The Field Survey units RE

Siege artillery

The Field Survey at the start of the war

On 1 August 1914 there were three Field Survey Companies, all at home, their troops being employed on work for the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. On mobilisation, two were split up and the men sent to coastal units.

Pre-war regular Field Survey Companies
Company Notes
13th Company Split into half-companies on mobilisation and men sent to coastal garrisons. Once relieved in those duties by Territorials, came back and converted to become 13th Base Park Company. Went to Egypt.
14th Company Split into half-companies on mobilisation and men sent to coastal garrisons. Once relieved in those duties by Territorials, came back and converted to become two Army Troops Companies (one being 37th AT Company RE) for service in Egypt.
19th Company Half of this unit was converted to become 46th Advanced Park Company. Went to Egypt. Rest stayed in England and was based at Southampron, beocoming a depot unit for all other Field Survey units.

The developing role of the Field Survey

Especially once the war in France had ceased to be one of movement and the deadlock of entrenched positions had begun, the artillery lost most of its ability to fire at targets that could be directly observed. Enemy artillery and other positions were out of sight, requiring indirect firing. The ability to know very accurately where your own position was, where the enemy was and the general lie of the ground became of increasing importance. Surveying the ground, creating maps and identifying the position of the enemy even when he could not be seen became the job of a new type of Field Survey Company.

Four companies were formed in France in March 1916 and were organised as RE units by July, although a fixed establishment was not defined until February 1917. They each comprised a Headquarters, Topographical section, Map section, Observation section and Sound-ranging section. Some of the various sections already existed and were absorbed into the new companies. The Army Printing Sections were also added into the Field Survey Companies later on, principally to organise production of the tens of thousands of maps that needed to be issued. Three more Companies were also formed and moved to other theatres.

Company Location in 1918
1st Field Survey Company Based in France.
3rd Field Survey Company Based in France.
4th Field Survey Company Based in France.
5th Field Survey Company Based in France.
Field Survey Depot Based in France. It was located at Montreuil but moved to Campignelles-les-Grandes in the winter of 1917/18.
6th Field Survey Company Based in Italy.
7th Field Survey Company Based in Egypt.
8th Field Survey Company Based in Salonika.

Reorganisation as the Field Survey grows and matures

In May 1918, the Companies in France were reorganised into Field Survey Battalions, comprising a Headquarters (this including the surveying and printing sections), two Artillery Sections (incorporating the sound-ranging and observation sections) and a Corps Topographical Section. There was one each for the five British Armies. For tactical purposes they were placed under the General Officer Commanding Royal Artillery in each Army. Three additional Sound-ranging Sections were also created for other theatres.

Field Survey Battalions
Battalion Structure in 1918
1st Field Survey Battalion In First Army. Comprised "H" - "L" - "P" - "T" - "Y" & "Z" Sound Ranging Sections and Nos 4, 10, 11, 18 and 21 Observation Groups.
2nd Field Survey Battalion In Fifth Army. Comprised "DD" - "J" & "U" Sound Ranging Sections and Nos 5, 8, 9 and 27 Observation Groups
3rd Field Survey Battalion In Third Army. Comprised "C" - "CC" - "D" & "F" Sound Ranging Sections and Nos 15, 16, 17, 19 and 20 Observation Groups
4th Field Survey Battalion In Second Army. Comprised "BB" - "GG" - "I" - "M" - "S" & "W" Sound Ranging Sections and Nos 1, 3, 6, 7, 12 and 23 Observation Groups
5th Field Survey Battalion In Fourth Army. Comprised "A" - "B" - "G" - "K" - "O" & "R" Sound Ranging Sections and Nos 2, 13, 14 and 24 Observation Groups
Depot Field Survey Battalion Based in France.

This page is dedicated to the memory of men like Benjamin Clatworthy of the 5th Field Survey Company RE, researched in detail by fourteeneighteen|research