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The History Pages

References used and some good Pioneer related books that I can recommend.


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        Pioneer Related Books

A War History of the Royal Pioneer Corps 1939-1945
by Major E H Rhodes-Wood
Published by Gale & Polden Ltd 1960
Converted electronically by Paul and Norman Brown February 2002

The Pioneer Corps Association owns the copyright to this excellent rare book and we are selling the electronic version of this book in our online shop for £11.

Every page and picture has been professionally reproduced exactly and proofed

Considering I have seen this book for sale for well over £100.00 so you are getting a bargain. You can read some extracts of the book from the D-Day page in the history section.

Royal Pioneers 1945-1993
by Major Bill Elliott
Published by Images, Malvern 1993

This Post-War History of the Corps was written by Major Bill Elliott, who generously donated his work and rights entirely for the Association's benefit.

It was published by Images, Malvern in May 1993 and is on sale in book shops at £24.

We sell it for £10.


No Labour, No Battle: The Labour Corps in the First World War
by Lieutenant Colonel John Starling and Ivor Lee
ISBN 978-0752449753

The culmination of over fifteen years research by Ivor Lee and John Starling (our resident historian) the book is based on documents held by the National Archives, Imperial War Museum and Commonwealth War Graves Commission, on contemporary newspapers and reports from officers and men who served in Labour units.

The story of Military Labour during the First World War is a complex one that did not follow a neat chronological pattern. It also developed in different ways in different theatres of war

Professor Richard Holmes describes the book as “the first proper history of military labour in the First World War. It charts the fortunes of the many types of unit involved, from Home Service Labour Companies though Docks Battalions, Pioneer Battalions to companies charged with the exhumation and reburial of the dead, using War Office files in the National Archives to explain the administrative details which illuminate the complex twists and turns of units’ organisational lives. It also examines the controversial issue of overseas labour units like the Cape Coloured Labour Battalion, the Fijian Labour Corps and the Chinese Labour Companies.”

The book is in six separate yet inter-linked sections: The first three sections look at the development and use of military labour both in Britain and the various theatres of war. The next two sections provide more detailed information about the British, Dominion and foreign labour units and the final section is an aid to researching individual soldiers.

Whether you are tracing the career of a relative who served in the Labour Corps, interested in military history or a collector of WW1 Medals “No Labour, No Battle” will be helpful and informative. As Richard Holmes says “this painstakingly-researched book will appeal to far more readers than those who are tracing the war record of a great-uncle, for you cannot really understand the way the British Army went about its business during the war without understanding how it used the labour upon which so much depended.”

This is available to purchase from the Association for £30, for which a £10 donation goes to the Association.

Pioneer Battalions in the Great War
by K W Mitchinson
ISBN 0-85052-566-7

Although the British army developed a separate and highly skilled Pioneer Corps in World War II, thiswas not the case in World War I. Construction duties were carried out by "pioneer" battalions of regular infantry regiments.

Periodic German breakthroughs drove the pioneer battalions into an active combat role, and they fought in most of the major battles of the Western Front. Mitchinson's work is the first detailed study of the active duty and social background of the men in these unique units.

6 x 9, 288 pages, 16 pages b/wphotos, £21.00 Pen & Sword.

A Socialist at War with The Pioneer Corps
by Harry Ratner
ISBN 0-9551127-96

THIS book is a bit of a hybrid. It covers two distinct but related subjects. One is the author's activities and experiences as a soldier in the Second World War. Harry Ratner was an anti-war socialist who did not believe in being a conscientious objector. Instead he went out of his way to be conscripted because he believed the place of revolutionary socialists was with the working class in the factories or the forces. It is an account of his attempt to carry out political propaganda and agitation in the army. Harry paints a vivid picture of life in the forces, conditions in battle and the feelings of his fellow soldiers.

The book is also a partial history of the Pioneer Corps during World War 2. This Corps participated in all the major campaigns, France 1940, Greece and Crete, North Africa, the Sicilian and Italian campaigns, the Normandy landings etc. It suffered over 26,000 casualties. Yet it is barely mentioned in official and popular accounts of the war. The author decided to repair this neglect and refresh memories of its exploits.

He quotes extensively from a long-out-of print history of the Corps and the Newsletters of the Royal Pioneer Corps Association. The Corps also comprised Britain's “Foreign Legion”. It included thousands of Germans, Austrians and other European refugees from Nazi occupied Europe - not only Jews but anti-fascist political exiles who were happy to take up arms against international fascism in the ranks of the Pioneer Corps.

Looking back with hindsight the 87 year old author attempts to draw political lessons from his experiences and those of his comrades. Although he broke with the Trotskyist movement years ago and is critical of many aspects of Marxism he believes the fight for a better society continues.

Pioneer Corps & Royal Pioneer Corps Magazines
by various people, editors names are in the magazines section

First published in 1943 and continued to be published until the Corp's disbandment in 1993. These magazines provide enormous information about the Corps during these years.

A full set of these magazines are held by myself, the Association HQ and at the Royal Logistic Corp Museum at Deepcut.

  Classic Pioneer Magazines


It don't cost you a penny
by Eddie Harwood (Major E H Rhodes-Wood)
Published by Max Parrish & Co Ltd 1955

It don't cost you a penny is written in the familiar cockney style of Ex-Batman who wrote a number of articles in the Corps Magazines. Eddie Harwood is in fact ex-batman who is in fact none other than Major E H Rhodes-Wood who for so long hid his identity. Since these memoirs are true, they are history and history of the Corps at that. But read it not as history but as a damned funny account of a private soldier's soldiering.

Like the book below we are also looking into getting an electronic version of this book online. We will be making it available freely to everyone who buys the War History book below.

 Book Review

England's Last Hope
by Gerry 'Cloggy' Compton and edited by Bob Scott
Published in 1997 and reprinted 1998
ISBN 0-9587312-0-9

This is the true story of Gerry 'Cloggy' Compton, a boy soldier in 1942 and who retired as 521 Royal Pioneer Corps CSM in 1969. Gerry has led a life packed with more experiences than most people would dare to imagine for themselves and this book is a definite must have read !

If you would like a copy of this excellent book than please send a cheque for £7.50 to include postage and packing, payable to :
Mr G K Compton, 24 Huntwick Road, Featherstone. WF7 5JF.
Phone 01977 796701
(say Norman Brown sent you)

 Book Synopsis

With a Labour Company in France
by Captain T C Thomas
Published 1920

This very rare and hard to find book tells the story of 58 Company Labour Corps.

We now have an electronic version of this very rare book and we will be putting it online. Many thanks to Lieutenant Colonel John Starling for typing this up for us.

With the German Guns  Four Years on the Western Front
by Herbert Sulzback O.B.E.
First Published in Germany 1935, translated to English
and published in London by Leo Cooper 1973 and 1988

Herbert Sulzbach was an interesting guy. Joining the German artillery at the beginning of World War I, Sulzbach fought through the entire war in the process winning two Iron Crosses. After the war, after fleeing the Nazis and emigrating to England, Sulzbach joined the British army. He joined the Pioneer Corps as a private and ultimately being commissioned as an officer during World War II.

To his Iron Crosses (in the Royal Logistic Corps Museum), Herbert Sulzbach has added the German Cross of Merit 1st class and the Grand Cross of the German Order of Merit to wear alongside his British medals of the Second World War. Granted British citizenship and has worn both khaki and field-grey; his war diaries are a major episode on a road which he has trod with great good humor and honest courage.

 Book Review

Ten Thousand Men of Africa
by Major R A R Bent
Published by HMSO 1952

The Story of the Bechuanaland Pioneers and Gunners 1941-1946.
This is the story of how the Bechuana acquitted themselves as soldiers in the last war from 1941, when they were raised, until the time in 1946 when they returned home.
It is part of the story of the Royal Pioneer Corps, too, and Pioneers everywhere should read it, for it describes how the Bechuana were formed into Companies of the African Pioneer Corps.

There are many people who will read this book and have their reading enlivened by a thousand unrecorded memories - it is a story of well controlled tribal loyalties, effort, hardship, persistence, achievement and frequent danger, and a just tribute to the Bechuanaland generous and wholehearted contribution to the struggle which brought victory.

The Forgotten Tragedy
by Brian James Crabb
ISBN 978-1900289504

This book records the tragic story of the sinking of the troopship which was bombed and sunk by Junkers88 dive bombers on 17 June 1940. Crammed with approximately 6,000 troops a third of which did not survive. Men from 27 different companies of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps as well as HQ Labour Control and Base Depot Staff were on board.

A book called Lancastria by Geoffrey Bond was published by Oldbourne Press in 1959, which is also worth reading. The story of the Lancastria is also in the history section.


Tunnels full of Cheese Sandwiches - WW2 Memoirs of Lt Edward Lambert Hayball, Gloucestershire Regiment and Pioneer Corps
by Lt Edward Lambert Hayball

Edward Lambert was born in Bristol on 14 Jul 1911. His father, Edwin Lewis Hayball, was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Gloucestershire Regiment. CSM Hayball died in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) of wounds received in the Dardanelles expedition in March 1917. Sarah opened a sweetshop in Lower Castle Street, Bristol, and lived with her two sons – Ted, as he was known, and his younger brother Peter – over the shop.

Ted attended the local Church of England School, and, after leaving school at 14, was employed in several jobs in central Bristol. After living with his grandparents for a short time, Ted decided to follow his father into the Gloucesters. During service in India Ted availed himself of the educational opportunities offered by the army, and returned to civilian life. But he was then recalled to the army at the outbreak of war.

These memoirs begin at that point and cover the duration of the WW2. Ted had intended to publish these memoirs, but died before this could be accomplished. The text printed is exactly as he wrote it, but has been edited by his daughter Jane with the help of his son Richard and his wife. Ted’s memoirs were all based on his memories, except where he states otherwise. Note: the photo on the rear cover shows Ted with ex WO1 Roger Kirby in Normandy on the 50th anniversary of D-Day).

This book is available for £10 from
Mrs C Hayball, 147 Sapcoste Road, Hinkley. LE10 2AT.


The Brish Empire and The Second World War
by Ashley Jackson
ISBN 1852 854 170

IN 1939 Hitler went to war not just with Great Britain; he also went to war with the 500 million people of the British Empire scattered across every continent and ocean of the world. Because in the years since 1945 that Empire has disappeared, the crucial fact that the British Empire fought as a whole during the war has been forgotten.

All the parts of the Empire joined in the struggle from the beginning, undergoing huge changes and sometimes suffering greatly as a result. The war in the desert, the battle of the Atlantic and the Malaya campaign, and the contribution of the Empire as a whole in terms of supplies, communications and troops, all reflect the strategic importance of Britain's imperial status. Men and women not only from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India but also from Africa, Burma, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Polynesia all played their part. The British Empire and the Second World War seeks to place the British Empire at the centre of our understanding of the Second World War.

The book contains many references to the Pioneer Corps and the tasks they undertook. An example of this is the “Pioneer Army” of 100,000 that was keeping the Middle East and Mediterranean theatres active in 1941.

The colonial soldiers of the RPC salvaged aircraft from the desert, dug tank traps, provided smokescreens for infantry landings in Italy, built the Haifi - Tripoli military railway, manned fire equipment, operated ports, guarded supply dumps, patrolled troubled civilian areas, guarded prisoners, worked on army farms, constructed blast pens for aircraft in Malta, bridged the River Po in Italy, built telegraph lines across Italy and manned heavy anti-aircraft batter


Strangers at Home and Abroad - Recollections of Austrian Jews who Escaped Hitler
Edited by Adi Wimmer
ISBN 0 7864 0668 2

In March 1938, Hitler's trooped invaded Austria, wildly cheered by thousands of spectators. Following the consequent annexation, a Greater Germany plebiscite recorded a 99 per cent support for Austro-German unification under Hitler. By 1942, however, Allied leaders at Yalta had declared the annexed country “the first victim of Nazi aggression,” laying the groundwork for the suppression of Austria's collaboration in the Holocaust and establishing a grossly deficient “culture of memory.”

Among the forgotten were the 130,000 Austrian Jews who escaped the work camps and gas chambers only to find themselves in unfamiliar lands among unsympathetic people. This book, rising out of Austria's “Year of Recollection” in 1988, contains the narratives of 27 ex-Austrian Jews who were forced into exile following the Anschlus. Translated from the German by poet Ewald Osers, the book includes accounts of anti-Semitism before Hitler, the annexation, flight from the homeland, and life in exile.

Of the 27 narratives 7 served in the Pioneer Corps and describe their service.


Ten Commando 1942-1945
by Ian Dear
ISBN 0 312 03438 5

It is indeed remarkable, since the archives of the Second World War must have been pillaged, ransacked, burrowed into, and turned over almost as thoroughly as Monte Cassino itself, that no book has been written about one of the strangest units created during that or any other conflict.

The unit was called Ten Commando - and the shroud of secrecy that enveloped it at the time has scarcely been unwrapped by the passage of the years. Ten Commando was composed entirely of men who came from Germany and from Nazi occupied countries such as Holland, Poland and France. Secrecy was vital, for if an Axis agent were infiltrated into Ten Commando he could do untold harm. If a member of Ten Commando were captured and his unit identified, the rules of the Geneva Convention were unlikely to worry the captors. This overwhelming need for absolute secrecy was so well instilled in the men of Ten Commando that, until now, little was known about their daring exploits behind enemy lines, including coordination of resistance fighters and sabotage.

Many members of Ten Commando had originally served in the Pioneer Corps. The result of Ian Dear's painstaking research is a remarkable book indeed and a worthy tribute to an incredibly brave group of clandestine soldiers who belong near the top of the WW2 Roll of Honour.

Freuds' War
By Helen Fry

ISBN 978-0-7509-5112-8

Despite his worldwide reputation as the father of modern psychology, Siegumund Freud's security in his native Vienna changed overnight when Hitler's forces annexed Austria on 12 March 1938. His books had already been burned across Germany, and now he and his family were at immediate risk.

The Nazis carried out regular raids on Jewish families' homes, and the Freuds were no exception.They suffered a period of house arrest and town months of uncertainty before finally securing papers for emigration to England and making a dramatic, lastminute escape. Following their escape from Austria, both Siegmund's son Martin and his grandson Walter enlisted in the British Forces, both initially into the Pioneer Corps.

Walter later joined Special Operations Executive and went on to fight for Britain behind enemy lines in Austria. Using previously unpublished family archives and photographs, including correspondence and Siegmund Freud's diary, the author offers a unique insight into the Freuds' family life, both in pre-War Vienna and during the Second World War.

 More info on the Authors Website

Secret Operations - From Music to Morse and Beyond
By Eric Saunders
. Forward by Dr. Helen Fry
Published by Colls, Bird and Withey, Old Drayton Park, London. N5 1NU


Foreward by historian Dr Helen Fry - I am delighted that Eric Saunders' autobiography has finally been published in English. In so doing he adds to the tapestry of oral testimony about the Second World War. That generation is fast disappearing and with it, their eye-witness accounts to a cataclysmic period in world history. His is a human story of survival against the odds - survival both physically and emotionally after being unceremoniously forced to leave the country of his birth.

Eric became one of the 10,000 Germans and Austrian who enlisted in His Majesty's forces in the Second World War. He not only served in the Pioneer Corps, a labour unit of the British army, but felt passionately that his duty was to fight Nazism - to fight the evil regime which he had witnessed in all its brutality in his beloved Vienna.

Eric could have stayed on in the Pioneer Corps, but instead made no hesitation in volunteering for hazardous duties and trained for what later became revealed to him as Special Operations Executive (SOE). During the time that I was editing the book, I was moved to tears on two occasions by this human story of survival - the first was when Eric was separated from his father whose fate and survival is unclear and at a time when his mother was safe.

The second was when Eric lost his brother just hours before they were due to be reunited in Italy for the first time since the outbreak of war, both as soldiers fighting the Nazi regime. I found the diary entries in this autobiography a captivating and amazing record of the period - from life in Vienna to the blitz conditions in London and the progress of the war. Eric provides the reader with an insight into the extensive training in SOE and the close comradeship with fellow SOE operatives.

It is also apparent that so many people touched Eric's life in extraordinary ways and he pays tribute to them in the book. He has not allowed his own suffering and personal loss to disrupt life in the post-war years, but in positive spirit and good humour has made every endeavour over the years to keep his eye witness alive and preserve the memory of his comrades.

 Order your copy here

From Dachau to D-Day - The Refugee who fought for Britain
by Helen Fry.

ISBN 978-0-7509-5111-1

Willy Field was born Willy Hirschfeld in Bonn, Germany. The morning after Kristallnacht on 10 November 1938 he was arrested by the Gestapo and transported to Dachau concentration camp. This fascinating new book details the horrendous experiences of a German Jew in the camp, and how he survived to come to England as a refugee. Shipped to Australia and interned as an enemy alien, Wally nevertheless returned to Britain as one of the 10,000 volunteers for the British armed forces.

He initially joined the Pioneer Corps before transfer to the Royal Armoured Corps and eventually found himself on active service as a tank driver. Three days after D-Day, Willy landed in France and saw frontline fighting through Normandy, Belgium and the Netherlands. He was the only survivor when his tank received a direct hit, but, after recovery, he was given another tank and crossed the border into Germany with the Allied army. Having been involved in the liberation of Hamburg, Willy drove his tank past Winston Churchill in the Victory Parade in Berlin in July 1945.

 More info on the Authors Website

Hitler's Will - The true story of the German Jewish refugee who helped to bring Hitler's will to light
by Herman Rothman. Edited by Helen Fry.

ISBN 976-0-7524-4834-3

Herman Rothman arrived in Britain from Germany as a Jewish refugee in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. He volunteered for HM Forces (initially in the Pioneer Corps) and then the Intelligence Corps, and in 1945 was posted to Westertinke and Fallingbostel prisoner of war camps to interrogate highranking Nazi war criminals.

When papers were discovered sewn into the shoulders of a jacket belonging to Heinz Lorenz, who had been Joseph Goebbels' press secretary. Rothman and a team of four others were charged with translating them under conditions of the deepest secrecy. The documents turned out to be the originals of Hitler's personal and political wills, and Goebbels' addendum.

Later, in Totenburg hospital, Rothman interrogated Hermann Karnau, who had been a police guard in Hitler's bunker, to establish information about the Fuhrer's death. Hitler's Will is the amazing true story of Herman Rothman's remarkable life, including how he managed to escape from Nazi Germany before the War began and his role in bringing to light Hitler's personal and political testaments. Herman is an Economics and Honours History Graduate.

Helen Fry is an honourary research fellow in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College, London. Her previous books include “The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens”, “Freud's War” and “From Dachau to D-Day”.

 More info on the Authors Website

German Schoolboy, British Commando - Churchill's Secret Soldier
by Helen Fry
ISBN 978-0-7524-4996-8

COLIN ANSON was born Claus Ascher in Berlin and raised a Protestant. He was forced to flee Nazi Germany because his father, Curt Ascher, was one of Hitler's few serious political opponents during the 1930s. Curt stood up for his beliefs, was arrested by the Gestapo, imprisoned at Dachau and murdered there in 1937.

In 1939, with his own life in danger, Colin found refuge in Britain, where he went on to join the British Army, initially in the Pioneer Corps (87 Company). He was selected for Special Forces, and trained with 3 Troop, the only German speaking Commando unit in the British armed forces. He was attached to the Royal Marines and took part in the invasions of Italy and Sicily in 1943, surviving a near-fatal head wound, before participating in raids into Yugoslavia and Albania, and then in the liberation of Corfu.

At the end of the war, he was to find out who had betrayed his father, and the book includes an account of how he reacted to this discovery. Not only is German Schoolboy, British Commando a thrilling account of his valiant service in the Second World War, its description of Colin's childhood as the son of one of Hitler's most outspoken opponents provides a unique insight into the political maelstrom of 1930s Germany.It is an extraordinary portrait of a son's bravery and determination, continuing his father's legacy as he fought to defeat the Nazis.

 More info on the Authors Website

DeNazification Britain's Enermy Aliens, Nazi War Criminals
and the Reconstruction of Post-War Europe

by Helen Fry
ISBN 978-0-7509-5113-5

MORE THAN 10,000 Germans and Austrians who fled Nazi persecution served with British forces during the Second World War - a great number in the Pioneer Corps, as until 1942, this was the only Corps that they were allowed to serve.

At the end of the conflict, many returned to the land of their birth with the Intelligence Corps and Military Government to begin the rebuilding process. The huge task they faced, which involved the removal of all adherents of Nazism and Nazi ideology from every facet of public life and employment, was termed 'denazification'.

Some of these ex-refugees were involved with the hunt for Nazi war criminals; others interrogated prisoners of war or gathered evidence from the concentration camps and interviewed the survivors to obtain the necessary information which would lead to the successful prosecutions of those involved.

Two of them even provided close protection for Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee - one an ex Private in the Pioneer Corps! They were also instrumental (in the West, at least) in reeducating the German and Austrian people about the values of democracy and a free society.

This fascinating book, which is based on first-hand accounts from veterans and various publications and articles, provides an important insight into how Germany and Austria were rebuilt after the end of Nazi tyranny which had ruled their countries

 More info on the Authors Website

The M Room: Secret Listeners who Bugged the Nazis
by Helen Fry
ISBN 9781-481-020-084

WHEN German generals captured during World War II were given free rein to roam the leafy rounds of Trent Park, they found themselves laughing at the British, who were apparently allowing them to sit out the conflict in the cushiest of circumstances. Little did they know, however, that the stately home, which was owned by the Sassoon family, was playing a major role in the British war effort. And the generals were at the heart of an intelligence operation aimed at finding out some of the Nazis’ darkest secrets.

During World War II, Trent Park, in the north west of Enfield, had been requisitioned by the British intelligence services for use as a prisonerof- war camp and was home to Nazi generals. The officers, captured in North Africa, France or shot down in bombing raids over Britain, were invited to amuse themselves by playing billiards in the grand rooms of the house, treated to full meals and taken on day trips into central London and even to country retreats. Unknown to the Germans, however, was the fact that the luxurious lifestyle they were being invited to enjoy was part of a plan designed to make them let their guard down.

And furthermore, a secret army of listeners was hidden in the bowels of Trent Park. The team of native Germanspeaking Austrian and German Jewish refugees, who had fled from the Nazis before the war, were asked to record and translate every incriminating word that the generals uttered in the hope that crucial state secrets would casually be discussed. The extent to which these recordings helped the Allies to victory has been investigated by historian and author Helen Fry.

Trawling through box upon box of transcripts, she discovered how the secret listeners in Trent Park and two other bugged POW camps in Buckinghamshire were as valuable to British intelligence during the war as Bletchley Park and the Enigma code breakers. The historian, from Golders Green, revealed: “In one of the bugged operations they heard the Germans talking about where U-boats were being kept – U-boat pens. “These were places the Germans had built underground and the listening operation revealed that these pens existed and they also revealed where they were.” But, along with detailed accounts of armaments and equipment, Mrs Fry’s research revealed the listeners learned shocking details about Nazi atrocities against Jews, gypsies and other victims.

Today, only two secret listeners are still alive.

Fritz Lustig, now 93, was born in Berlin, fled Nazi Germany and arrived in Britain in 1939. He served in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army, then transferred to the Intelligence Corps to become a ‘secret listener’. Fritz worked in the ‘M Room’ at Latimer House (near Amersham, Buckinghamshire), then Wilton Park at Beaconsfield, also Buckinghamshire. At both these sites he listened into lower rank German prisoners (eg Luftwaffe pilots, U-boat crews, army lower ranks). He now lives in Muswell Hill, North-West London.

Eric Mark, now 90, was born in Magdeburg, Germany and fled Nazi Germany in 1935. Again he served in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army and transferred to the Intelligence Corps to become a ‘secret listener’. He worked in the ‘M Room’ at Trent Park, bugging the German Generals. Eric now lives in Belgium.

 More info on the Authors Website

Monte Cassino - Ten Armies in Hell
by Peter Caddick-Adamsr
ISBN 978-1-848-09358-4

IN THE spring of 1944, Europe had been at war for nearly four and a half years. Fighting had raged through Russia, North Africa, and, since the Allies' invasion of Salerno the previous autumn, the heavily defended European mainland of Italy.

At the beginning of the year, the Allied armies approached a network of important river valleys, through which ran key roads. Their destination was Rome, a further eighty miles north, but to get there, the troops had to inch past the town of Cassino.

Overlooking the town is a monastery, perched on the summit of Monte Cassino, an architectural masterpiece established by St Benedict of Nursia in 529. It was recognised as one of the architectural wonders of the world. From January to May, several small units of Germany's besttrained formations stalled the might of nine Allied national armies, assembled to overcome the Gustav Line and seize Rome.

In a desperate attempt to remove the Germans from their redoubt, the Allies levelled the monastery with one of the most ferocious and concentrated air raids of the war. A month later their bombers returned and destroyed the town in similar fashion.

The following is an extract from the book: “The porters of the Royal Pioneer Corps were frequently the unsung heroes of the Cassino campaign, managing to evacuate casualties and sustain troops in remote mountains positions that wheeled transport and even mules could not reach.” It also described the story of Pte Tancred who died of exhaustion after carrying a wounded officer down a mountain.

Grey Dawns
by Harry Rossney. Edited by Dr Helen Fry.

Harry Rossney was one of the craftsmen who re-built Kitchener Camp; Headquarters of Pioneer Corps in Ilfracombe; then served with 249 and 93 companies; then as a sign-writer to 32 Graves Registration Unit in Normandy.

Harry Rossney, now 87, was born Helmut Rosettenstein in Koenigsberg. Partly brought up in Berlin before coming to England in March 1939. Joined Pioneer Corps before serving with the Graves Restoration Unit in post D-Day Normandy. "I was not a hero," he said. "I would rather see this in the wider context as a history lesson for the younger generation."

Over the decades, Harry Rossney composed an extraordinary collection of poems which form the basis of a new book “Grey Dawns” written by Harry Rossney and edited by Helen Fry with a forward by the Imperial War Museum. Harry used his creative talent to record for posterity his own experiences of a horific period of European history, responses and experiences which future generations of historians will be unable to reconstruct from official documentation. With the passing of his generation, the urgency to record such eye-witness accounts becomes ever more pressing.

Harry’s book is a tribute to his self-strength, and dedication to preserving the memory for the sake of humanity.

Edited by historian Helen Fry, who knew Harry personally for over a decade, this collection has been published to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

 More info on the Authors Website

History Index

Labor Omnia Vincit