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Royal Engineers in the Forest of Dean during WWII

WW2 Pithead

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Royal EngineersA group of men photographed in the Forest during World War II. The men are standing near what looks to be a pithead (coal mine shaft). A railway line can just be made out in front of the pole on the left

The men may be members of the Royal Engineers.

Alan Tonge added (July 2009): "... I am fairly sure that the person on the far left is my father Edward (Ted) Tonge. who married Iris Cooper from Cannop and who settled in the Forest after the war. He was a member of the Royal Engineers".

Alan further added in Oct 2018: "... definitely photo of Royal Engineers, must have been taken before mid 1943, as my father was discharged then due to accident, and being unfit for military service. I think photo was taken at the pit head at Speech House colliery, now Beechenhurst picnic site - looking at tree line in distance".

David Morris added (Feb 2015): "I would have to agree that the person on the far left is Edward Tonge. I remember him well, ... . We had a bit of a "gang" The Jones girls, Nanette, Veronica (Bubbles) ?, Cooper boy, and his little sister. ? Kerr boy And a boy who lived in the single story house on the corner, opposite the charcoal factory".

Mike Jones added (December 2017): "... I don't know when this picture was posted? from time to time I do a bit more research and came across it. Hardly known today is the fact that many thousands of Germans and Austrians joined the Pioneer Corps to assisted the Allied war efforts and liberation of their home countries. These were mainly Jews and political opponents of the Nazi Regime who had fled to Britain while it was still possible. They were known as 'Alien Enemies' but went on to earn respect and earned the title "The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens" (there's a few books of this and similar titles). 220 Compan Axillary Pioneer were officially stationed at Cirencester but in a makeshift camp on Lydbrook Memorial Ground was one such Unit attached to the Royal Engineers Forestry Division producing timber products for the war".

"They established sawmills at Brierley, Cockshot and Steamills the later subsequently becoming James Joiners Sawmills and more recently a car sales pitch. It seems to be the Forest's best kept secret? hardly anyone knew even though some played for the 'Woodpeckers' darts and football teams and they also had a popular dance band who played for example at Broadwell Memorial Hall. A few stayed on - at least two of them married local girls and became particularly well known and still have decedents here meaning their identities must remain secret. Some of those pictured could well be These units were generally said to be the most intellectual units the Army ever had".

" They were originally internees rounded up when Churchill famously ordered 'Collar the Lot' - there's a book of that title as well as several others. They were initially held in makeshift barbed wired encampments, - e.g. one was under the grandstand of Linfield Race Course. First of all they were transported to Australia and Canada until an overloaded cruise ship called the Aranda Star requisitioned for the purpose was torpedoed of the North coast of Ireland with heavy loss of life that resulted in public uproar and the establishment of the Auxiliary Pioneers which entry to was officially voluntary but actually a no other option situation. At that time Hitler was expected to invade and The War Department devised a system allowing them to change their names without becoming British Citizens and it wasn't until 1949 that those who stayed on got their Naturalisation papers".

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