View Full Version : Unusual and unsung units

Rising Sun*
01-10-2010, 07:04 AM
A thread for units in all nations which were or are the opposite of the famous combat etc units which attract all the attention but which often would not have got very far without some of the unusual and unsung units.

One of my favourites is the Canadian Forestry Corps in both world wars, which made a major contribution without going anywhere near the front:

Australia had Farm Companies which, among other things, set up farms in Australia to provide fresh food to supplement tinned rations for troops moving through remote areas: http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww2/bfa/dusty_track.html

Many nations had botanists engaged in a wide range of activities of potential military value (all you'll get here is the first page unless you subscribe to jstor): http://www.jstor.org/pss/4354228

None of it glamorous, but still important as part of the overall effort.

01-10-2010, 08:51 AM
Good topic, RS.

Among others, in Britain, were the Bevin Boys

Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, from December 1943 until 1948[1]. Chosen at random from conscripts but also including volunteers, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital but largely unrecognised service in the mines, many not being released until years after the Second World War. 10% of all conscripts 18-25 were picked for this service.


The Womens Land Army

The Women's Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organization created during the First and Second World Wars to work in agriculture replacing men called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls.

In effect the Land Army operated to place women with farms that needed workers, the farmers being their employers.


07-11-2010, 01:25 PM
I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the various "Native Auxiliaries" in both PNG, the Solomon Islands, and Malaysia for example.
I have in mind here that in PNG, the Solomons, and elsewhere the local natives would often voluntarily be formed into stretcher-bearer parties and similar to evacuate wounded Allied soldiers from a combat zone. Very often, those same natives would go unacknowledged in the Official Histories, despite being regarded with great Thanks by the Allied troops. The Poem "Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels" provides an unusually eloquent testament to the esteem in which in PNG native auxiliaries were held by Australian Troops.
It is to be found in (of all things) a book by Martyn Page "For Gawdsake don't take Me!" Published in 1978.

Kind and Respectful Regards RS*, Uyraell.

Iron Yeoman
07-16-2010, 03:29 AM
69th Mess Tin Repair Workshop (V) - Without their valiant efforts many a soldier's compo meal would have been eaten cold.

Rising Sun*
07-16-2010, 08:42 AM
Not unusual in WWII, and must have been huge in Germany's horse drawn army, but now quaint are units and soldier specialists such as blacksmiths and saddlers associated with horses. For example http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gregkrenzelok/veterinary%20corp%20in%20ww1/blacksmithshopftord.html

Rising Sun*
07-16-2010, 08:44 AM
69th Mess Tin Repair Workshop (V) - Without their valiant efforts many a soldier's compo meal would have been eaten cold.

Pardon my doubt, but this sounds like an invented unit for joke purposes. Was it a real unit?

07-16-2010, 10:05 AM
Wehrmacht blacksmith in Russia:


Not to forget an important element of every division:

Bakery company:
http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/44327-6/backebacke http://www.ww2incolor.com/d/51303-2/SaM1941_257_2%23

Butcher platoon:

07-16-2010, 10:12 AM
Another one from a butcher unit. Doesn't look like a bad job...

Rising Sun*
07-16-2010, 10:21 AM
Another one from a butcher unit. Doesn't look like a bad job...

Looks like the quoits section.
http://www.jjsoz.com.au/quoits/buy_quoits.html ;) :D

07-16-2010, 10:43 AM
Looks like the quoits section.
http://www.jjsoz.com.au/quoits/buy_quoits.html ;) :D

Being a father of a 3-year-old I know this annoying game to the extreme incl. blisters on my fingers.
When will they start to use soft rope instead of that barbed wire stuff?:D

But my last photo rather shows something like that:

Rising Sun*
07-16-2010, 11:17 AM
But my last photo rather shows something like that:

True, but it also shows the best fed / beefiest and possibly happiest German troops I've seen.

Which just confirms that the fighting troops in any army are never as well supplied as those further back who aren't doing any fighting.

Iron Yeoman
07-22-2010, 02:55 AM
Pardon my doubt, but this sounds like an invented unit for joke purposes. Was it a real unit?

What?!? You've never heard of the glorious 69th Mess Tin Repair Workshop (V)! Next you'll be telling me you haven't heard of the 1st Bn Loamshire regiment..

Rising Sun*
07-22-2010, 09:57 AM
Next you'll be telling me you haven't heard of the 1st Bn Loamshire regiment..

I have heard of the Loamshire Regiment.

But so far as I am aware the 1st Bn, and any other Bns this vastly undistinguished unit might have had, at best distinguished itself as postal addresses. Not unlike Patton in his greatest feat of arms without leaving Britain.

Unlike the NAOU, which had little need of post offices.

07-30-2010, 08:18 PM
Not heard of the 69th? Unbelieveable.

There was a small team from Walter Reed Army Hospital attatched to 5th SGG in RVN.

A few of them spent time at my camp in 1968 studying and treating the high incidence of Hookworm in the locals.

I saw some GIs who ran a small water purifying rig and some others who sat about in tents with longtools repairing typewriters.
M 1st trip there I sat next to a military court stenographer who practiced on a shorthand typewriter the whole trip.
Lots of ither similar stories.
Not everybody got to run aound looking for trouble.

Iron Yeoman
08-04-2010, 03:03 PM
Not heard of the 69th? Unbelieveable.

I know, it's not like their a made up unit like the bath & shower squadrons!

08-04-2010, 04:33 PM
During WWII, after the discovery of a couple of German infiltration, espionage, and sabotage teams, the U.S. Coast Guard formed the Beach Patrol. Many of them were mounted on horseback in addition to manning observation posts along the U.S. coastlines:


n September 1942, horses were authorized for use by the beach patrol. The mounted portion of the patrol soon became the largest segment of the patrol. For example, one year after orders were given to use horses, there were 3,222 of the animals assigned to the Coast Guard. All came from the Army. The Army Remount Service provided all the riding gear required, while the Coast Guard provided the uniforms for the riders. A call went out for personnel and a mixed bag of people responded. Polo players, cowboys, former sheriffs, horse trainers, Army Reserve cavalrymen, jockeys, farm boys, rodeo riders and stunt men applied. Much of the mounted training took place at Elkins Park Training Station and Hilton Head, the sites of the dog training schools.


They also used canine patrols...

Rising Sun*
08-05-2010, 10:27 AM

Any special reason, apart from neatness in the photo, for the sling being tight against the magazine?

Rising Sun*
08-05-2010, 10:42 AM
Australian horse mounted border patrol and observation unit.


Caption to this Australian War Memorial photo: A troop of horsemen of the North Australian Observer Unit (NAOU), crossing the Katherine River in the Northern Territory, led by an officer. The majority of the NAOU (known as Nackeroos) are skilled bush and horsemen. They are scattered all over the Northern Territory on guard against any surprise landings in isolated places. Many of the men have ridden over 2000 miles on horseback during the course of their patrols. http://cas.awm.gov.au/art/058457

08-14-2010, 08:25 AM
Air Transport Auxiliaries
are well worthy of mention in this thread.
Initially formed from personnel who had been in the pre-war "airclub" movement in the UK, the various units later included several hundred women pilots who had volunteered. Jacquie Cochran and Jacquie Mockridge are women in this category.

UK Law of the era did not allow women to serve in combat.

This is not to say though, that the personnel of ATA did not see combat.
Indeed, part of their ATA training included air-to-air gunnery and dogfighting, precisely because it was foreseen that the Luftwaffe could and would send "intruder" raids into UK airspace, and that some of those aircraft, usually FW190's or Me.109's on fighterbomber attacks, would in fact cross the transport routes ATA employed.

Mockridge's book ("Woman Pilot") includes a brief description of a dogfight with an FW 190 on a fighterbomber attack. The German couldn't shoot her down, but each managed to put a bullet hole in the other's aircraft, much to her annoyance, as her plane had only an hour before left the factory.

The unusual aspect of ATA pilots is that they were Type-Rated for everything the Allies flew. They had to be: they delivered these aircraft from the factory to the squadrons receiving the replacement aircraft.
It would have been a surprise, for example, to see a Lancaster land at an airbase, and the only person to emerge from it be a slim, 5-ft 4-inch brunette.

As indeed happened throughout her ATA career.

That these people, many of them women, are these days never heard of, or even known to have existed, is a disappointing thing.

Near enough to 25 years ago I directed the funeral for one of these women, and I was deeply disturbed that none of my colleagues even knew that she was Service Personnel, nor how vital a role she and many others like her had played during World War Two.

I'd think the ATA would even today be one of the most vital yet unsung and unknown organisations.

Let this be a small, but personal, record of memory to the ATA, whose many members Also Served.

Kind and Respectful Regards, Uyraell.

Rising Sun*
08-14-2010, 09:02 AM
Air Transport Auxiliaries
are well worthy of mention in this thread.

Yes, generally and most unfairly overlooked.

A related group is the women ferry pilots, such as the American Nancy Love, who:

"convinced Col. Tunner that the idea of using experienced women pilots to supplement the existing pilot force was a good one. He then asked the 28 year old Love to write up a proposal for a women's ferrying division. Within a few months, she had recruited 29 experienced female pilots to join the newly created Women's Auxiliary Ferry Squadron (WAFS). Nancy Love became their Commander. In September, 1942, the women pilots began flying at New Castle Army Air Field, Wilmington, Delaware, under ATC's 2nd Ferrying Group.

By June, 1943, Nancy Love was commanding four different squadrons of WAFS at Love Field in Texas, New Castle in Delaware, Romulus in Michigan and Long Beach in California. The WAFS' number had greatly increased because of the addition of graduates of the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas.

On August 5, 1943 Love's ferrying squadrons merged with the WFTD and became a single entity: the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Nancy Love was named as the Executive for all WASP ferrying operations. Under her command, female pilots flew almost every type military aircraft then in the Army Air Force's arsenal, and their record of achievement proved remarkable.

Between September, 1942 and December, 1944, the WASP delivered 12,650 aircraft of 77 different types. Over fifty percent of the ferrying of high-speed pursuit type aircraft in the continental United States was carried out by WASP, under the leadership of Nancy Love. Her personal contributions included some equally remarkable accomplishments. She was the first woman to be checked out in a P-51. By March, 1943, she was also proficient in fourteen other types of military aircraft. She was the first woman in U.S. military history to fly the B-25, flying it coast-to-coast in record time, and was one of the first two women to check out in a B-17. The WASP were disbanded on 20 December 1944. across the Atlantic. http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/bio_love.htm

Other units covered here http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/Women/AP31.htm

Rising Sun*
08-14-2010, 09:04 AM
War graves / graves registration units had to be about the worst job not involving being shot at.

08-14-2010, 10:45 AM
War graves / graves registration units had to be about the worst job not involving being shot at.

Almost. I'd hazard the Chem-Detachments and UXO's were nearly as fraught with nerve-wracking danger.
Granted, War graves/Graves Registration were certainly overlooked, or, worse, known as the "Ghoul Brigade".
But at least the WG/GR units were not, as such, at risk of life and limb as Chem and UXO units.

Similarly, Naval Diving parties seem to be overlooked, despite being to a man volunteers and working at extreme hazard due to the still largely unknown and unresearched effects of distribution of various otherwise innocuous gases through the bloodstream and muscle tissues. Add the often dreadfully primitive (though then state-of-the art) equipment with which these men trained and later went into combat, and one can only admire them.

Yet these too, outside all but the most esoteric of military history circles are basically ignored/overlooked.

Kind and Respectful Regards RS* my friend, Uyraell.

08-15-2010, 09:03 AM
A few forgotten units

Liberation of Death and Concentration Camps (http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/BF898E7C-7371-4AB3-BB50-DBE3FD0F7777/0/ww2_deathcamps.pdf)

Bergen-Belsen List of British units known to have been involved in liberating the camp and in the provision of subsequent humanitarian assistance (15 April to 8 June 1945)

HQ 10 Garrison (subsequently relieved by 2 Control Section (later 102 Control Section))

63 Anti-Tank Regiment (Oxfordshire Yeomanry)
113 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
1575 Artillery Platoon Royal Army Service
Corps att. 113 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
35 Pioneer Group
32 Casualty Clearing Station
35 Casualty Clearing Station
30 Field Hygiene Section
76 Field Hygiene Section
11 Light Field Ambulance
163 Field Ambulance
9 (British) General Hospital
29 (British) General Hospital
81 (British) General Hospital
30 Field Transfusion Unit
7 Field Transfusion Unit
22 Field Transfusion Unit
7 Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory
104 Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit
314 Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit
Bath Unit Section 8 Corps
Bath Unit Section 11 Armoured Division
Bath Unit Section 6 Airborne Division
Bath Unit Section 15 (Scottish) Division
10 Displaced Persons Camp Staff
3 Military Government Inland Depot
224 Military Government Detachment
618 Military Government Detachment
904 Military Government Detachment
908 Military Government Detachment

Six British Red Cross teams, medical students
from the London hospitals, Medical Research
Council nutritional teams, and both Jewish
and Quaker relief teams arrived later to assist.

01-12-2011, 10:34 PM
In the UK, it was known as the "Y" Service, part of the GCCS.
In the USA, the entire science becomes known as SigInt: Signals Intelligence.

In neither case it a direct connection to "Ultra" or "Purple" to be assumed, though without doubt indirect connections exist.

However: Vital, and to this very day largely unsung and un-noticed work was done by these units, in often appalling conditions, by men and women alike, working and serving side-by-side.

As such, These units also merit recognition in this thread.

Kind and Respectful Regards, Uyraell.

01-13-2011, 03:49 AM
Any special reason, apart from neatness in the photo, for the sling being tight against the magazine?

Maybe his magazine keep falling out?

01-28-2011, 10:17 PM
I've read the the Queen manned an AA Gun during the War.

01-28-2011, 10:19 PM
Any special reason, apart from neatness in the photo, for the sling being tight against the magazine?

Also the Coastie is carring a Reising SMG

01-28-2011, 10:22 PM
Although not military I’ve always admired the Firefighters and volunteers who responded to bombings in England (and, I assume, all cities suffering this fate).