Unit History: Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers has a long heritage that not many corps can rival. They were the direct descent from William the Conqueror's Military Engineers who were directed in 1066 by Humphrey de Tilleaul.
By the end of the Peninsular War in 1814 there were five companies serving with Wellington's Army.
In 1856, the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners were amalgamated with the Corps of Royal Engineers. The rank of 'Private' in the newly formed Corps of Royal Engineers was changed to 'Sapper' and still exists today.
The Royal Engineers' interest in aeronautics began in the 1860's when they explored the possibilities of using air balloons for aerial observation purposes. This interest developed into an interest in fixed winged aircraft. In 1911 the Corps formed its Air Battalion, the first flying unit of the British Armed Forces. The Air Battalion was the forerunner of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force.
WW1, Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, nicknamed "the Moles", were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War. They designed and built the frontline fortifications, creating cover for the infantry and positions for the artillery. It was in the hands of the technically skilled RE's to develop responses to chemical and underground warfare. And without the RE's the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless, as they maintained their weapons.
The RE's maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport - allowing supplies to the armies. They operated the railways and inland waterways, maintained wireless, telephones and other signalling equipment, making sure communications existed. The Royal Engineers grew into a large and complex organisation, by the 1 August 1914, the RE consisted of 1056 officers and 10394 men of the regular army and Special Reserve, plus another 513 and 13127 respectively serving with the RE of the Territorial Force. The officers and men manned 26 coastal defence Fortress Companies (of which 15 were overseas), 7 Signal Companies, 2 Cable and Airline (signalling) Companies, 15 Field Companies, 3 Survey Companies, 2 Railway Companies, and miscellaneous other units. There were also 9 Depot companies carrying out training and administrative duties, as well as various Schools.
In 1915, in response to German mining of British trenches under the then static siege conditions of World War One, the corps formed its own tunnelling companies. Manned by experienced coal miners from across the country, they operated with great success until 1917, when after the fixed positions broke, they built deep dugouts such as the Vampire dugout to protect troops from heavy shelling. By 1 August 1917, it had grown to a total of 295668. It was twelve times bigger than the peacetime establishment.
Before the Second World War, Royal Engineers recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 4 inches tall (5 feet 2 inches for the Mounted Branch). They initially enlisted for six years with the colours and a further six years with the reserve or four years and eight years. Unlike most corps and regiments, in which the upper age limit was 25, men could enlist in the Royal Engineers up to 30 years of age. They trained at the Royal Engineers Depot in Chatham or the RE Mounted Depot at Aldershot
WW2, RE's as they did in WW1, maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport etc'. From 1940 disposed of bombs. Maybe the most, greatest achievements of the RE’s were the construction and operation of the Mulberry Harbour its support for the Battle of Normandy.
Royal Engineers during WW2
Royal Engineers during WW1
From October 1916 the Royal Engineers had been working underground, constructing tunnels for the troops in preparation for the Battle of Arras in 1917. Beneath Arras itself there is a vast network of caverns called the boves, consisting of underground quarries and sewage tunnels. The engineers came up with a plan to add new tunnels to this network so that troops could arrive at the battlefield in secrecy and in safety. The size of the excavation was immense. In one sector alone four Tunnel Companies of 500 men each worked around the clock in 18-hour shifts for two months.
Related Historic Documents
|Title:||WWI Military Service Of Robert McRae Lockhart Regimental Number 134162 Royal Engineers|
|Title:||WWII Written accounts By Troop Sgt, Bernard Kaye No: 2073747 Royal Engineers 16th Assault Sqd|
|Title:||WWI War Diary Of Sapper. John Lockhart No. 134163. Royal Engineers 222 Field Company, 241st Artizan Work Co.|
Forces Reunited Gallery Images Matching Royal Engineers
Memories of Royal Engineers
(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)
Corps of Royal Engineers in 2005
Written by Kathleen MashederDoes anyone remember Henry John Ewer? We think he was known as Jack. He was born in Brighton in 1904 and died in 1975 in Chichester. He was promoted to Lt Surveyor of Works in Oct 1940 and eventually became a major. He lived in York for a while in the late 1940's to the mid fifties, I think. In civilian life he was a quantity surveyor. My husband was adopted as a baby - Henry J Ewer was his father. We know very little about him so would really appreciate any memories that would help us get to know him a bit.
minden germany royal engineers in 1950
Written by denis matthewshi anyone out there that was in 27 field sqd.foster.sgt thompson.lt linley hamerton. boyce .nicholson gray.furr.waterhouse. edwards.wilson.gee.littlewods.issac.heath.spicer. etc had some great times. nearly went to korea ring me
always got the job of cooking for you all when we was out of camp. in the darkest places
Training Regiment Royal Engineers, in 1980
Written by Ashley SaywellGoing undefeated all football season winning 7 trophies. Biggest, and best the Army Cup 1-0 against Irish Guards and 2-1 against 39 Hvy Regt RA. Once a Sapper always a Sapper!
Training Regiment Royal Engineers, in 1954
Written by Kenneth SimpsonNCO;s Cadre at 3 TRRG
Royal Engineers Regiment, KOWLOON NEW TERRITORIES in 1957
Written by JOHN THOMAS MACALONEYANYONE REMEMBER "CHAR WALLERS"SABU & JESS WHO CAME TO OUR BILLITS IN THE EVENING WITH TEA & CHEESE ROLLS AND YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY UNTIL PAY DAY.HOW MANY SAPPERS WENT HOME TO" BLIGHTY"OWING THE POOR SODS A FORTUNE? HAPPY DAYS
Forces Reunited Forum Posts Involving Royal Engineers
"I’m trying to help my parntners Dad, trace some of his old buddies from the Royal Engineers, 60 field sqn, based at Maidstone. Robert (Bob) Hodgson served in Aden and was bought out of the army in 1967. These are really the only details I have, but if needed, i’m sure I could find out some more. I know he and someone known as Jock, decided too take a jeep onne night, and only the 2 culprits know what happened to the vehicle! Bob lives in Durham, and a few weeks ago, met someone he served with..."
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"...when she left Devonport dockyard quickly in late 1961 or early 1962, I recall she was going to the Far East - but where?. She had a full complement on board including aramaments from the Royal Artillery stationed in the Citadel on Plymouth Hoe, Royal Engineers, et. al. I was a National Serviceman in the Royal Signals billeted at the Citadel at the time. I recall that servicemen were being called back from leave on the Friday, and on the following Sunday or Monday the Ark sailed down Plymouth..."
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"hi linda if it is any help there was a bob abernethy who served in the royal engineers and was in NI 33 fld sqn Re between 1981 and 1984"
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"Can you help me, on behalf of my father Michael Turner, I am looking for anyone who knew him. He joined the Royal Engineers in 1960 and left in 1969. He was posted to several places, Cove, Padderden, british Virgin Islands, Aldershot and a few more I can’t remember. Many thanks Nicky "
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" I am looking to contact an, Alan Baker 5th Battalion 1942-1947 retired Royal Engineers and comes from London uk. Any details would be helpfull."
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