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Started by Ross Debenham, December 10, 2022, 12:52:58 AM

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Ross Debenham

I attach 2 scans of AMLC from 71295 Lt A Guthrie attached to 1936 Basuto Company AAPC dated late 1943 and early 1944. Both addressed to Scotland. Can any member help with details of the author of the letter, as i believe he may have been a British officer attached to the Pioneer Corp,and the location of the unit if possible.

Michael Dobbs


I cannot help with the details you have asked for, but I believe that you will be able to find the answers in the following War Diaries held at The National Archives, Kew.  It appears that 1936 Company was in existence from December 1942 to November 1945.  These are the relevant War Diaries:

WO 169/6500 1936 Company Pioneer Corps Dec 1942
WO 169/12993 1936 Company (Basuto) African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps (AAPC) Jan-Dec 1943
WO 169/17441 1936 Dilution Company African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps (AAPC) Jan-Dec 1944
WO 169/21008 1936 Company (Basuto) African Pioneer Corps (APC) Jan-Nov 1945

The War Office 169 (WO 169) class are War Diaries for the Middle East .


Michael Dobbs

Aaah Ross - just realised that you are one of our Australian members, so a visit to our National Archives at Kew is not an easy option!

When I next visit The National Archives for my own researches (and I want to go soon - whether or not before Christmas I don't know) I will look at the relevant War Diary to determine location.


Ross Debenham

Alan Baker

I think I have found him on Ancestry. Electoral Roll 1935: WJR Guthrie and Alexander Guthrie, 59 St Peter St, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

Not actually managed to tie this back to a war record though. Quite a few A Guthries on FWR, including one on the Special List. One entry gives his duty location including Egypt, E Africa and Western Desert

Ross Debenham

Michael Dobbs

1936 Besuto Company, AAPC

WO 169/12993 1936 Company (Basuto) African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps (AAPC)
(Jan-Dec 1943)

Yesterday (Tuesday) I visited The National Archives and was able to look at the above file the unit War Diary for 1943.  This showed that the Company was located in Bengasi in January 1943.

A look through the War Diary I came across the following two entries for 22 December 1943:

Seven Sections and HQ arrived at P.C.D. at Qusassin from Tripoli and they were accommodated in Camp 50.  In the War Diary I read the handwriting as Qassassiu which was obviously wrong as various web searches show the Pioneer Corps Depot to be at Qusassin.  However, I could not find in which country Qusassin is situated!

Lt A. Guthrie (71295) reported for duty with the Company ex P.C.D. located at Qusassin.

Lt Guthrie was indeed a Pioneer Corps officer
P.C.D. = Pioneer Corps Depot


Which has the following passage:

Since the many thousands of Colonial Pioneers to be produced from this vast campaign of recruitment were to be despatched as speedily as possible to Egypt, it became obvious that a depot was required to receive, equip and train the men. A new Pioneer Corps depot was opened deep in the desert at Qasassin under the command of Lt Col H.G.L. Prynne. This desolate spot was where the first companies from Bechuanaland were headed in October 1941.

You will see that the author spells it in two different ways the diagram (p.210) as "Qusassin" and the above text as "Qasassin" (p.211) but still no clues as to where this was located other than "deep in the desert"!

However, after carrying out a search using the spelling "Qasassin" I feel the location to be in Egypt:

Then I came across this entry which confirms the location to be Egypt:

I hope this answers your queries.


Nick Colley

Do you think it might now be known as Kassasin? About 30-40 kms west of Ismailia. See attached Google Maps screen snips. If so, then the country is Egypt.


Michael Dobbs


You could well be right - see attached link "Polish YMCA Building Kassasin (Qassassin)"

As a result of searching "Kassasin" I have come across this link:
Camp 379 Qassassin:
Prisoner of War Camp Quassassin was situated 35 kms by rail west of Ismalia on the Suez Canal; 230 kms SE of Alexandria and 74 kms from Geneifa.

Thanks, Mike

Ross Debenham

Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter. Very helpful indeed. I had heard of Quassussin previously but  really didn't take much notice of it. However, after looking up my Prouds "History of the South African Army Postal Service" I note that APO 3 & 7, attached to 1st SA Division were stationed there for a short period prior to there repatriation home in 1942-43. Also the sight of 106 (SA) General Hospital in 1944.