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Purple Patch

History of the 3rd Field Company Engineers

in World War One

Darren Prickett

Big Sky Publishing   2019

Hardback   324pp   RRP $34.99


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, June 2019


The Divisional Engineers for the 1st Division consisted of a Division Engineers Headquarters and three Field Companies (FCE). Each company of 200 included six officers and eight non-commissioned officers and four engineer sections of sappers that contained approximately 20 different trades/skills. 3FCE’s sections were recruited in Qld, SA, WA and Tas in August 1914 and brought together in the Engineers’ Depot, Melbourne in September.

Attached to 3rd Brigade, 3FCE were involved in bridging, road and tramway construction building structures, demolition of infrastructure, surveying and preparing maps. Their main task was the digging, excavating and maintaining trenches in front, support and reserve lines. Quite often this meant entering no man’s land to complete tasks.

3FCE had the distinction of being the first AIF unit to see combat in the World War One when they protected the Suez Canal against Turkish attacks on 2nd February 1915. Two sections were in the initial landing on Gallipoli whist the remainder were responsible for the organisation and subsequent landing of the engineer stores.

Being a history of the Company, it is incredibly rich in detail of the personnel, actions and first-hand accounts: from Gallipoli to the major battles fought on the Western Front, time spent rear of the Front Line and the additional training undertaken during ‘rest periods’. At the conclusion of the major events follows a summary of Honours and Awards for the action and an Honour Roll providing date, location and manner of death and where buried or mentioned. There is a generous number of quality photographs of members and the Company’s works, as well as clear and simple battle map sketches adding clarification to the text. The narrative is accompanied by detailed Endnotes and a useful Index.

This is an excellent work that has been thoroughly researched using comprehensive materal from both Allied and Axis sources. It should provide valuable material for those wishing to add to their family history, and for the military historian rounding out the complete picture of the Great War.