click to print this page
<  Main  |  News  |  Forums  |  Shop  |  Search  |  Contact  |  Privacy  >


The History Pages

Background and
history of the Wartime
Training Centres.


../ main page / history index / background history of the training centres
  Background history of the Training Centres

Five Training Centres were originally formed in 1939 and arrangements were made for a further seven centres to be established during 1940. No 7 centre was formed in France (Le Mans) for foreign labour. Numbers 8,9 and 10 centres were never formed.

Training Centres were organised into Centre HQ, HQ company and 2 Training Companies and were originally designed to produce 4 AMPC Companies per month. Recruits were received direct from civil life. They were documented, medically examined and kitted out by the Quartermaster's stores on the day of arrival. Their training commenced on the second day. During 1939 and the early part of 1940 their period Military Training was three weeks. This was extended to four weeks in 1940 and later to six weeks. Non Combatant Corps (NCC) and Alien personnel were received at certain centres. Besides forming entire Companies, the Training Centres provided reinforcements and drafts both for home and overseas. As circumstances changed it became possible to reduce the number of Training Centres and by the autumn of 1943 only two, numbered 6 and 12 remained.

A reception and discharge depot had also been formed where men from hospital, "Y" List. Detention, overseas and general transfers from other units were received. This depot constantly became a bottle neck, as men arrived there without their documents which were often considerably delayed in following them. It was therefore incorporated with the No.12 Training Centre. After the formation of the General Service Corps (GSC) in February 1942, centres received men partially trained from the Primary Training Centre (PTC) instead of direct from civil life.

In June 1944 new war establishments were issued for number 6 and 12 Training Centres. Their title was changed to "Pioneer Corps Holding and Training Unit". No. 6 was designed to hold and train 1,800 Pioneers including aliens and conscientious objectors (NCC), to hold a maximum of 200 Officers and to form drafts and mobilize units. No.12 was designed to hold and train 3,000 Pioneers and to form drafts and mobilize units.

Formation dates and subsequent moves of the Training Centres in the United Kingdom were as follows :-

No 1 Centre

Originally AMPC and RE (Stevedore) Centre, Folkestone. Split from RE and moved to Westcliff February 1940. Moved to Pwllheli, Wales July 1940. Disbanded 15 October 1940.

No 2 Centre

Formed at Caister 1939. Moved to Glasgow July 1940. Disbanded 1 October 1940.

No 3 Centre

Formed at Richborough 1939 to become the Centre for Alien personnel. Moved to Westward Ho May 1940. Moved to Ilfracombe October 1940. Disbanded January 1942.

No 4 Centre

Originally Refuge Camp, Clacton-on-Sea, formed as AMPC Training Centre, October 1939. Closed for AMPC training December 1939 and loaned for formation of RE Construction Units. Reopened for AMPC February 1940. Disbanded July 1941.

No 5 Centre

Formed at Huyton, Liverpool 1939. Moved to Denbeigh July 1942. Dealt with non British and the non combatatant Corps and after being disbanded in October 1942 they moved to No 6 Centre.

No 6 Centre

Formed at Skegness 1939 by Lieutenant Colonel G H Keighley Bell MC. The staff nucleus being provided by No 4 Training Centre. The Centre operated on the basis of a Reception Company and 4 Training Cadres and was designed to produce 6 officers and 548 trained men weekly. Volunteers between the ages of 35 and 40 (many, of course, were much older) were accepted, clothed, equipped, given one month's training and then formed into Companies or dispatched as reinforcements to existing Companies. The first Company to leave the Centre went to Scottish Command. At the Miners Home the Officers Messes were good as also was the men's cookhouse with up to date steam cooking apparatus and hot plates. The small wooden 'holiday' huts with the conjugal couch in each compartment, with a board down the middle, were not altogether ideal for 2 soldiers. Centre HQ and 2 Cadres were at the Miners Home and a third Cadre nearby in a tented camp. Reception Company, QM Stores and 1 Cadre in Skegness Town.

The supply of volunteers dried up gradually and on 18th April 1940 the first Army Class intake of 500 arrived. These intakes 5-600 strong, thereafter continued weekly, were given their month's training and dispatched. During May and June 1940 the Centre also provided a number of Officers and Other Ranks to assist in the formation of the No 12 Centre. No 6 Centre moved to Bradford June 1940. In September 1940 the Centre was reduced to HQ, reinforcement Company and 2 Cadres, and varied from 2-4 Cadres, until October 1942 when it was finally restored to a 4 Cadre basis. Normal Training Formation and dispatch of Companies and drafts continued, the first overseas draft consisting of WOs and NCOs going out early in 1941. In November 1942 Lieutenant Keighley Bell ended his long tenure of command at the centre taking over No 12 group and on the disbandment of No 5 Centre Lieutenant Colonel G L J Tuck CMG took command, bringing with him a lot of his staff.

During the Winter of 1942/3 many Prisoner of War camp staffs were formed, Officers and other ranks arriving from all sorts of units. Owing to increase in numbers, the rapid turnover of personnel who only remained on an average one week, and the location of Cadres over such a wide area, more suitable accommodation was required and in July 1943 the unit moved to Buxton July 1943. After a trial run of some months, the Unit was reorganised to cope with existing conditions and changed its name in June, 1944. No 6 Pioneer Corps Holding and Training Unit designed to hold and train 200 Officers and 1,800 Pioneers, including Non British and Non Combatant Corps to from drafts and to mobilize units. In September 1944 the Unit became The Receiving Unit for all ranks Pioneer Corps reverting to Home Establishment for any cause whatsoever, also for all absentees and deserters of the Corps from 21st Army Group before leaving the UK. This entailed organizing a big legal department and the building of a Detention Centre. In November 1944, instructors were received to give General Service Corps intakes a months training.

In order to cope with the increased numbers and responsibilities of the unit, additional establishment was applied for in the Spring of 1945, and had already been passed by Northern Command when the War in Europe finished and the matter was dropped. A few weeks later War Office decided to close down No 6 PC H & TU and on 15th July 1945 it was finally disbanded, the Staff being dispersed as required to various Units, No 30 group getting a proportion of the band. A fine permanent staff had been gradually built up over the years. It included, unofficially a first class Band and Concert Party, a Works Section and Tailors and Bootmakers Department. The Band raised morale and gave much good entertainment to troops and civilians, in addition to making a lot of money for Savings Weeks and the Pioneer Corps Benevolent Fund. The other "unofficials" worked as true Pioneers, saved a lot of money for the Government and contributed greatly to the smooth running of the Centre.

No 11 Centre

Formed at Liverpool June 1940. Moved to Oldham June 1940. Disbanded October 1941.

No 12 Centre

Formed at Liverpool June 1940. Moved to Pheasy Farm, Birmingham July 1941. Moved to Oldham March 1942. Moved to Prestatyn July 1943. This Centre controlled a large school for potential NCOs and for providing Cooks for Corps Units at home and overseas. In addition during the heavy air raids on Liverpool the Centre gave continuous help in rescue and demolition work, during which operations nearly 50 Pioneers lost their lives. The average strength of the staff of this Centre during that period was 350. Throughout the whole period 12 Holding and Training Unit was commanded by Lt Col H Greenwood VC DSO OBE MC.

In February 1946 the Centre moved from Prestatyn to Cuddington, Nr Northwich, Cheshire and became the Corps Depot. Its strength at that time was 6,937 which was administered by an establishment intended for a ceiling of 2,700 all ranks. In 1947 the Depot moved to Stourport-on-Severn, Worcs and in December of that year the Training Wing, some 1,200 strong, separated from the Depot and moved to Blackmore Camp, Malvern and became the Training Centre. The strength of the Training Camp fluctuated from 1500 to 500 and in October 1948 was 1000 strong. In 1949 the Training Centre moved to Saighton Camp, Chester. About 1800 recurits were under training at this time. In November the Depot moved from Stourport to Wrexham. On 31 July 1950 the Training Centre at Saighton Camp closed and was integrated with the Depot at Wrexham which became the RPC Depot and Training Centre. The Centre received intakes of up to 200 each fortnight. There were 4 Training Companies and a Holding Company plus the HQ. In addition the HQ Supplementary Reserve (later AER) was accommodated in the same camp and all discharges and transfers to SR&AER from the Corps were effected here.

To meet the training and accommodation requirements a site at Horsley Hall, Gresford, was taken over (additional to Hermitage Camp, Wrexham), The Centre also ran a MT and Driving School. The title of the unit was changed to The Depot RPC in December 1959 and on 12 September 1960 the Depot moved to Quebec Barracks, Northampton. In June 1961 the Barracks was renamed Simpson Barracks after a previous Colonel Commandant, General Sir Frank Simpson KCB, DSO.

With the amalgamation of the HQ AER the name of the Depot was again changed in 1963 to Depot & HQ AER. In June 1967 the title was altered to Depot & CVHQ and in 1968 it changed to Royal Pioneer Corps Training Centre. Simpson Barracks closed on 1 April 1993 when the Royal Pioneer Corps amalgamated into the Royal Logistics Corps.

It is pleasing to report that the housing development on Simpson Barracks is called Simpson Grange and many street names have close links to both the Royal Pioneer Corps and the Northampton Regiment (our predecessors on the site).


History Index

Labor Omnia Vincit