Royal Engineers: Wikis


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The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers (RE), and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army. It provides military engineering and other technical support to the British Armed Forces. It is headed by the Chief Royal Engineer.

The Regimental Headquarters and the Royal School of Military Engineering are in Chatham in Kent, England. The corps is divided into several regiments, barracked at various places in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Germany.



Cap Badge of the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers recruitment poster

The Royal Engineers trace their origins back to the military engineers brought to England by William the Conqueror and claim over 900 years of unbroken service to the crown. Engineers have always served in the armies of the Crown; however, the origins of the modern corps, along with those of the Royal Artillery, lie in the Board of Ordnance established in the 15th century. In 1717, the Board established a Corps of Engineers, consisting entirely of commissioned officers. The manual work was done by the Artificer Companies, made up of contracted civilian artisans and labourers. In 1782, a Soldier Artificer Company was established for service in Gibraltar, and this was the first instance of non-commissioned military engineers. In 1787, the Corps of Engineers was granted the Royal prefix and adopted its current name and in the same year a Corps of Royal Military Artificers was formed, consisting of non-commissioned officers and privates, to be officered by the RE. Ten years later the Gibraltar company, which had remained separate, was absorbed and in 1812 the name was changed to the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners.

In 1855 the Board of Ordnance was abolished and authority over the Royal Engineers, Royal Sappers and Miners and Royal Artillery was transferred to the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, thus uniting them with the rest of the Army. The following year, the Royal Engineers and Royal Sappers and Miners became a unified corps as the Corps of Royal Engineers. In 1862 the corps also absorbed the British officers and men of the engineer corps of the East India Company.

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.

The Corps has no battle honours, but its motto Ubique (Everywhere), awarded by King William IV in 1832, signifies that it has seen action in all the major conflicts of the British Army and quite a few of the little ones too. A second motto is Quo Fas et Gloria ducunt (Where right and glory lead).

The Royal Engineers Museum of Military Engineering is in Gillingham in Kent.

A point of some pride to the Sappers is that their name takes the form Corps of Royal Engineers rather than, for example, Royal Engineer Corps. The distinction, they say, is that every Sapper is Royal in his own right, rather than simply being a member of a Royal Corps (such as the Royal Corps of Signals or the Royal Regiment of Artillery).

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.[1]




The famous Royal Engineers A.F.C. won the FA Cup in 1875 and were the pioneers of the modern passing football game. Most notably the Engineers were the first team to show the benefit of cooperative teamwork, in particular ball passing. The following contemporary account from 1870 is the earliest description of ball passing in football: "Lieut. Creswell, who having brought it up the side then kicked it into the middle to another of his side, who kicked it through the posts the minute before time was called"[2] The Engineers were the first team renown for "play[ing] beautifully together".[3]


The Army were represented in the very first international by two members of the Royal Engineers, both playing for England, Lieutenant Charles Arthur Crompton RE and Lieutenant CW Sherrard RE.[4]


All members of the Royal Engineers are trained combat engineers and all sappers (privates) and non-commissioned officers also have another trade. Women are eligible for all Royal Engineer specialities.

Sappers can join the Royal Engineers in one of the following trades:

  • Bricklayer and Concretor
  • Building and Structural Finisher
  • Carpenter and Joiner
  • Command, Communications and Information Systems Specialist
  • Construction Materials Technician
  • Draughtsman (Design)
  • Draughtsman (Electrical and Mechanical)
  • Driver RE
  • Electrician
  • Fabricator (Welder)
  • Fitter (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration)
  • General Fitter
  • Geographical Technician
  • Heating and Plumbing Engineer
  • Pioneer
  • Plant Operator Mechanic
  • Resources Specialist
  • Specialist Equipment Driver/Operator
  • Surveyor (Engineering)
  • Surveyor (Topographical)
  • Armoured

Later, sappers can specialise in further trades and specialities, including:

  • Bomb Disposal and Specialist Search
  • Amphibious Engineer
  • Clerk of Works (Construction)
  • Clerk of Works (Electrical)
  • Clerk of Works (Mechanical)
  • Commando Engineer
  • Diver
  • Military Plant Foreman
  • Parachute Engineer
  • Regimental Signals Instructor

Senior NCOs who have passed the appropriate Clerk of Works course can be commissioned as Garrison Engineers (Construction, Electrical or Mechanical).


The Royal Engineers comprises units of both the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. There is also a higher engineer formation:

Theatre Troops

  • 8 Force Engineer Brigade
    • 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group (25, 39, 71 and 73 Regiments, 529 STRE)
    • 29 (Land Support) Engineer Group (33 and 101 Regiments)
    • 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group (previously Military Works Force)
      • HQ Works Group
        • Royal Engineers Specialist Advisory Team (RESAT)
        • Technical Information Centre Royal Engineers
      • 62 Works Group [water]
        • 519 STRE (Works)
        • 523 STRE (Works)
        • 520 STRE (Water Development)
        • 521 STRE (Water Development)
      • 63 Works Group [electricity]
        • 518 STRE (Works)
        • 528 STRE (Power)
        • 535 STRE (Works)
      • 64 Works Group [fuel]
        • 516 STRE (Fuels)
        • 517 STRE (Fuels)
        • 524 STRE (Works)
        • 527 STRE (Works)
      • 66 Works Group (formed 2008)
        • 522 STRE (Works)
        • 530 STRE (Materials)


  • 21 Engineer Regiment
    • 7 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 22 Engineer Regiment
    • 6 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 3 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 5 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 52 Armoured Engineer Squadron (2008)

NB: As part of the restructuring of the armed forces in 2004, it was announced that the engineering support for 3 Commando Brigade would be increased to a full regiment, with 24 (Commando) Engineer Regiment to be formed.

  • 25 Engineer Regiment
    • 43 Headquarters & Support Squadron (Air Support)
    • 34 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 53 Field Squadron (Air Support)
  • 26 Engineer Regiment
    • 38 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 8 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron (2008)
  • 28 Engineer Regiment
    • 64 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron + 412 tp(V) TA
    • 42 Field Squadron
    • 45 Field Support Squadron
    • 65 Field Support Squadron
  • 32 Engineer Regiment
    • 2 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 26 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 31 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 39 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 33 Engineer Regiment(EOD)
    • 22 Headquarters and Support Squadron (EOD)
    • 17 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 21 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 49 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 58 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 61 Field Squadron
  • 35 Engineer Regiment
    • 44 Headquarters and Support Squadron
    • 29 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 37 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 77 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 36 Engineer Regiment
    • 50 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 20 Field Squadron
    • 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, Queen's Gurkha Engineers
    • 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron, Queen's Gurkha Engineers
  • 38 Engineer Regiment
    • 32 Headquarters & Support Squadron
    • 11 Field Squadron
    • 15 Field Support Squadron
    • 25 Field Squadron
  • 39 Engineer Regiment
    • 60 Headquarters and Support Squadron (Air Support)
    • 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) based at RAF Leeming
    • 48 Field Squadron (Air Support)
  • 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic)
    • 13 Geographic Squadron
    • 14 Geographic Squadron ( based in Moenchengladbach)
    • 16 Geographic Support Squadron

Training Units

  • Royal School of Military Engineering
    • Combat Engineer School
      • 3 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment
        • 55 Training Squadron Royal Engineers
        • 57 Training Squadron Royal Engineers
        • 63 Training Support Squadron Royal Engineers
      • Battlefield Engineering Wing
        • United Kingdom Mine Information and Training Centre
      • Communication Information Systems Wing
    • Construction Engineer School
      • 1 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment
        • 24 Training Squadron Royal Engineers
        • 36 Training Squadron Royal Engineers
      • Command Wing
      • Civil Engineering Wing
      • Electrical and Mechanical Wing
      • National Search Centre
    • Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School
    • Royal School of Military Survey (until 1 April 2006)
  • 28 Training Squadron, Army Training Regiment (Bassingbourn)
  • Diving Training Unit (Army), (DTU(A))
  • Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers

Territorial Army

  • Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia)
    • 100 Field Squadron [Cwmbran/Bristol/Cardiff]
    • 101 Headquarters Troop [Monmouth]
    • 108 (Welsh) Field Squadron [Swansea/Gorseinion]
    • 225 Field Squadron [Birmingham]
    • The Jersey Field Squadron [St Helier]
  • 71 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) (Air Support)
    • 102 (Clyde) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Paisley/Barnsford Bridge]
    • 124 Field Squadron (Cumbernauld)
    • 236 Field Squadron [Elgin]
    • Headquarters Troop [RAF Leuchars]
    • 10 Orkney Field Troop [Orkney Islands]
  • 72 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) Close Support
    • 103 (Tyne Electrical Engineers) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Newcastle/Sunderland]
    • 106 (West Riding) Field Squadron [Sheffield/Bradford]
    • 299 Para Field Squadron [Wakefield/Hull/Gateshead]
  • 73 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) (Air Support)
    • 129 Headquarters and Support Squadron [Nottingham]
    • 350 Field Squadron (Air Support) [Nottingham]
    • 575 (Sherwood Foresters) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Chesterfield]
  • 75 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) (Field)
    • 107 (Lancashire and Cheshire) Field Squadron [Birkenhead/St Helens]
    • 125 (Staffordshire) Field Support Squadron [Stoke-on-Trent]
    • 143 Plant Squadron [Walsall]
    • 201 Headquarters Squadron [Manchester]
  • 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD) (V)
    • 217 (London) Field Squadron (EOD) [Holloway]
    • 221 Field Squadron (EOD) [Rochester/Catford]
    • 579 Field Squadron (EOD) [Tunbridge Wells]
  • 135 Independent Geographic Squadron Royal Engineers (Volunteers) [Ewell]
  • 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group (previously Military Works Force)
    • 62 Works Group [Regular]
      • 506 STRE (Water Infrastructure)
    • 63 Works Group [Regular]
      • 504 STRE (Power Infrastructure)
    • 64 Works Group [Regular]
      • 503 STRE (Fuels Infrastructure)
    • 65 Works Group
      • 507 STRE (Railway Infrastructure)
      • 509 STRE (Ports Infrastructure)
      • 508 STRE (Works)
      • 525 STRE (Works)
      • 526 STRE (Works)
  • 591 Independent Field Squadron
    • Is the only Royal Engineer TA Unit in Northern Ireland.

Successor units

Several units have been formed from the Royal Engineers.

  • The Air Battalion Royal Engineers (formed 1911) was the precursor of the Royal Flying Corps (formed 1912) which evolved into the Royal Air Force in 1918.
  • The Telegraph Battalion Royal Engineers became the Royal Engineers Signals Service, which in turn became the independent Royal Corps of Signals in 1920.
  • The Royal Engineers were responsible for railway and inland waterway transport, port operations and movement control until 1965, when these functions were transferred to the new Royal Corps of Transport. (See also Railway Operating Division.)
  • In 1908, the Army Postal Corps (formed in 1882) and the Royal Engineers Telegraph Reserve (formed in 1884) amalgamated to form the Royal Engineers Postal Section. This later became the Army Postal and Courier Service and remained part of the RE until the formation of the Royal Logistic Corps in 1993.

The Royal Engineers from just after the Second World War until the early 1970s also had 4 Plant Troops located in the United Kingdom which were RE reinforced Plant & Engineering troops attached to various Home Commands. The Command Plant Troops were initially set up in the late 40s to clear up the beach defences around the coast and remove the minefields and were equipped with Armoured Bulldozers. In the 1950s once all this work was complete they took responsibility of maintaining and building all Army Ranges and various civil works in support of the civilian population and in support of civilian organisations in the event of natural disasters and crises such as the Torrey Canyon disaster where the Southern Command Plant Troop was deployed to the West Country to clean up the mess on the beaches caused by the large volume of oil that floated ashore. The 4 Command Plant Troops were based in various locations across the United Kingdom with Southern Commend Plant Troop initially based in Tidworth, then Perham Down in Wiltshire and eventually Longmoor in Hampshire. The Midlands Plant Squadron was based in Walsall and the Northern Command plant troop was based in Ripon. The other command plant troop was based in Scotland. In Germany there was an Entire Engineering group based in Willich near Düsseldorf called the Military Civilian Plant & Engineering group that had a similar large scale Engineering, Plant and Support role for British Army of the Rhine. Each Command Plant Troop was commanded by an RE Major supported by a Military Plant Foreman.

In 1969, it was decided to amalgamate all of the Command Plant Troops into one large Squadron which had 4 troops, an HQ Troop and a large REME Attachment to it and the Squadron - 66 Plant Squadron became the largest squadron in the entire Royal Engineers, in terms of Plant Engineering and Equipment as well as staff. Its last home was in Longmoor Hampshire - Engineer Stores Depot attached to Longmoor Military Camp, which was also home to a Field Support Squadron. Longmoor Military Railway was from 1901 until the late 1960s the preserve of the Royal Engineers but subsequently Royal Corps of Transport and eventually Royal Logistic Corps Railway Training Centre. Its role also changed with a much wider role to support Military operations throughout NATO.

In late 1976 a Mr Trotter in Parliament asked the Secretary of State for Defence which units, apart from 66 Plant Squadron Royal Engineers, are specialists in heavy plant; whether he still intends to disband this squadron; if so, what unit will take its place; and what will be the reduction in the engineers' heavy plant capacity.

In answer to Mr Trotter 's question (See Hansard - Defence 6 December 1976) Mr. Robert C. Brown replied ...There is no directly comparable regular unit containing a similar concentration of specialist plant expertise, but specialist capability exists in parts of various regular field and base units in the United Kingdom, BAOR and elsewhere. In addition, there are two TAVR plant squadrons. As a consequence of the Defence Review, 66 Plant Squadron, Royal Engineers will disband by early 1978, but most of its heavy equipment will be taken over by other engineer units notably in the TAVR. As a result, there will be some reduction in the capacity of the Royal Engineers to plan and conduct major projects in peacetime.


  • Chieftain Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineer (ChAVRE)
  • Chieftain Armoured Vehicle Layer Bridge (ChAVLB)

These are being replaced by 66 Armoured Support Vehicles [5] ;

  • TROJAN is a minefield breaching vehicle. It prepares routes, mark safe routes using an Obstacle Marking System, breach complex obstacles and provide short dry and wet gap crossing utilising its excavator arm, earth moving blade and a midi fascine. It will plough through minefields, build trenches and dig defensive ditches
  • TITAN will carry and lay the current range of In-Service Close Support bridges laying them faster, and in a wider variety of terrain conditions, than previous equipment. TITAN can lay a bridge over a 26 metre gap in two minutes, making it the fastest Support Vehicle in the world at this task. This gives commanders a potential battle winning edge and allows them to choose from a more flexible range of armoured vehicles.

Both vehicles which weigh over 60 tonnes and are capable of speeds of up to 56 km/h, are designed to mount and tow the current range of in-service Royal Engineer equipment (PYTHON, AVRE Trailer, Track/Full Width Mineploughs and earth moving blades). They have purpose designed hulls, will incorporate Special to Role equipment and have major assemblies common to the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.

Order of Precedence

Preceded by:
Royal Regiment of Artillery
Order of Precedence Succeeded by:
Royal Corps of Signals


Victoria Cross

The following Royal Engineers have been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Further reading

  • The History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners: From the Formation of the Corps in March 1772, to the Date when Its Designation was Changed to that of Royal Engineers, in October 1856, by Thomas William John Connolly. Published by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1857.
  • History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Whitworth Porter, Charles Moore Watson. Published by Longmans, Green, 1889.
  • The Royal Engineer, by Francis Bond Head. Published by John Murray, 1869.
  • Papers on Subjects Connected with the Duties of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Great Britain Army. Royal Engineers. Published by The Corps, 1874.
  • Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Great Britain Army. Royal Engineers, Royal Engineers' Institute (Great Britain). Published by Royal Engineer Institute, 1892.
  • The Royal Engineers in Egypt and the Sudan, by Edward Warren Caulfeild Sandes. Published by Institution of royal engineers, 1937.
  • Citizen Soldiers of the Royal Engineers Transportation and Movements and the Royal Army Service Corps, 1859 to 1965, by Gerard Williams, Michael Williams. Published by Institution of the Royal Corps of Transport, 1969.
  • Royal Engineers, by Derek Boyd. Published by Cooper, 1975. ISBN 0850521971.
  • The Royal Engineers, by Terry Gander. Published by I. Allan, 1985. ISBN 0711015171.
  • Versatile Genius: The Royal Engineers and Their Maps : Manuscript Maps and Plans of the Eastern Frontier, 1822-1870, by University of the Witwatersrand Library, Yvonne Garson. Published by University of the Witwatersrand Library, 1992. ISBN 1868380238.

See also


  1. ^ War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  2. ^ Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, Sat November 5th 1870,issue 2
  3. ^ Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, Saturday February 17th 1872,issue 2694
  4. ^ Army Players and International Representation (1871 onwards)
  5. ^ MOD Oracle website, News (03 Nov 06): "New Armoured Vehicles Join The Army", (accessed 25 Nov 06)

External links


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