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CAPTAIN EDWARD JOHN OSTERLOH
(formerly 1866430 Sergeant)
Royal Engineers

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000

Home Service (1929-1936)

Edward John Osterloh enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper in the late 1920’s. Upon his enlistment he was issued Army Number 1866430.

Sapper Osterloh was awarded a First Class Certificate of Education in May of 1929. To receive a First Class Certificate so early in his military career indicates that he probably had a number of years of formal education at the time he joined the Army [1].

Osterloh was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on the 18th of October 1930. In February of 1932 he was posted to Blackdown, the home of the Royal Engineers Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Group, and on the 17th of September 1933 he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. His specific unit of assignment at Blackdown was "A" Company, Anti-Aircraft Group, Royal Engineers

Service in Palestine (1936-1939)

Corporal Osterloh was posted to Palestine (probably to Haifa) in late 1935 or very early in 1936 and may have served there until 1939. Some Royal Engineer units had been deployed to Palestine as early as the 19th of April 1936 and some would remain there until the 3rd of September 1939.

On the 1st of January 1936 Corporal Osterloh was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant; however, his General Service Medal 1918 with clasp for Palestine is named to him as a Corporal. Since the period of entitlement to the medal is as indicated above, it is difficult to understand how the medal would carry his rank of Corporal when he was promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant before the initial entitlement date.

At any rate, British involvement in Palestine began in earnest 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 Osterloh was assigned; however, he was probably involved in some of the work listed above during his tour of duty in Palestine. If he was posted to Palestine in 1935 or early 1936, then he served there before the area was pacified and while the terrorist activities were in full operation. He early posting may indicate that he served on a staff that had been sent to Palestine before the majority of the troop units.

Service in World War 2 (1939-1945)

Sometime during his service in Palestine, or during the early years of the war in North Africa, Osterloh was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Again, without his service papers it is not possible to know the date of his promotion or his activities during the war in any detail. He did serve in North Africa with the British 1st Army. After leaving North Africa it appears that he returned to the United Kingdom to prepare for the Normandy invasion. On the 31st of August 1941 he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and on the 6th of June 1944 he made the assault landing at Normandy during which he was wounded.

For most of his time in the campaign in North West Europe it appears that he served as an Interpreter and may have been involved with intelligence work. As the name Osterloh is of German origin, it would be safe to assume that he was an interpreter of German [2].

For his service during the war, Lieutenant Osterloh was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star with bar [1st ARMY], the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal, and the War Medal.

Post-War (1945-1996)

In 1945 Lieutenant Osterloh was appointed to the rank of Temporary Captain and in 1946 he was transferred to the Reserve as an Honorary Captain. After leaving the Army he appears to have taken up residence in Scotland and was for a time the Secretary of the Troon Golf Club in Strathclyde [3].

Edward John Osterloh died on the 23rd of February 1996.

ENDNOTES:

[1] His formal education prior to enlisting enabled him to skip the Third Class and Second Class Certificates of Education and to qualify immediately for the First Class Certificate.

[2] Although not known with certainty, it is believed that Edward John Osterloh may have been born in Germany.

[3] Troon is a town on the west coast of Scotland on the Firth of Clyde. It has a port with a fishing harbour and shipbuilding yards. It is also a seaside resort with extensive sandy beaches and golf courses.

 REFERENCES:

  1. The Sapper, June 1929, p. 313.
  2. The Sapper, February 1931, p. 199.
  3. The Sapper, April 1932, p. 252.
  4. The Sapper, June 1934, p. 311.
  5. The Sapper, April 1936, p. 240.
  6. The Sapper, September 1996, p. 464.
  7. Royal Engineers List, 1943.
  8. Supplement to the Royal Engineers Journal, August 1996.
  9. LETTS, C. Roadbook of Britain. Charles Letts and Company, Limited, London, 1977.
  10. Rolfe, A. Personal correspondence, London, 12 November 1999.
  11. Osterloh, N. Personal correspondence, Torrington, Devon, 6 February 2000.