The Role of the Army

To build up from scratch, on what is virtually a desert island, a considerable township with its own seaport and airbase; road system and transport service; "Mains" electricity; "Company's" water-distilled from the sea; sewage and hygiene services; cool storage; food, petrol and other supply depots, and general maintenance and housekeeping for a population of 2,300 with all that this entailed: such was the magnitude of the task to be planned and executed by the Army element of the Force.
      The construction of a complete airbase on Christmas Island, together with all its attendant facilities, alone involved first the clearing, excavation, compacting, levelling and surfacing of a main runway, 2,150 yards long by 60 yards wide, which would be capable of holding a modern jet bomber. Then 8-inch concrete paving had to be laid to provide runway ends, taxiways and aircraft standings; 20 miles of access roads had to be constructed and some 700,000 square yards of scrub cleared for airfield approach zones, while new airfield buildings needed to be erected and old ones reconstructed.
      Port installations had to be built up and a camp made there. In a short time there were well over a hundred tents and marquees together with some 7,000 square feet of buildings. Twelve 105,000-gallon fuel tanks for stowing aviation fuel, diesel and petrol were put up and pumping stations, pipes, roads and protective banks for the tank farm were added. For this port and camp such amenities as light, power, fresh water, showers and ablutions also had to be provided. To house the headquarters and the majority of the Force a second camp-Main Camp-was constructed. Here there are now over 700 tents and marquees, as well as about 40,000 square feet of hutted accommodation.
      To carry out these great and varied tasks a group of Army Units was formed with 28 FIELD ENGINEER REGIMENT, ROYAL ENGINEERS, as its nucleus and main element. This regiment was originally raised in Benghazi in April, 1951, from the divisional engineers of 1st Infantry Division for service in Korea. Initially it consisted of Regimental Headquarters, 12 Field Squadron and 64 Field Park Squadron. (It is worthy of note that 12 Field Squadron was one of the original Royal Engineer companies, whose history dates back to 1784.) On arrival in Korea, 55 Field Squadron and 57 Canadian Field Squadron, who were already in the country with 29 British and 25 Canadian Infantry Brigades, were also placed under its command. The regiment thus became the divisional engineer regiment of the 1st British Commonwealth Division which came into being in June, 1951.