This page is about the Royal Pioneer's and Compton Verney the Smoke School during the second world war


Royal Pioneer's at Compton Verney




Story 1

Compton Verney, a large mansion near Kineton in Warwickshire, where we spent ten days learning how to operate the

Haslan smoke machine. I can only describe the Haslan as a mass of pipes, knobs, gauges and valves contained about a twenty foot long trailer. Diesel oil was fed from a 500 gallon tank on the lorry itself and passed through all the above mentioned paraphernalia to the base of a huge cowled metal chimney at the rear end of the trailer. Smoke was

Produced by priming an aperture at the base of the chimney with paraffin soaked cotton waste after the outlet valve had been opened. The idea, I think, was that the oil would be shot up the chimney in a fine spray which would be converted into fine globules as it became warmer. By the time the globules reached the top of the chimney they had been converted into

Thick black smoke which emerged from below the cowl, as from the funnel of a destroyer protecting its convoy.

Those practical types who could prove their mastery of all that plumbing by lighting up and producing good black

Smokes at their first attempt were, at the end of the course, awarded a Premier pass. My AB64 Part One shows that I received a pass, but minus the Premier. By the end of April we were a fully trained Smoke Mobile Company lacking

Only a base from which to operate. The other half of Victoria Barracks was occupied by 846 SM Company which

Served, smoke-wise, the whole of Portsmouth and its environs. Our job was to protect Portsmouth from the other side of

The harbour should the wind be blowing from the West. By basing us outside Gosport we could cover, given the right

Wind conditions, not only Portsmouth, but Gosport and the many Naval and Fleet Air Arm establishments around that town.

Towards that end, and in full marching order, with rifles at the slope, we marched down to the Portsmouth chain ferry and

Crossed over to Gosport prior to marching the three miles that separated us from our new home - Fort Brockhurst.

By the middle of the nineteenth century Lord Palmerstone had decided that any threat of invasion by our then arch enemy,

The French, would be initiated from the Cherbourg area; consequently, a ring of forts was built around Portsmouth to repel

The Frog invaders. They were dubbed "Palmerstone Follies", and Fort Brockhurst was one of them.


Story 2

I soon found myself in another Company, where I don't think the Major here liked me either because he kept sending me on

Courses. Perhaps he thought I made the place look untidy. The first course was in a stately home near Kineton in Warwickshire (54 this was probably Compton Verney, a Robert Adam mansion, which was requisitioned by the Army during the war and the grounds used as an experimental station for smoke-screen camouflage, and other training courses. The officers were housed in the main house, the NCO's in the annex, and the men in Nissan huts in the woods) where we learned about operating a smoke machine, which, if my memory serves me well, was called the Haslar, (55 His memory was correct: Haslar Smoke Generators consumed fuel oil and water at 85 and 70 gals per hour respectively) a device which looked as if it had been designed by Heath Robinson.This course, like many others, was not to