The photograph above features the same younger officer. Sgt Abbott is one of the few Sergeants, at fifth from left, front, and with him are a large number of the Other Ranks, comprsing a platoon of what looks like around 50 men.

For a left side enlargement of the photgraph, click here

For a right side enlargement of the photograph, click here

In this photograph, note his very ill-fitting (massively too large) battledress blouse, which was common at this stage of the war--brand new and just issued. Later the soldiers learned how to smarten them up and tailor them to fit. Note also the mix of service and battle dress in about equal proportions among the Other Ranks.

Thomas Abbott is a Sergeant on both photos, so this must have been taken after 5/10/39, that is, after his promotion and before, according to his service record, he 'relinquished' the rank in 12/39. Notice the age of most of the men in the first photo, all 35-plus, and the fact that most are wearing WW1 campaign ribbons and long service awards. Abbott, at 36 in 1939, is one of the youngest, and a couple of them look to be well on the wrong side of 45. That was the usual age of the AMPC men, many were ex-WW1 men and there were many instances of British soldiers who were taken POW by Germany in 1914-18 being taken POW again in 1940 while serving in the AMPC. This website forum has an interesting if very garbled account of the 27 AMPCís formation:

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/royalpioneercorps/viewtopic.php?f=67&t=1302&p=3845&hilit=27+AMPC#p3845

It seems the unit was formed in early September 1939 as No 5 Works Labour Corps at the Depot of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, at Kempston Barracks, Bedford and was made up mainly from 125 reservists of the Suffolk Regiment On 12/9/39, the unit embarked for France, arriving at Brest. The unit was engaged on various construction and infrastructure tasks as part of the BEF through to June 1940. It looks like the unit was evacuated from France from St Malo on 17/6/17, after Dunkirk. Abbott and his colleagues would have been lucky to escape the bombing of the Lancastria ocean liner on 17/7/40 in which over 4,000 British troops died, many of whom were AMPC. For more on this evacuation see this page:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ariel

Itís a shame that the only name we currently have for both of these hugely evocative photographs is that of Thomas Abbott himself. Itís fascinating to speculate on the identities of the other men featured here. Did any of them join Abbott in being sent to the 16th DLI? He would have almost certainly known some of the other Beds and Herts men serving in the new unit from his pre-war service in the 1st Battalion Beds and Herts and one or two of them could well be sitting alongside him here....

If you can spot a relative on either of these photographs do get in touch and I will add their details to the caption.


Sgt Thomas Abbott, as a Platoon Sgt in 27 Coy, AMPC, 1939

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