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1864177 Warrant Officer Class I
V.C.G. DYETT
Royal Engineers
by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000

Introduction

Warrant Officer Class I V.C.G. Dyett had an interesting military career, although the details of his service may never be fully known. The author has been unable, as of the writing of this narrative [1], to locate a family member who could authorize the release of Dyett’s service records by the Ministry of Defence. Much of the description of his military service has been put together from available sources. The author does admit, however, to some speculation regarding some of the details contained herein. The reader will be advised of which details are based on speculation.

Home Service (1930-1936)

V.C.G. Dyett enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, probably about 1930. Upon his enlistment he was issued Army Number 1864177.

After a period of training with the Depot Battalion of the Royal Engineers at the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, Sapper Dyett was assigned to the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers. On the 1st of October 1934, while serving in the 9th Field Company, Sapper Dyett was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.

During this period, the 9th Field Company was stationed at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent. The company’s duties at Shorncliffe during the mid-1930’s consisted primarily of training and work on construction of needed facilities at the camp. The world financial crisis was still being felt at this time, and the morale in all branches of the armed forces was low. In the meantime, Fascism was on the move in Germany and in October of 1935 Italy attacked Abyssinia. The Spanish Civil War began in the summer of the following year. As storm clouds gathered around the world, the armed forces of Great Britain were not very well prepared for what lay ahead.

The 9th Field Company formed part of the 4th Infantry Division in the Eastern Command. The other Royal Engineer companies in the 4th Division at the time included the 7th Field Company at Colchester and the 59th Field Company at Canterbury. The Commander Royal Engineers (CRE) of the 4th Division was Lieutenant Colonel E.H. Clarke, M.C., R.E. Lieutenant Colonel Clarke’s headquarters were located at Abbey Field in Colchester. The following officers were assigned to the 9th Field Company:

Major J.F.M. Whiteley, M.C. (Officer Commanding)

Captain H.M. Taylor (2nd In Command)

Lieutenant P.A. Wood

Lieutenant A.N. Clarke

Lieutenant R.R.L. Hutchinson

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel R. MacK. Scobie, M.C. assumed command of the 9th Field Company on the 23rd of February 1935. At that time the company appeared to be short of officers, as only Lieutenants M.T.L. Wilkinson and R.R.L. Hutchinson were assigned, the other officers having been transferred.

Dyett was promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal on the 27th of February 1936. He was still serving in the 9th Field Company at the time, and the company was still at Shorncliffe Camp.

Service in Palestine (1936-1939)

Another area of unrest in the world at this time was the Middle East. British government interests in the area caused them to send troops to the area, among them many units of the Royal Engineers.

Corporal Dyett was posted to Palestine sometime between 1936 and 1939 [2]. British involvement in Palestine began in early in 1936 as a result of efforts on the part of the Arabs to counter Jewish infiltration into the area. Arab leaders organized a general strike designed to paralyze the civil government, while militant Arab bands attacked Jewish settlements, disrupted all forms of communications and damaged the pipeline to the Haifa oil refinery. Roads became impassable except by escorted columns and the railways were liable to interruption by sabotage.

The engineer problems resulting from the action of the militant Arab bands fell into three categories, as follows:

Without his service papers, it is not possible to know to which Royal Engineer unit Dyett was assigned or when he actually arrived in Palestine. If he was posted to Palestine in early 1936, then he served there before the area was pacified and while the terrorist activities were in full operation. For his service there he was awarded the General Service Medal 1918 with clasp [PALESTINE]. This medal was awarded to British soldiers who served in Palestine between the 19th of April 1936 and the 3rd of September 1939. He was a Corporal at the time he was awarded this medal.

Service in World War 2 (1939-1944)

Dyett served in the North African campaign with the British 8th Army from 1942 to 1943. From 1943 to 1944 he served in Royal Engineer units in Sicily and Italy, and during 1944 and 1945 he served in France and Germany. Somewhere during this period of service he was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Poland. Without his service records it is not possible to know to what units he was assigned in these various theatres of the war or under what circumstances he was taken prisoner [3]. The fact that he did serve in these areas is based on the medals that he received for his service during the war [4]. Assuming that the medals do provide a clear picture of his service, it may be that he returned to the U.K. from Italy early in 1944 in time to take part in the invasion at Normandy, or that he was assigned to a follow-up unit that landed shortly after the invasion. In this scenario he would have had to have been captured in late June or early July of 1944 and then transported to a prisoner of war camp in eastern Poland. As will be seen in the next section of this narrative, it is more likely that Dyett was captured in Italy and sent to the German prisoner of war camp. His service in France and Germany most likely took place after his release from the POW camp.

Prisoner of War (1944)

There is documentary evidence to indicate that Dyett was taken prisoner by the Germans prior to July 1944 [5]. In order for him to have qualified for the award of the France and Germany Star, he had to have arrived on the continent after the 6th of June 1944. Based on this fact, he had to have been captured by the Germans at some time during the campaign in Italy or in North West Europe. It will be seen that it is most probable that he qualified for the France and Germany Star after his capture in Italy and subsequent release from the prisoner of war camp in which he was confined [6].

After his capture he was sent to Stalag 319 at Cholm (or Chelm, as it is known today) in eastern Poland, just west of the River Bug [7]. His Prisoner of War Number was 12501. The Royal Engineers Record Office, then located at Ditchling Road in Brighton, Sussex lists his rank as Warrant Officer Class I at the time of his liberation from the prisoner of war camp. According to one source, Chelm was captured from the Germans by the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front on the 22nd of July 1944 [8]. Dyett was released from the prisoner of war camp and repatriated at this time. He may have first returned to the U.K. for medical examination and treatment. It then appears that he was returned to the continent to serve out the rest of the war [9]. It probably was during this period that he qualified for the France and Germany Star; that is, sometime between July of 1944 and the end of hostilities in Europe in May of 1945. This scenario for his capture seems much more likely than his having been captured soon after the D-Day invasion.

Post War Service (1945- )

Dyett had risen from the rank of Corporal in Palestine to the rank of Warrant Officer Class I by the time the war ended in 1945. He completed 18 years of service with the Colours sometime during the war years. He was awarded the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (GVIR) during this period while he was still a Warrant Officer Class II. It may be assumed that he was not yet a prisoner of war when he became eligible for the medal, although this is not a certainty.

In May of 1947 he re-engaged to complete 22 years of service with the Colours. He was subsequently discharged from the Army. No information is available about his post service life.

ENDNOTES:

[1] August 2000.

[2] The unit to which he was assigned is unknown due to the non-availability of his service papers.

[3] The author has considered the possibility that he returned to the 9th Field Company after his tour of duty in Palestine. Unfortunately, this cannot be verified and therefore has not been put forth as an assumption in the narrative.

[4] These medals were purchased by the author as a group and were mounted as worn by Dyett. Although his eligibility for these medals cannot be verified without his service papers, it is unlikely that they would have been mounted for wear as they were if he was not entitled to them.

[5] HAYWARD, J.B. Prisoners of War, British Army, 1939-1945.

[6] His earlier association with the 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers was considered as possibly being the unit he was assigned to at the time of his capture. This unit took part in the Battle of Arnhem, during which many men were taken prisoner. The Arnhem battle took place in September 1944, thereby making this theory impossible.

[7] Cholm is located to the southeast of Warsaw and east northeast of Krakow. The prisoner of war camp at Cholm was located close to the infamous German concentration and extermination camp of Majdanek near the city of Lublin. Although not confirmed, the author has been told that Cholm was a punishment camp to which Allied non-commissioned officers were sent. He was one of about 1,000 British soldiers who were held in the prison camp there.

[8] There is some controversy regarding the liberation of the prisoners at Chelm. During the Demjanjuk Trial, which took place in Jerusalem from February 1987 to April of 1988, there was testimony indicating that the Polish Army liberated the camp on the 22nd of July 1944. Of course, it is possible that the liberating unit may have been a Polish Army unit serving with the Russians.

[9] It was not unheard of for the British Army to return a released prisoner of war to combat duties within a relatively short period of time after repatriation, if the man was physically and mentally fit.

 REFERENCES:

  1. The Sapper, January 1935, p. 501.
  2. The Sapper, June 1936, p. 301.
  3. The Sapper, July 1947, p. 207.
  4. The Monthly Army List, October 1935, p. 23.
  5. The Royal Engineers List, October 1934, p. xx.
  6. The Royal Engineers List, October 1935, p. xx.
  7. GORDON, L.L. British Battles and Medals. Spink & Son, Ltd. London, 1971, pp. 332, 343 and 347.
  8. HAYWARD, J.B. Prisoners of War, British Army, 1939-1945. Polstead, Suffolk, 1999.
  9. History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume VII. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, pp. 237-240.
  10. Majdanek Concentration Camp (www.scrapbookpages.com/Poland/Majdanek/Majdanek.html)
  11. Demjanjuk Trial. Jerusalem, February 16, 1987 to April 24, 1988. Summary of English-Language Transcripts.
  12. World War II Axis Military History Day-by-Day. (www.uwm.edu/~jpipes/july.html)
  13. The Einsatzgruppen Case. Military Tribunal II, Case No. 9, The United States of America against Otto Ohlendorf