Last week Keith and I took a trip to visit the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham Kent. The Museum is situated in a building alongside Brompton Barracks, which is the location of the School of Military Engineering.
The Royal Engineers trace their history back to Norman times. There have always been Engineers who have worked within the army to produce fortifications. The first official separate unit dedicated to this function can be found in the 15th century in the Board of Ordinance, which also included what would later become the Royal Artillery. The two corps were split in 1716. Initially, the Corps of Engineers contained only officers who supervised civilian labourers and craftsmen, but within 60 years this had been abandoned and the army began recruiting its own craftsman and artificers. In 1855 the corps established its headquarters in Chatham. Engineers were present in all campaigns of the British Army.
Some Interesting Facts
- It was the RE who in 1911 formed its own air unit, the first in the British Military and as such the forerunner of The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.
- The RE team played in the first FA Cup final in 1872 losing to Wanderers 1-0; they lost again to Oxford University in 1874 but won the following year beating Old Etonians in a replay. Their last appearance in the final was in 1878 when they again lost to Wanderers. Their last appearance in the cup was in 1882-3 although they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1908.
- Two RE officers played in the first England International Rugby Team- Lt Charles Arthur Crompton and Lt Charles Sherrard.
- Other Army units which have separated from their initial inception in the RE include the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Corps of Transport.
The Museum contains a detailed history of the Corps with displays illustrating the major roles of their work. It also contains some unexpected exhibits including a WWII V-2 Rocket (captured and used for training purposes); a Harrier Jump-Jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Outside in the Museums grounds are a collection of RE vehicles used for bridging and road making.