Unit History: Pioneer Corps

Pioneer Corps
In September 1939, a number of infantry and cavalry reservists were formed into Works Labour Companies. These, in October 1939 became the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC), and a Labour Directorate was created to control labour matters. On 22 November 1940 the name was changed from the AMPC to the Pioneer Corps.
Pioneers were recruited from throughout Africa, Mauritius and India. They performed a wide variety of tasks in all theatres of war. These tasks ranging from handling all types of stores, laying prefabricated track on the beaches and stretcher-bearing. They also worked under Engineer supervision on the construction of the Mulberry Harbour and laid the Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO), constructed airfields, roads and erected bridges. Hardly known today is the fact that many thousands of Germans and Austrians joined the Pioneer Corps to assist 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, including the cinematographer Sir Ken Adam. These men - often dubbed "The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens" - later moved on to serve in fighting units like the Royal Fusiliers, Royal Tank Corps and even with the RAF. Serving as German nationals in the British forces was particularly dangerous, since, in the case of them being taken captive, there was a high probability they would have been executed as traitors by the Germans. Also, the number of German-born Jews joining the British forces was exceptionally high. Until the end of the war, one of seven Jewish refugees from Germany had joined the British forces. Their profound knowledge of the German language and customs proved to be very useful. A lot of them served in the administrative bodies of the British occupation army in Germany after the war

Related Historic Documents

Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname
Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait