Royal Engineers

British Army Arms and Services

Combat Arms
Royal Armoured Corps
Guards Division
Scottish Division
King's Division
Queen's Division
Prince of Wales' Division
Light Division
Royal Irish Regiment
Parachute Regiment
Royal Gurkha Rifles
Army Air Corps
Special Air Service Regiment
Combat Support Arms
Royal Regiment of Artillery
Corps of Royal Engineers
Royal Corps of Signals
Intelligence Corps
Combat Services
Royal Army Chaplains Department
Royal Logistic Corps
Army Medical Services
Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Dental Corps
Royal Army Veterinary Corps
Queen Alexandra's Royal
Army Nursing Corps
Corps of Royal Electrical and
Mechanical Engineers
Adjutant General's Corps
Army Legal Corps
Royal Military Police
Military Provost Staff Corps
Small Arms School Corps
Army Physical Training Corps
General Service Corps
Corps of Army Music

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 combat engineering and other technical support to the British Armed Forces.

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


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 hard 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.

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. 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.


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 Engineers specialities.

Camp flag of the Royal Engineers
Camp flag of the Royal Engineers

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)
  • Electrician
  • Fabricator (Welder)
  • Fitter (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration)
  • General Fitter
  • Geographical Data Technician
  • Geographical Production Technician
  • Geographical Terrain Analyst
  • Heating and Plumbing Engineer
  • Plant Operator Mechanic
  • Specialist Equipment Driver/Operator
  • Surveyor (Engineering)

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

  • Amphibious Engineer
  • Armoured Engineer
  • Bomb Disposal 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 can be commissioned as Garrison Engineers (Construction, Electrical or Mechanical).

Royal Engineers units

The Royal Engineers comprises units of both the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. There are also two higher engineer formations:

  • 12 (Air Support) Engineer Brigade (39, 71 and 73 Regiments)
  • 29 (Corps Support) Engineer Brigade (RMRE, 75 and 101 Regiments)

Regular Army

  • 21 Engineer Regiment (Armoured)
    • 1 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 4 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 7 Headquarters Squadron
    • 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 22 Engineer Regiment (Armoured/Field)
    • 3 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 5 Field Squadron
    • 6 Headquarters Squadron
  • 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault)
    • 9 Parachute Squadron (9 PARA)
    • 12 (Nova Scotia) Headquarters Squadron (Air Assault)
    • 51 Field Squadron (Air Assault)
    • 61 Field Support Squadron (Air Assault)
  • 25 Engineer Regiment (Northern Ireland)
    • 33 Field Squadron
    • 43 Headquarters and Support Squadron
  • 26 Engineer Regiment (Armoured/Field)
    • 8 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 30 Field Squadron
    • 38 Headquarters Squadron
  • 28 Engineer Regiment (Amphibious/Field)
    • 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron
    • 42 Field Squadron
    • 45 Field Support Squadron
    • 64 Headquarters Squadron
    • 65 Field Support Squadron
  • 32 Engineer Regiment (Armoured)
    • 2 Headquarters Squadron
    • 26 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 31 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 39 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)
    • 21 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 22 Headquarters and Support Squadron (EOD)
    • 49 Field Squadron (EOD)
    • 58 Field Squadron (EOD)
  • 35 Engineer Regiment (Armoured)
    • 29 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 37 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 44 Headquarters Squadron
    • 77 Armoured Engineer Squadron
  • 36 Engineer Regiment (Field)
    • 20 Field Squadron
    • 50 Headquarters Squadron
    • 69 Gurkha Field Squadron
    • 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron
  • 38 Engineer Regiment (Field/Armoured)
    • 11 Field Squadron
    • 15 Field Support Squadron
    • 25 Armoured Engineer Squadron
    • 32 Headquarters Squadron
  • 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)
    • 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) based at RAF Leeming
    • 34 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 48 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 53 Field Squadron (Air Support)
    • 60 Headquarters and Support Squadron (Air Support)
  • Royal School of Military Engineering
    • Combat Engineer School
    • Construction Engineer School
      • 1 Royal School of Military Engineering Regiment
      • Command Wing
      • Civil Engineering Wing
      • Electrical and Mechanical Wing
      • National Search Centre
    • Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School
  • 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group (previously Military Works Force)
    • HQ Works Group
      • 530 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE)
      • Royal Engineers Specialist Advisory Team (RESAT)
      • Technical Information Centre Royal Engineers
    • 62 Works Group [water]
      • 519 STRE (Works)
      • 523 STRE (Works)
      • 520 STRE (Well Drilling)
      • 521 STRE (Well Drilling)
    • 63 Works Group [electricity]
      • 518 STRE (Works)
      • 522 STRE (Works)
      • 528 STRE (Utilities)
      • 535 STRE (Northern Ireland)
    • 64 Works Group [fuel]
      • 516 STRE (Fuels)
      • 517 STRE (Fuels)
      • 524 STRE (Works)
      • 527 STRE (Works)
  • Royal Engineers Diver Training Wing, Defence Diving School
  • Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers

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.

Territorial Army

  • Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) (Field)
    • 100 Field Squadron [Cwmbran/Bristol/Cardiff]
    • 101 Headquarters Squadron [Monmouth]
    • 108 (Welsh) Field Support Squadron [Swansea/Gorseinion]
    • 225 Plant Squadron [Birmingham]
  • 71 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) (Air Support)
    • 72 (Tyne Electrical Engineers) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Newcastle/Sunderland]
    • 102 (Clyde) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Paisley/Barnsford Bridge]
    • 117 (Highland) Headquarters and Support Squadron [RAF Leuchars]
  • 72 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) (Air Support)
    • 106 (West Riding) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Sheffield/Bradford]
    • 129 Headquarters and Support Squadron [Nottingham]
    • 350 Field Squadron (Air Support) [Nottingham]
    • 575 (Sherwood Foresters) Field Squadron (Air Support) [Chesterfield]
    • The Jersey Field Squadron [St Helier]
  • 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 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) (Volunteers)
    • 217 (London) Field Squadron (EOD) [Holloway]
    • 221 Field Squadron (EOD) [Rochester]
    • 223 Headquarters Squadron [Catford]
    • 579 Field Squadron (EOD) [Tunbridge Wells]
  • 131 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers (Volunteers) [London/Hull/Plymouth/Birmingham]
  • 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)

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.
  • 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.

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.

George Cross

Fifteen members of the Royal Engineers have been awarded the George Cross. Thirteen of them from the Royal Engineers (Bomb Disposal Service) for service during the Second World War.

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index