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(formerly 123814 Sergeant)
South African Engineer Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2004. All Rights Reserved.


Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from the officer's service papers obtained from the records of the Union Defence Forces (South African Engineer Corps) listed in the References section at the end of this narrative.


The story of Raymond Buley begins with the birth of his grandfather, Thomas Buley, at Swingfield, Kent, in the year 1857.[1] On modern-day maps of England, Thomas Buley's birthplace is shown as Swingfield Minnis, a town located approximately 6.5 miles west northwest of Dover and 4 miles due north of Folkestone.[2]

In 1871, Thomas Buley, then age 14 and a scholar, was residing at The School House, Barfreston, Kent, approximately 7.5 miles southeast of Canterbury, only about 5.5 miles north northeast of his birthplace.[3] The 1871 Census shows that Thomas's mother, Elizabeth Buley, age 60, and his sister Phoebe Buley, age 23, also were living at The School House. Elizabeth Buley was an annuitant and the widow of a retired farmer.

By 1881, at the age of 24, Thomas Buley already was married. He was employed as a brewer and he and his wife Bessie (age 25) lived with their children at New Street, Ash Next Sandwich, Kent.[4] Modern-day maps of England show this town simply as Ash, located approximately 2 miles due west of the town of Sandwich and about 9.5 miles due east of Canterbury.[5] The Buley's children included Stanley D., age 3 years, and Thomas P., age 1 year. Two servants were in the employ of the Buley household. They were Maria J. Seathe, age 18, a general servant, and Sarah A. Brensley, age 13, a nursemaid and domestic servant. It is interesting to note that for a man employed as a brewer, the Buley family could afford the service of two servants.

In 1881 Thomas Buley's mother Elizabeth was living on Barfreston Street in Barfreston, Kent with her 29-year old daughter Emily. The 1881 British Census verifies that Elizabeth Buley was a retired farmer's widow. Elizabeth employed a 16-year old domestic servant by the name of Lucy Brown.[6] Based on the 1871 census, Elizabeth Buley should have been 70 years old in 1881. The 1881 census return shows her age as 68. Emily Buley is not shown in the 1871 census as living with her mother at The School House in Barfreston. No record of Phoebe Buley could be found in the 1881 British Census. Phoebe would have been 33 years of age in 1881 and presumably she was married by then.

Thomas Buley's first wife Bessie died sometime between 1887 and 1891.[7] He remarried within a few years after Bessie's death. The 1891 British Census provides the following information with regard to the Buley family:

Dwelling: 66 Gunton Grove, Chelsea, London.
Census Place: Civil Parish, Chelsea. Ward, Stanley. Parliamentary Borough, Chelsea. Ecclesiastical Parish: St. Johns
Source: Public Record Office Reference RG12/58, Enumeration District 1, Folio 8, Page 10.
Name and Occupation Relation




Thomas Buley, brewer Head




Swingfield, Kent
Edith M. Buley Wife




Stanley D. Buley, scholar[8] Son




Ash, Kent
Thomas P. Buley, scholar[9] Son




Ash, Kent
Sydney H. Buley Son




Chelsea, London
Susan Hodges, domestic servant Servant




Sherborne, Dorset
Ellen Whittle Servant




Sherborne, Dorset

Again the Buley family is seen to have two servants in its employ. Although the census documents still list Thomas Buley as a brewer, it is quite possible that he may have been employed in a management position as a supervisor, thus enabling him to afford the wages of two domestic servants.

The 1901 British Census shows the family of Thomas Buley residing at 19, The Gables in the parish of St. Nicholas, in the town of Ash, Kent. Thomas then 44 years of age was still employed as a brewer. In addition to Sydney, age 14, Edith Buley, then 39 years of age had given birth to a daughter, Edith E.M., who was already 8 years old in 1901. The Buleys had a visitor by the name of Mrs. Emily Broadley, age 47, living with them at the time. Emily Broadley is believed to be Thomas's married sister. The Buleys also employed a domestic servant by the name of Ellen M. Oakley, a 37-year old single woman. Both of Thomas's sons, Stanley D. Buley and Thomas P. Buley had left their father's home by 1901. No record of Thomas could be found in the 1901 census. Stanley was located in 1901 as living as a visitor in the household of Robert J. Sims in the town of Guildford, Surrey.

Sydney Havelock Buley subsequently left his father's home to make his own way in the world. He married and settled with his wife at Headlands, Fowey, Cornwall. The town of Fowey is located on the southern coast of Cornwall approximately seven miles due east of St. Austell on the east side of St. Austell Bay. The town has a delightful old port and is a favorite yachting resort. It is located on the beautiful estuary of the River Fowey and is known for its old houses and 15th-century church.

Sydney Havelock Buley's wife gave birth to a son, Raymond Buley, on the 26th of May 1912. Young Raymond was just a little over two years old when the Great War began in August of 1914. At the age of 30 Sydney Buley took a temporary commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Indian Army on the 5th of October 1917[10] and was assigned as a Company Officer in the 39th Garhwal Rifles on the 23rd of January 1918.[11] Buley subsequently was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in the Indian Army on the 6th of October 1918.[12]

At some time before the start of the Second World War, Raymond Buley moved to South Africa. It is not known whether his father and mother emigrated to South Africa while he was still a child or whether he went there as an adult. Raymond's service papers from the South African Engineer Corps show that he was a member of the Church of England and that prior to World War 2 he worked as a miner in South Africa. He also married prior to the war and his wife, Mrs. E.M. Buley, lived at Roedean School, Parklawn, Johannesburg in 1940.


No physical description of Raymond Buley is provided in his service papers other than his age on enlistment.


Raymond Buley enlisted as a Sapper in the South African Engineer Corps (SAEC) on the 17th of June 1940. His Army Number was 123814. Following his recruit training at the Engineer Reserve Training Depot at Premier Mine, located about 24 miles east of Pretoria, he was posted to the 19th Divisional Field Park Company, SAEC at Sonderwater, under the command of Captain A.M. Steel.


Nairobi, Kenya (1940 - 1941)

Within a few months after his arrival at the 19th Divisional Field Park Company the unit was alerted for deployment to Kenya. The company departed Sonderwater by train on the 19th of September 1940 and arrived at Broken Hill on the 23rd. Shortly thereafter the unit sailed for Nairobi, arriving there on the 5th of October 1940. It appears from his service papers that Buley, then an Acting Corporal, was posted to the office of the Commander Royal Engineers (CRE) in Nairobi while remaining on the strength of the 19th Divisional Field Park Company. In effect then he was on detached duty with the CRE's office. He remained with the CRE for the entire period of his service in Kenya and was appointed an Acting Sergeant, with the pay and allowances of that rank, while serving in that office.

On the 28th of July 1941 Sergeant Buley received orders to return to South Africa as soon as possible. It appears that these orders may have been issued to him based on his application for a commission in the South African Engineer Corps. Alternatively, he may have been recommended for a commission by his superiors within the office of the CRE Nairobi. This seems a likely scenario as he was detached from his company immediately after its arrival in Kenya in order to serve in the CRE's office. It may have been that he was noted to possess some talents or qualifications that made it appear that he was capable of serving as an officer.

He reported to Kabete Camp and there he awaited his embarkation order for home. He sailed from the port city of Mombasa on the 30th of July 1941 and arrived in Durban on the 10th of August.

Home Service (1941-1944)

Upon his arrival at Durban, Sergeant Buley was posted to the Engineer Training Center (ETC) at Sonderwater for further posting to the Engineer Reserve Training Depot (ERTD) at Premier Mine where he arrived on the 14th of August 1941. During this period he was still attached to the office of the CRE Nairobi, while remaining on the rolls of the 19th Division Field Park Company. Upon reaching the ERTD he was detached from the CRE Nairobi.

On the 26th of September 1941 Buley was appointed a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant on the General List of the South African Engineer Corps. He was now in need of some training to prepare him for his new duties as an officer, so on the 6th of October 1941 he was struck from the rolls of the 19th Division Field Park Company and was sent to the Officers' Cadet Course at the ETC at Sonderwater. His orders to the course further stipulated that upon completion of his training he was to be posted to the 48th Bitumen Road Construction Company then being brought up to strength at Spitzkop.

The 48th Bitumen Road Construction Company had actually been formed in Nairobi on the 22nd of January 1941 with one officer (Lieutenant W. Hollingdale), one staff sergeant, two sergeants, two corporals and five sappers. The company was formed because of the increasing need to properly surface new and improved roads being built in Kenya by the SAEC. SAEC Headquarters in Nairobi formed the unit without formal authorization from higher headquarters. With a nucleus of 28 sappers posted to the unit, the company was soon ready to start work. Shortly after its unofficial formation, the company returned to South Africa to be properly equipped and to train and take on new men to join the initial cadre from Nairobi. The company was subsequently officially established as a unit of the SAEC.

At the completion of his officer training, Buley reported for duty with the 48th Bitumen Construction Company and stayed with the unit until the 14th of January 1942 when he was posted to the Headquarters of the Engineer Training Center at Sonderwater. The period from February to April 1942 was one of injury and illness for Buley, as he spent about a month in hospital and 14 days on sick leave during this period.

On the 23rd of May 1942, Buley, then a Lieutenant, was posted to the strength of "ZB" Reserve Field Company at the ERTD in Sonderwater. On the 3rd of July 1942 he was posted from "ZB" Reserve Field Company and was reassigned to "ZE" Reserve Field Company. He joined his new unit on the 6th of July. On the 1st of October 1942 he was posted from "ZE" Reserve Field Company to the 161st Works Company, SAEC. This unit does not appear in the history of the South African Engineer Corps; however, it is believed that it may have been a training unit located at the ERTD.

Lieutenant Buley served with the 161st Works Company until the 21st of January 1943 when he was posted back to "ZB" Reserve Field Company, which was then located at Premier Mine Camp. He remained with this unit for only about three weeks and on the 10th of February 1943 he was posted to "G" Reserve Field Company also located at Premier Mine Camp. He was almost immediately detached from "G" Reserve Field Company and attached for duty back to his old unit, the 48th Bitumen Road Construction Company at Darling in the Cape Colony. On the 4th of May 1943 he was officially struck off the strength of "G" Reserve Field Company and taken on the strength of the 48th Bitumen Road Construction Company on the following day.

On the 25th of October 1943 Lieutenant Buley was posted to a unit quite out of the normal channels for an engineer officer. He left his company at Darling and proceeded to Sonderwater where he was taken on the strength of the Prisoner of War Camp located there. One can only imagine that the South African forces were short of personnel to administer the POW camp and since it was in close proximity to the ERTD, engineer officers seemed to be the most likely candidates to staff the camp.

In April of 1941, the first foreign prisoners-of-war ever to set foot on South African soil landed at Durban. They were Italians, captured in Libya and Abyssinia. This contingent turned out to be merely the forerunner of tens of thousands more.

South Africa had never previously been in the position of having to accommodate prisoners of war. During the First World War, the country was too far removed from the actual conflict area, making it impracticable to consider sending them there; besides which, the number of prisoners taken in those days was never too large to be disposed of in the countries in which they were captured. In addition, there was not quite the same shortage of shipping and all vital commodities that were experienced by the South African forces in the Great War as there was in World War 2.

The prisoners taken in Abyssinia and North Africa could not be transported to England because of the danger to allied shipping in the Mediterranean, nor could they be kept, in any great numbers, at the bases in Egypt, which were threatened by the enemy at that time. For these and other reasons the High Command of Great Britain and the Union of South Africa decided to construct camps in South Africa to accommodate the embarrassing stream of prisoners who began to arrive in ever-increasing numbers.

In the course of time, as the tide of war turned against the Germans in North Africa, German prisoners were also shipped to South Africa, but they only remained there for a comparatively short time, en route for their final destination in Canada. Everyone in South Africa was glad to see them go as unlike the tractable Italians, they were truculent, insubordinate and uncooperative towards their guards. There was also a small number of Vichy French prisoners, as well as a couple of thousand Indo-Chinese, captured on the high seas who were sent to the POW camp in South Africa.[13]

Lieutenant Buley served at the Prisoner of War Camp for just under five months when he received orders to be despatched to Middle East as a replacement in an engineer unit. There are no details in his service papers to indicate that types of duties he may have performed while dealing with the POWs. One can only assume that he preferred to return to engineering duties rather than perform the duties of a jailer.

Egypt and North Africa (1944-1945)

Lieutenant Buley left South Africa by air on the 4th of March 1944 and arrived in Cairo on the 7th of March. On the 13th of March he was posted to the 30th Road Construction Company, SAEC from the SAEC General List. During this period of time the 30th Road Construction Company, commanded by Major G.B. Weale, was working on the maintenance and repair of the road from Tripoli to kilometer 20, west of Sabratha in Tripoli. This was not altogether a quiet sector of North Africa. Near the end of April 1944 Sapper W.J. Strydom of Buley's company was killed and two other men were wounded in action while the unit was on the Medinine road.[14] On the 9th of May 1944 Major J.H. Edwards relieved Major Weale in command of the 30th Road Construction Company.

Buley's company continued on road construction work in North Africa, reaching Oran in Algeria on the 26th of May 1944. Eventually the company was placed under the Airfield Construction Group at Rabat-Sale in French Morocco. This Group was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H. Mill-Colman.

On the 14th of September 1944 Captain D.H. Lourens joined the company while the unit was working on one end of the airfield runway near Rabat. The company also filled the site for an extension of the runway and constructed transport and aircraft assembly areas. On the 17th of November 1944 the 30th Road Construction Company left the Rabat-Sale area by truck convoy en route to Algiers where it was on its way to embark for the return trip to the Middle East. The company arrived at Alexandria on the 2nd of December 1944 and within ten days it proceeded to the Sidi Barrani area to take on new road construction projects. Lieutenant Buley was promoted to the rank of Temporary Captain on the 18th of January 1945 while the company was in the Sidi Barrani area. He and his company continued working in this area until the end of April 1945 and by mid-June the unit moved back to El Daba in preparation for repatriation to South Africa.

On the 26th of June 1945 Captain Buley was struck off the strength of the 30th Road Construction Company and placed on the "X4" list for repatriation. He embarked for South Africa on the 6th of July.

Home Service (1945)

On the 20th of July 1945, upon his arrival in South Africa, he was taken on the strength of the Base Depot at Durban. He left Durban on the 26th of July and was taken on the strength of the Director of Engineering at General Headquarters in Pretoria. In this capacity he was posted to the General List, SAEC and attached to the ERTD. On the 26th of August 1945 he was taken on the strength of "WR" Field Company at the ERTD and on the 30th of August he was temporarily assigned back to General Headquarters in Pretoria.

Following the German and the Japanese surrenders, the South African Army began the process of demobilization. Captain Buley was struck off the strength of "WR" Field Company and was posted to the Discharge Depot at Hector Norris Park in Johannesburg on the 20th of September 1945. He reported to the Discharge Depot on the following day. On the 25th of September 1945 he was discharged from the Union Defence Force.

For his service in World War 2 Captain Buley was awarded the following medals:[15]


Raymond Buley received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

17 June 1940

Appointed Sapper on enlistment in the SAEC.

23 July 1940

Promoted to Acting Corporal.

30 December 1940

Appointed Acting Sergeant with the pay and allowances of the rank.

26 September 1941

Appointed Temporary 2nd Lieutenant, SAEC.

26 March 1942

Promoted Temporary Lieutenant, SAEC.

18 January 1945

Promoted Temporary Captain, SAEC.


a. Education: There is no information regarding Raymond Buley's civil or military education in his service papers.

b. Qualifications: There is no information in Raymond Buley's service papers regarding specific qualifications earned by him while in the Army other than his commissioning in the South African Engineer Corps from the enlisted ranks.


The following medical information was taken from Raymond Buley's military records during his time in service:


Date of


Period of Hospitalization
or Treatment

Cullinan Military Hospital, Premier Mine

23 February

Internal derangement of the left knee

Discharged on 20 March 1942. Posted to 14 days sick leave.

Military Hospital, Sonderwater

6 April


Discharged from hospital on 11 April 1942.


20 October


Discharged from hospital on 23 October 1944 to rejoin unit.


23 February


Discharged from hospital on 11 March 1945.


Raymond Buley was married at the time he entered the Army in 1940. He and his wife apparently lived in or near Johannesburg at that time. In December of 1942, while Buley was stationed at Sonderwater, his wife was living at The Falls Hotel in Howick, Natal. This historic hotel was originally built in 1850. It was destroyed by fire in 1872 and rebuilt. Guests at The Falls Hotel included such well-know personalities as Paul Kruger, Cecil John Rhodes and Mark Twain.

It appears that while he was serving in South Africa his wife moved her residence to be close to her husband. As a non-commissioned officer and later as an officer it is possible that they also were able to live together in towns near his duty stations.

When Lieutenant Buley was posted to the 48th Bitumen Road Construction Company at Darling in the Cape Colony in February of 1943, his wife was residing at The Royal Hotel in the town of Darling. In October of 1943 when he was posted back to Sonderwater, Mrs. Buley moved to Knockbracken, Meyerton in the Transvaal. While Buley was serving in Egypt, he gave an address for Mrs. Buley at Trennery's, Qolora Mouth, Kentane, Transkei.


Captain Raymond Buley was discharged from the Army at Johannesburg, South Africa on the 25th of September 1945. His total service was as shown in the tables below:


Period of Service

Home Service

17 June to 23 September 1940

Nairobi, Kenya

24 September 1940 to 9 August 1941

Home Service

10 August 1941 to 3 March 1944

Egypt and North Africa

4 March 1944 to 19 July 1945

Home Service

20 July to 25 September 1945


Period of Service

Home Service

3 years and 8 days

Service Abroad

1 year and 138 days

Total Service

4 years and 146 days


No information has been uncovered to date regarding Raymond Buley's life after leaving the Army following World War 2. It is assumed that he returned to the mining business in South Africa.



  1. ORPEN, N. and MARTIN, H.J. Salute the Sappers: South African Forces in World War II. Volume VIII - Part 1. Sappers Association, Johannesburg, 1981.
  2. ORPEN, N. and MARTIN, H.J. Salute the Sappers: South African Forces in World War II. Volume VIII- Part 2. Sappers Association, Johannesburg, 1982.

Census Records

  1. 1871 British Census. National Archives Reference RG10/1002. Registration District: Eastry. Sub-registration District: Eythorn.
  2. 1881 British Census. Family History Library Film 1341236, Public Record Office Reference RG11, Piece 0993, Folio 33, Page 15.
  3. 1881 British Census. Family History Library Film 1341237, Public Record Office Reference RG11, Piece 0996, Folio 28, Page 3.
  4. 1891 British Census. National Archives Reference RG12/58. Registration District: Chelsea. Sub-registration District: Chelsea, North.
  5. 1901 British Census. National Archives Reference RG13/603. Registration District: Guildford. Sub-registration District: Guildford.
  6. 1901 British Census. National Archives Reference RG13/830. Registration District: Eastry. Sub-registration District: Sandwich.

Computer Software

Soldiers Died in the Great War. The Naval & Military Press Ltd., Heathfield, East Sussex, 1998.


AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. The Complete Atlas of Britain. The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, 1979.


  1. BLUMBERG, L. Military History Journal, Volume 1, No. 4. Italian P.O.W. in South Africa (Medical Services). The South African Military History Society.
  2. Indian Army List, January 1919.
  3. Monthly Army List, December 1920.

Service Papers

  1. D.D. 293 consisting of Record of Service and Hospital Record.
  2. Medals Award Certificate.


[1] The 1871 British Census indicates that Thomas Buley was 14 years old in 1871.

[2] AA Complete Atlas of Britain, Map 15, TR2142.

[3] 1871 British Census.

[4] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 1341236.

[5] AA Complete Atlas of Britain, Map 15, TR3058.

[6] 1881 British Census, FHL Film 1341237.

[7] Given the age difference of 8 years between Sydney and his brother Thomas, whose mother was Bessie Buley, it is believed that Sydney was the child of Thomas Buley's second wife Edith; hence, Bessie's death is assumed to have occurred prior to 1887.

[8] Stanley D. Buley would have been 36 years old at the start of the Great War in 1914. Unless he had joined the Colours as a Regular Army soldier or as an officer prior to the war, he probably did not serve during the Great War. No one by the name of Buley is listed in Soldiers Died in the Great War.

[9] Thomas P. Buley would have been 34 years old at the start of the Great War. Like his brother Stanley, it appears that Thomas did not serve in the Great War.

[10] Indian Army List, January 1919, p. 352.

[11] Ibid., p. 1181.

[12] Monthly Army List, December 1920, p. 2013.

[13] BLUMBERG., pp. 1-2.

[14] ORPEN & MARTIN, Part 2, p. 51.

[15] These medals are in the author's collection and were the basis for this research.