Woolwich in 1716, the Board formed the Royal Regiment of Artillery and 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 1772, a Soldier Artificer Company was established for service in
Gibraltar, the first instance of
non-commissioned military engineers. In 1787, the Corps of Engineers was granted the Royal prefix, and adopted its current name; in the same year, a Corps of Royal Military Artificers was formed, consisting of non-commissioned officers and
privates, to be led by the Royal Engineers. Ten years later, the Gibraltar company (which had remained separate) was absorbed, and in 1812 the unit's name was changed to the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners.
The Corps has no
battle honours. In 1832, the regimental
motto, Ubique & Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt ("Everywhere" & "Where Right And Glory Lead"; in Latin fas implies "sacred duty") was granted. The motto signified that the Corps had seen action in all the major conflicts of the British Army and almost all of the minor ones as well.
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, and their headquarters were moved from the
Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, to
The re-organisation of the British military that began in the mid-Nineteenth Century and stretched over several decades included the reconstitution of the
Militia, the raising of the
Volunteer Force, and the ever-closer organisation of the part-time forces with the regular army. The old Militia had been an infantry force, other than the occasional employment of Militiamen to man artillery defences and other roles on an emergency basis. This changed in 1861, with the conversion of some units to artillery roles. Militia and Volunteer Engineering companies were also created, beginning with the conversion of the militia of Anglesey and Monmouthshire to engineers in 1877. The Militia and Volunteer Force engineers supported the regular Royal Engineers in a variety of roles, including operating the boats required to tend the submarine mine defences that protected harbours in Britain and its empire. These included a submarine mining militia company that was authorised for Bermuda in 1892, but never raised, and the
Bermuda Volunteer Engineers that wore Royal Engineers uniforms and replaced the regular Royal Engineers companies withdrawn from the
Bermuda Garrison in 1928. The various part-time reserve forces were amalgamated into the
Territorial Force in 1908, which was retitled the Territorial Army after the First World War, and the
Army Reserve in 2014.
Units from the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery were in Australia, even after Federation.
First World War saw a rapid transformation of the Royal Engineers as new technologies became ever more important in the conduct of warfare and engineers undertook an increasing range of roles. In the front line they designed and built fortifications, operated
poison gas equipment, repaired guns and heavy equipment, and conducted underground warfare beneath enemy trenches. Support roles included the construction, maintenance and operation of railways, bridges, water supply and inland waterways, as well as telephone, wireless and other communications. As demands on the Corps increased, its manpower was expanded from a total (including reserves) of about 25,000 in August 1914, to 315,000 in 1918.
In 1915, in response to
Germanmining of British trenches under the then static siege conditions of the
First World War, 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.
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 35 years of age. They trained at the Royal Engineers Depot in
Chatham or the Royal Engineer Mounted Depot at
Much of the British colonial era infrastructure of India, of which elements survive today, was created by engineers of the three presidencies' armies and the Royal Engineers. Lieutenant (later General Sir)
Arthur Thomas Cotton (1803–99),
Madras Engineers, was responsible for the design and construction of the great irrigation works on the
river Cauvery, which watered the rice crops of
Trichinopoly districts in the late 1820s. In 1838 he designed and built sea defences for
Vizagapatam. He masterminded the
Godavery Delta project where 720,000 acres (2,900 km2) of land were irrigated and 500 miles (800 km) of land to the port of
Cocanada was made navigable in the 1840s. Such regard for his lasting legacy was shown when in 1983, the Indian Government erected a statue in his memory at
Other irrigation and canal projects included the
Ganges Canal, where
Colonel Sir Colin Scott-Moncrieff (1836–1916) acted as the Chief Engineer and made modifications to the original work. Among other engineers trained in India, Scott-Moncrieff went on to become Under Secretary of State Public Works,
Egypt where he restored the
Nile barrage and irrigation works of Lower Egypt.
The construction of the
Rideau Canal was proposed shortly after the
War of 1812, when there remained a persistent threat of attack by the United States on the British colony of
Upper Canada. The initial purpose of the Rideau Canal was military, as it was intended to provide a secure supply and communications route between
Montreal and the British naval base in
Kingston, Ontario. Westward from Montreal, travel would proceed along the
Ottawa River to
Ottawa), then southwest via the canal to Kingston and out into
Lake Ontario. The objective was to bypass the stretch of the
St. Lawrence River bordering
New York State, a route which would have left British supply ships vulnerable to attack or a blockade of the St. Lawrence. Construction of the canal was supervised by Lieutenant-Colonel
John By of the Royal Engineers. Directed by him, Lieutenant
William Denison, determined the strength for construction purposes of old growth timber in the vicinity of Bytown, findings commended by the
Institution of Civil Engineers in England.
Dover's Western Heights
Western Heights of Dover are one of the most impressive fortifications in Britain. They comprise a series of forts, strong points and ditches, designed to protect the United Kingdom from invasion. They were created to augment the existing defences and protect the key port of Dover from both seaward and landward attack. First given
earthworks in 1779 against the
planned invasion that year, the high ground west of
Dover, England, now called Dover Western Heights, was properly fortified in 1804 when Lieutenant-Colonel
William Twiss was instructed to modernise the existing defences. This was part of a huge
programme of fortification in response to
Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom. To assist with the movement of troops between
Dover Castle and the town defences Twiss made his case for building the Grand Shaft in the cliff:
"... the new barracks. ... are little more than 300 yards horizontally from the beach. ... and about 180 feet (55 m) above high-water mark, but in order to communicate with them from the centre of town, on horseback the distance is nearly a mile and a half and to walk it about three-quarters of a mile, and all the roads unavoidably pass over ground more than 100 feet (30 m) above the barracks, besides the footpaths are so steep and chalky that a number of accidents will unavoidably happen during the wet weather and more especially after floods. I am therefore induced to recommend the construction of a shaft, with a triple staircase ... the chief objective of which is the convenience and safety of troops ... and may eventually be useful in sending reinforcements to troops or in affording them a secure retreat."
Twiss's plan was approved and building went ahead. The shaft was to be 26 feet (7.9 m) in diameter, 140 feet (43 m) deep with a 180 feet (55 m) gallery connecting the bottom of the shaft to Snargate Street, and all for under an estimated £4000. The plan entailed building two brick-lined shafts, one inside the other. In the outer would be built a triple staircase, the inner acting as a light well with "windows" cut in its outer wall to illuminate the staircases. Apparently, by March 1805 only 40 feet (12 m) of the connecting gallery was left to dig and it is probable that the project was completed by 1807.
Two Acts of Parliament allowed for the building of
Pentonville Prison for the detention of convicts sentenced to imprisonment or awaiting transportation. Construction started on 10 April 1840 and was completed in 1842. The cost was £84,186 12s 2d. Captain (later Major General Sir)
Joshua Jebb designed
Pentonville Prison, introducing new concepts such as single cells with good heating, ventilation and sanitation.
Although mapping by what became the
Ordnance Survey was born out of military necessity it was soon realised that accurate maps could be also used for civil purposes. The lessons learnt from this first boundary commission were put to good use around the world where members of the Corps have determined boundaries on behalf of the British as well as foreign governments; some notable boundary commissions include:
1839 – Canada-United States
1858 – Canada-United States (Captain (later General Sir) John Hawkins RE)
1856 and 1857 – Russo-Turkish (Lieutenant Colonel (later Sir)
Edward Stanton RE)
1894 – India-Afghanistan (Captain (later Colonel Sir) Thomas Holdich RE)
1902 – Chile-Argentine (Colonel Sir Delme Radcliffe RE)
1911 – Peru-Bolivia (Major A. J. Woodroffe RE)
Much of this work continues to this day. The reform of the voting franchise brought about by the
Reform Act (1832), demanded that boundary commissions were set up. Lieutenants Dawson and
Thomas Drummond (1797–1839), Royal Engineers, were employed to gather the statistical information upon which the Bill was founded, as well as determining the boundaries and districts of boroughs. It was said that the fate of numerous boroughs fell victim to the
heliostat and the Drummond light, the instrument that Drummond invented whilst surveying in Ireland.
Abney level is an instrument used in
surveying which consists of a fixed sighting tube, a movable spirit level that is connected to a pointing arm, and a protractor scale. The Abney level is an easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and when used correctly an accurate surveying tool. The Abney level was invented by Sir
William de Wiveleslie Abney (1843–1920) who was a
Royal Engineer, an English astronomer and chemist best known for his pioneering of colour photography and colour vision. Abney invented this instrument under the employment of the
Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham, England, in the 1870s.
Chatham, being the home of the Corps, meant that the Royal Engineers and the
Dockyard had a close relationship since Captain Brandreth's appointment. At the Chatham Dockyard, Captain
Thomas Mould RE designed the iron roof trusses for the
covered slips, 4, 5 and 6. Slip 7 was designed by Colonel Godfrey Greene RE on his move to the Corps from the Bengal Sappers & Miners. In 1886 Major Henry Pilkington RE was appointed Superintendent of Engineering at the Dockyard, moving on to Director of Engineering at the Admiralty in 1890 and Engineer-in-Chief of Naval Loan Works, where he was responsible for the extension of all major Dockyards at home and abroad.
All members of the Royal Engineers are trained
combat engineers and all
non-commissioned officers also have another trade. These trades include: air conditioning fitter, electrician, general fitter, plant operator mechanic, plumber, bricklayer, plasterer / painter, carpenter & joiner, fabricator, building materials technician, design draughtsman, electrical & mechanical draughtsman, geographic support technician, survey engineer, armoured engineer, driver, engineer IT, engineer logistics specialist, amphibious engineer,
bomb disposal specialist,
diver or search specialist. They may also undertake the specialist selection and training to qualify as
Military Parachutists. Women are eligible for all Royal Engineer specialities.
Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) is the British Army's Centre of Excellence for
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), and counter terrorist search training. Located on several sites in Chatham, Kent,
Camberley in Surrey and
Bicester in Oxfordshire the Royal School of Military Engineering offers training facilities for the full range of Royal Engineer skills. The RSME was founded by Major (later General Sir)
Charles Pasley, as the Royal Engineer Establishment in 1812. It was renamed the School of Military Engineering in 1868 and granted the "Royal" prefix in 1962.
3 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment, in
55 Training Squadron
57 Training Squadron
63 Headquarters and Training Support Squadron
Communication Information Systems Wing
Construction Engineer School
1 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment, in Chatham:
24 Training Squadron
36 Training Squadron
Hackett Troop (Plant)
Civil Engineering Wing
Electrical and Mechanical Wing
Royal Engineers Warfare Wing (Founded in 2011 and split between Brompton Barracks, Chatham and
Gibraltar Barracks at
Hampshire, this is the product of the amalgamation between Command Wing, where Command and Tactics were taught and Battlefield Engineering Wing, where combat engineering training was facilitated.)
United Kingdom Mine Information and Training Centre
Defence Explosive Munitions and Search School (formally Defence EOD School and the National Search Centre)
The Royal Engineers, Ports Section, operated harbours and ports for the army and used mainly specialised vessels such as tugs and dredgers. During the
Second World War the Royal Engineers' Blue Ensign was flown from the
Royal Engineers Journal - published tri-annually and contains articles with a military engineering connection. The first Journal was published in August 1870. The idea for the publication was proposed at the Corps Meeting of May 1870 by Major R Harrison and seconded By Captain R Home, who became its first editor (The Journal eventually superseded the Professional Papers, which were started by Lieutenant WT Denison in 1837 and continued to be published until 1918).
The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers is currently in its 12th volume. The first two volumes were written by Major General
Whitworth Porter and published in 1889.
The Sapper is published by the Royal Engineers Central Charitable Trust and is a bi-monthly magazine for all ranks.
The Royal Engineers' Association
The present Royal Engineers Association promotes and supports the Corps among members of the Association in the following ways:
By fostering esprit de corps and a spirit of comradeship and service.
By maintaining an awareness of Corps traditions.
By acting as a link between serving and retired members of the Corps.
To provide financial and other assistance to serving and former members of the Corps, their wives, widows and dependants who are in need through poverty.
To make grants, within Association guidelines, to the Army Benevolent Fund and to other charities which further the objectives of the Association.
Royal Engineers' Yacht Club
The Royal Engineers' Yacht Club, which dates back to 1812, promotes the skill of watermanship in the Royal Engineers.
They have entered every Fastnet Race since the second in 1926, which they won sailing IIlex.
The club was founded in 1863, under the leadership of Major
Francis Marindin. Sir
Frederick Wall, who was the secretary of
The Football Association 1895–1934, stated in his memoirs that the "
combination game" was first used by the Royal Engineers A.F.C. in the early 1870s. Wall states that the "Sappers moved in unison" and showed the "advantages of combination over the old style of individualism".
On 7 November 2012, the Royal Engineers played against the
Wanderers in a remake of the 1872 FA Cup Final at
The Oval. Unlike the actual final, the Engineers won, and by a large margin, 7–1 being the final score.
Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) 1993 - In 1913, the
Army Post Office Corps (formed in 1882) and the Royal Engineers Telegraph Reserve (formed in 1884) amalgamated to form the Royal Engineers (Postal Section) Special Reserve. In 1959 it was restyled Royal Engineers (Postal and Courier Communications) and added to the regular cadre of the British Army, it was renamed Royal Engineers (Postal and Courier Services) in 1979. On 1 August 1988 the IRA bombed an accommodation block at the Postal & Courier Depot,
Inglis Barracks, Mill Hill, London killing one lance corporal and injuring nine soldiers. The RE (PCS) became a Defence Agency known as the Defence Postal and Courier Service in 1992 and in the same year Postal & Courier trained operators of the
Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) were re-cap badged as Royal Engineers. The Service was transferred to the Royal Logistic Corps on its formation in 1993. – see (
British Forces Post Office).
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
HMSO published an account of the 55
British and Commonwealth 'Sappers' who have been awarded the
Victoria Cross. The book was written by Colonel GWA Napier, former Royal Engineers officer and a former Director of the
Royal Engineers Museum. The book defines a 'Sapper' as any "member of a British or Empire military engineer corps, whatever their rank, speciality or national allegiance", and is thus not confined to Royal Engineers.
Rochester Cathedral, Kent has major historical links with the Corps and contains many memorials including stained glass, mosaics and plaques. The cathedral hosts services on the annual Corps Memorial Weekend and is supported by the Corps on Remembrance Sunday.
Connolly, Thomas William John (1857). 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. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
Cooper, George (2011). Fight, Dig and Live. The Story of the Royal Engineers in the Korean War. Pen and Sword.
Daniell, A. P. de T. (2000). Mediterranean Safari March 1943 - October 1944. Orphans Press.
Duke, Sir Gerald (1982). The History of the Royal Engineer Yacht Club. Pitman Press.
Williams, Gerard; Williams, Michael (1969). Citizen Soldiers of the Royal Engineers Transportation and Movements and the Royal Army Service Corps, 1859 to 1965. Institution of the Royal Corps of Transport.
Wolfe, Celia (1997). Summon up the Blood. The war diary of Corporal J A Womack, Royal Engineers. Leo Cooper.