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Purple Patch

History of the 3rd Field Company Engineers in World War One

(3 customer reviews)
Authors: Darren Prickett
Military, History, World War One
C Format

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The 3rd Field Company Engineers holds a distinguished place in the history of the Australian Army, being the first unit of the AIF to deploy on active service and to come under enemy fire, in defence of the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack in February 1915, almost three months before the Gallipoli landing.

This book, the result of many years of research, details the work of the Company from its raising in August 1914 until the end of the war in November 1918.  Drawing on both official records and personal papers, it explores the varied activities of an engineering unit, ranging from the taxing work of building bridges and other vital infrastructure in and behind battle zones to the highly dangerous task of extending trenches and barbed wire obstructions on the front line.

From senior command levels down to the rank-and-file Sappers, the book combines a careful account with personal experiences and observations to present a compelling portrait of the unsung heroes of the AIF. As an example of the role of engineers in the First World War, Purple Patch offers an authoritative examination of the achievements of this most notable unit.

Darren Prickett

Darren Prickett

Darren Prickett was born and raised in Brisbane and after completing schooling he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Following his military service, Darren joined the Queensland Police Service and spent the next 24 years as a police officer, most of that service as a designated Detective. Darren retired from the police service in 2018 and moved to […]

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3 reviews for Purple Patch

  1. 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.

  2. A well written history of 3FCE, following them through the length of the war. Their exploits during the war was well balanced with personal stories which added a nice touch. You will find many personal stories which until now haven’t been told shouldn’t be lost. Well worth a read for anyone interested in Australian military history.

  3. A wonderfully researched book that bring to life the conditions, lives and the importance of the engineering teams deployed in ww1 and the roles they played. Particular kudos to the author in delving into the back story of soldiers and their lives pre war. Great read

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