The Kent Fortress Royal Engineers
(KFRE) were a volunteer Territorial
unit of the British Army
. They are notable for their successful actions in May 1940, when they destroyed substantial oil stocks and installations just ahead of the German advance.
The unit was formed in 1932 to provide coastal defence, in place of regular
troops. They were a company
-sized unit recruited almost entirely from the staff of the Blue Circle Cement Company
. Under their first commanding officer, Major (later Brigadier) Clifford Brazier
, the KFRE gained a reputation as an efficient unit.
This article records the wartime deployment of the KFRE and the units which it subsequently joined with.
In May 1940, the German Army
invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The British military authorities were determined that the large oil installations at the major ports should not fall into enemy hands. The KFRE were despatched in secrecy on 11 May to Amsterdam
to negotiate with the local commanders and destroy the installations and the large oil stocks and assist with dockyard demolitions; these were called "XD Operations". They were successful in spite of the lack of advance planning and specialised equipment. After Amsterdam, detachments carried out more oil demolitions at Rotterdam
, and assisted with the evacuation of 40 tons of Dutch gold from Rotterdam. At times they exchanged fire with German advance patrols.
The German advance continued into France, and KFRE were sent to... Read More