon Herrington tractor unit supply truck on the Wadi Rueshid Bridge near HBR H4 station, 1940. 

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HBR supply truck,  Marmon Herrington, 4x2, Tractor at Rutbah, Iraq, 1940.

Rutbah was the only scheduled stop for the well known Nairn Transport Company overland bus service between Baghdad & Damascus Syria. At some point during the war this bus service using MH tractors and very large air conditioned passenger semi trailers made by US company Budd was operated by the RAF. There was a good write up about it is a Wheels & Tracks magazine for those who can remember that fine publication.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, B series said:

 

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HBR supply truck,  Marmon Herrington, 4x2, Tractor at Rutbah, Iraq, 1940.

Rutbah was the only scheduled stop for the well known Nairn Transport Company overland bus service between Baghdad & Damascus Syria. At some point during the war this bus service using MH tractors and very large air conditioned passenger semi trailers made by US company Budd was operated by the RAF. There was a good write up about it is a Wheels & Tracks magazine for those who can remember that fine publication.

Now that looks like one hell of a truck for the period, doesnt the cab look tiny in comparison to the bonnet and wheels?

Edited by Rootes75

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4 minutes ago, Rootes75 said:

Now that looks like one hell of a truck for the period, doesnt the cab look tiny in comparison to the bonnet and wheels?

I agree, almost looks like the cab started a passenger car body and was modified in length and width. I also wondered about the front suspension arrangement, I think they might be early gas springs or dampers out the front end. I have a feeling that Scammell investigated the use of these at some point post war.

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Here we have a White 6x4 with petrol engine approx build date 1935. Originally this was a tractor unit with center mounted winch used for pulling semi trailers loaded with 12 inch oil pipeline for Iraq Petroleum Company. But two of these tractors were modified into recovery trucks for use by the 75 CRE RE to keep supply traffic moving along the HBR.  It is recovering an AEC Tipper that had been rolled because the arab driver was drunk, a not uncommon event and one that was difficult for the RE to stamp out. Some of the arabs were pro British and some pro German, the driver of the recovery truck although employed by the RE was suspected of giving information on the locations of the HBR road parties to german informants so he was often given false location information. So it caused some difficulty when your recovery truck driver thought you were working in one location, only to be called out to another maybe 300 km in the other direction. They had two recovery trucks covering 1000km of desert tracks and the HBR, so it was not uncommon camp out and wait a few days for assistance.

I case anyone is thinking how are these colour photos. You could buy from Kodak a book of tear out strips of different colours to use during film developing process (Kodacolour I think), and with a lots time which they had in the desert, and darkroom practice , you could somehow colour in your own black & white negatives, which is what was done with these two photo's.

 

B Series

 

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The Caterpillar Grader type is "Auto Patrol" which is where that term crept in.  The MH trucks are definitely the star images.

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Excellent photos and very interesting introduction,

my Father's CO in the REME was Maj Hugh Macniven an ex Anglo American Oil company  Mechanical engineer he took command of the mobile Field Workshop in North Africa and commanded the unit in Sicily and  Italy leaving in the Autumn of 1944  when he was posted back to the oil fields in Iraq. 

Pete

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Referring to the Mack recovering the AEC tipper it is hard to see how the AEC got rolled because the ground looks relatively flat and big trucks in those days didn't exactly go fast. It is amazing though how even the quite crude colouring of the images does bring them to life.

I would also add that the air springs on the MH tractor unit were not that uncommon in the late thirties / early forties, mostly on American trucks but also British ones.

Thank you B series for posting these photos. It is good to see photos of such a varied selection of vehicles in the normal course of their use and have a commentary about what the background was.

David

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12 hours ago, Pete Ashby said:

Excellent photos and very interesting introduction,

my Father's CO in the REME was Maj Hugh Macniven an ex Anglo American Oil company  Mechanical engineer he took command of the mobile Field Workshop in North Africa and commanded the unit in Sicily and  Italy leaving in the Autumn of 1944  when he was posted back to the oil fields in Iraq. 

Pete

Hello Pete,

If you have an interest in Iraq, Trans Jordan, Palestine &  Middle East oil fields and related, you might be able to find a copy of this book somewhere. I found a copy in a book shop around 2001 and showed to to my friend who worked for Iraq Petroleum Company 1940's to 1960 and he was surprised that a book had been published and the fact he knew so many of the people and places mentioned.

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Published by Cassell & Co in 1958 by Wayne Mineau.

I own an interesting book published by the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), which gives all the technical details and pictures of every piece of wheeled equipment operated by the company. Dated 1953 It is a big heavy book, maybe 300+ pages on heavy duty paper with a section for each type of equipment from passenger cars to oil field tractors and huge trailers.

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130 seat  passenger semi trailer towed by a Kenworth tractor.

 

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The mother of all busses!   Based on Kenworth 629, 6x4 chassis. A note in the book mentions the ride in this vehicle is not as good as a regular highway bus.

 

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Here is a DeHavilland DH98A Rapide that had a forced landing in the Iraq desert.

 

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Overland recovery was performed using this AEC tractor and semi trailer, with the arab driver in photo.

 

 

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These really are great snippets of history.

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Caption reads: This is S/Sgt Alec Downs (75 CRE(Works) MEF), dog Pippy, on the bonnet of my Chevrolet pick up HBR 12, at HBR quarters, Zerka, 1942. 

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Caption reads: My driver Abu Khalil and self with my Chevrolet pick up HBR 12, on the HBR between Zerka and Mafraq, Trans Jordan, November 1942.

 

 

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Stone crusher with drag line behind on the HBR.

 

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AEC Tipper, Army Fordson W.O.T. 2, 15 Cwt, and an ex RAF Brockhouse Bowser, 450 gal with Zwicky pumping equipment coming off the old Euphrates ferry, Iraq.

 

 

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11 hours ago, B series said:

 

Here is a DeHavilland DH98A Rapide that had a forced landing in the Iraq desert.

 

image.png.b19d1fd3b01890ae419f54098a4ff246.png

 

 

 

 

 

Just a bit of information on the demise of the Dragon Rapide. The incident happened on the 25th June 1948 near Mile Post 100 in the Syrian desert. It was on a flight to Damascas when it had to make an emergency landing.

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11 hours ago, Richard Farrant said:

Just a bit of information on the demise of the Dragon Rapide. The incident happened on the 25th June 1948 near Mile Post 100 in the Syrian desert. It was on a flight to Damascas when it had to make an emergency landing.

Thank you Richard,

If that date is correct it means some of the photo's in the album I am working from are not in chronological order.

B Series

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On 7/1/2020 at 10:36 PM, David Herbert said:

Referring to the Mack recovering the AEC tipper it is hard to see how the AEC got rolled because the ground looks relatively flat and big trucks in those days didn't exactly go fast. It is amazing though how even the quite crude colouring of the images does bring them to life.

I would also add that the air springs on the MH tractor unit were not that uncommon in the late thirties / early forties, mostly on American trucks but also British ones.

Thank you B series for posting these photos. It is good to see photos of such a varied selection of vehicles in the normal course of their use and have a commentary about what the background was.

David

There were several reasons for the many roll overs

a) Drunk, or tired drivers operating very noisy vehicles in high ambients leading to loss of concentration and boredom.

b) It was not unknown for a driver to tip a truck over so he could end his shift early.

c) Nothing to focus on when driving, only sand for hours.

d) A common practice was to spray the road surface with crude oil to keep the dust down, any curves, corners or bridges were not supposed to be sprayed, but the spray truck drivers could also be drunk or tired.

e) The tipper trucks had a relativity  high centre of gravity, because of the chassis design and tipping mechanism. They had large tipping bodies that were often over loaded. In addition, the effect of increased height due to oversize flotation tyres and the fact that they had reduced overall rear track width because they ran with single tyres. Maybe they were hard to keep upright, especially if sliding on crude oil!

 

 

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Caption: Tractor and scrapper on the Amman - Mafraq road, Trans Jordan 1942

 

 

 

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S/Sgt Downs of 75 CRE(Works) RE MEF), driving his Caterpillar Auto Patrol Grader between H3 and Rutbah, Iraq, 1941. 

 

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Caption: Caterpillar D8 with towed scraper and a stalled engine. Not normally a problem, but the starter motor had been removed for repair, but as no spares available it had not been replaced. This was taken in the river at Ruseifa Bridge between Zerka and Amman, Trans Jordan, January 1942.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, B series said:

image.png.b5c2ebccfdb37c766bd4fd71b7ad5c5c.png

Caption: Caterpillar D8 with towed scraper and a stalled engine. Not normally a problem, but the starter motor had been removed for repair, but as no spares available it had not been replaced. This was taken in the river at Ruseifa Bridge between Zerka and Amman, Trans Jordan, January 1942.

 

 

I thought the D8 had a donkey engine to start the main engine. Begs the question of how they started it without any starter?

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image.png.744dacf4c34fb205cecbca792593503b.png

S/Sgt Downs Utility car  HBR No1, with Sheikh Abdulla Majella Abu chauffeurs and Hanna Shemali, in Zerka Yard, Trans Jordan , August 1943.

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Richard Farrant said:

I thought the D8 had a donkey engine to start the main engine. Begs the question of how they started it without any starter?

Richard,

I don't know about D8's, maybe the term starter motor was used instead of donkey engine in the photo caption.

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2 hours ago, Richard Farrant said:

Hi B Series,

Here is the link to the crash report;

https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=18743

Hello Richard,

Thanks for the link to the crash report, seems it crashed in Syria, but was recovered to IPC in Iraq.

I was not posting many of the photos I have on HMVF because they are not military vehicles, but if you have an interest in aircraft here is another one that had a bad day.

 

John Howards G-AKHA crashed on take off due to blow out at K3 airport, January 1949.

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