691st ENGINEER BASE EQUIPMENT COMPANY



Ex-CBI Roundup
June 1970 Issue

By William R. Ziegler, Colonel (Ret.) Engineer Supply Officer, Bdg No. 2

The Blue Earth Shop

American Help for an Indian University

The highlight of my return trip to India in 1964 was the half-day I spent at Jadavpur University in Bengal.

When I was in India in 1943, 1944 and 1945, this school was known as the College of Engineering and Technology of Bengal. It was a small engineering school in Calcutta as the name implies.

I became acquainted with Dr. Triguna Sen, the Special Administrative Officer of this school. Dr. Sen, besides being a scholar, DR ENG-Munich; MME, AMIE-India; Fellow of Calcutta University, was a gentlemen, who was not only pleasant to talk to, but most cooperative.

By 1943, we had an Engineer Base Equipment Company, the 691st, headed by Capt. Thomas Galvin. We had a small machine shop located at Blue Earth near Hyde Road in Calcutta. Standard order of procedure said we could do third echelon repairs.

Major C. J. Sellens of the Transportation Corps in Calcutta approached me saying his section was supposed to set up a shop to repair locomotives and railway rolling stock, but higher authorities said "No" (Confused Beyond Imagination.) The major said he had all the necessary machinery and buildings on hand to proceed, so he offered it to us engineers, as he very sensibly said, he saw no reason for all this useful machinery doing nothing.

I in turn discussed this matter with higher authority in Delhi, who told me to take it. Therefore, we engineers in Calcutta accepted all of this machinery and a huge building.


VISITING CBIer, William R. Ziegler, walks past the shop in the
industrial section of campus during his 1964 return.


RETIRED faculty members of the former College of Engineering and Technology of Bengal
turn out for lunch with Col. William R. Ziegler during his 1964 visit to the campus.
Dr. Triguna Sen is at Ziegler's left. Picture was taken in front of the Blue Earth Shop,
in the industrial section of the university.

We first erected the overhead crane, a 10-ton Whiting, and used this to help erect the building and place all of the machinery. The building, as I recall, was about 75 to 9O ft. wide and about 150 feet long.

We had ample machinery, such as an American Pacemaker Lathe which had a 24 inch swing and a 20 foot bed. We had radial drills, a metalizer, a crankshaft grinder, drill presses, bench liaithes, planers, shapers, grinders, etc. In other words, a complete heavy machine shop. Oh yes, by moonlight requisition, we confiscated some bar and rod landing mat from the British and made a tool crib out of it.

Now we found ourselves in one hell of a fix. Here is an Engineer Base Equipment Company only supposed to do maintenance work and we were now equipped to do fifth echelon repairs.

Typical of GI Joes, we successfully operated a fifth echelon shop and went even further. There was an epidemic of breaking and twisting crane booms, so we set up a welding and boom shop across the lot from our machine shop with Sergeant Thornton of Warren, Ohio, in charge.

This Blue Earth operation became fabulous and in short order we were snowed under with work.

We needed more manpower, so I discussed this with Dr. Sen, who agreed to let his students in Mechanical Engineering and Machine Practice work in our shop as helpers and get credit for machine shop practice.

I do not remember how many students worked at Blue Earth, but it was quite a number iand their help was invaluable. We experienced no labor shortage as we paid them two rupees a day and as you all remember, that was a lot of rupees, especially to a student.

VJ came and we started inventorying equipment.

Dr. Sen approached me about getting the Blue Earth shop for the College of Engineering and Technology. I thought it was a wonderful idea as I had been through the college machine shop and observed what they had.

They had had to make practically all of their own machinery. For example, X class would make a lathe and they made it from scratch. They cast the legs, the frame, etc. They machined the necessary parts and in the course of one semester would finish a lathe, which was put in the machine shop. This same practice applied to all of their machinery with the net result that all of their machine shop was equipped with homemade machines of the same British vintage of about 1900 or thereabouts.


CRANE taken apart to be airlifted to Myitkyina from Calcutta. This huge piece of equipment was in operation at Myitkyina
five days after American troops took the airstrip from the Japanese.


LARGE LATHE, operated here by T/5 Dallas Snyder of Omaha, Neb., was the pride of the 5th echelon shop in Calcutta.
The American Pacemaker, it was the only one of its kind in India. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo by T/4 James W. Guillot.

Here, I saw an opportunity of bringing the most modern American machinery to this outmoded machine shop at the College, so I went to work.

In the interim Dr. Sen invited me out to the school one Sunday afternoon for tea and to hear and meet Pandit Nehru. I can still remember the Pandit's remarks when he told the students that India had enough politicians and lawyers, what India needed was engineers. He encouraged the students to further their education in engineering.

I left India on January 15, 1946, and I had done all I could to help Dr. Sen get the Blue Earth shop. I later heard from Dr. Sen that he was successful in getting it.

Twenty years later on October 10, 1964, I again visited with Dr. Sen. He had arranged a lovely luncheon in my honor to which were invited faculty members whom I had known and worked with, but who had retired in the intervening years. It was most enlightening.


BOOM making was one of the specialties of the 5th echelon shop. T/Sgt. George P. Thornton of Warren, Ohio,
T/4 William O. Black of Salt Lake City, Utah, and T/5 Wendell Hensley of Ibernia, Mo.,
are shown at work on a new one. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo by T/4 James W. Guillot.

(LEFT) TWO PHOTOS, by a Royal Air Force photographer, of 150-ton rock crusher that could not be tranported up the Ledo Road. With two Americans to show them how to operate it, the British set it up near Trincomalee in Ceylon.   (RIGHT) LIFTING motor from grading machine at 5th echelon shop are T/Sgt. Thomas S. Brooks of Green Cove, Fla., T/5 George Wheeler of Madison, Fla., and M/Sgt. Roger E. Stachwell of Dry Ridge, Ky. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo by James W. Guillot.


CHECKING dimensions of the secondary crusher unit of a 25-yard rock crushing plant
at the Engineer Heavy Equipment Yard, Calcutta, are Lt. M. A. Mitchell, Jr., of Fort Worth, Tex.,
and T/5 Thurmdir S. Findley of Clarksburg, W. Va. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo by T/4 Harry A. Wilson.

There is no more College of Engineering and Technology. It is now Jadavpur University, a big sprawling school with many new buildings. The University has splendid faculty with many doctors of engineering and masters, educated at such schools as Wisconsin, Harvard, Berlin, Michigan, Munich, Edinburgh, Illinois, Cambridge, Cal Tech, M. I. T. and many others. The university's enrollment is now over 10,000 and it is doing a "bang up job."

My tour of that campus made my return trip to India a huge success. There I saw my old Blue Earth shop standing right in the middle of the industrial section of the campus. Then, going into the building, I was again amazed. Everything was in exactly the same location as we had had it on Hyde Road.

The bar and rod tool crib stood right in the center of the building. The big American lathe exactly where we had had it, together with the boring mill, the metalizer, the crankshaft grinder, even our fuel injection shop exactly as it was 20 years ago and in the same place in the building.

Needless to say, my mind and memories went back 20 years and I could still see Captain Galvin, Lieutenant Nabors and Sergeant Brooks, walking around, and were they to see it, they could walk around blindfolded and not stumble into anything out of place.

It was a grand and satisfying feeling to see this shop and ito see it used for the purpose it was intended to be used. It has proven profitable for the school, as they take in outside work for the big lathe, the metalizer and the crankshaft grander.

Since 1964 when I last saw Dr. Sen, I read in an international magazine (The Rotariian) that Dr. Triguna Sen had been appointed Minister of Education for India, and he is on the staff of the Prime Minister as ia cabinet member. All I can say is that I know the Prime Minister has one "surnuff" good hand.

When I left India in January 1946, I received one of the nicest and most sincere gifts I have ever received. The school faculty had me as an honored guest at tea and presented me with a 1944 yearbook of the College of Engineering and Technology. It is inscribed, "In appreciation of your labours" and is signed by Dr. Sen and every faculty member had autographed his picture in this year book.


DORMITORIES of Jadavpur University, Calcutta,
a small engineering school that grew up.


ADMINISTRATION building of what is now Jadavpur University in Bengal.


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