SMITH, Royal Engineers, St Albans, 1916

February 2003



St Albans

 [Details of questioner and start of question missing at time of first posting] information that would give me details of a royal engineers regiment billeted in St Albans in 1916.  Corporal John Edward Smith, Royal Engineers, was my grandfather and I am now trying to trace my family but at present this is all I have. I realise with a name like Smith you will not be able to give me details of him but if you could assist with regiment details it would help considerably.

In August 1914 the 2nd London Division (later renamed the 47th Division) took up war stations in Hertfordshire, with their Headquarters in the Peahen Hotel, St Albans. The Royal Field Artillery were based in Hemel Hempstead - and considerable details are given in my book, The London Gunners come to Town. They were territorial soldiers and the majority spent about seven months training in the area before going to France in March 1915. The older or less fit officers and men remained behind to help to train a  second group of recruits. However, as time went by various units came and went and it is very difficult to keep track of them. In part this was because of military censorship. This had been at a low level when the war started, with the names of units being reported in the local papers. Unfortunately for the historical researcher things became more difficult and I know, from having tried to find out, that identifying the troop units in the area by 1916 is very difficult.

There is a problem with the Royal Engineers in that while infantry regiments were (at least at the battalion level) linked with specific divisions, every major army unit would have had a company of Royal Engineers servicing it. It may well be that your best route will be through the Public Records Office at Kew.

You don't detail the circumstances of your enquiry but I have posted an extract from The London Gunners on this site under the heading "The Fair Sex in Hertfordshire in WW1" which may be relevant.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.