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Corps of Royal Engineers - WW1

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Corps of Royal Engineers - WW1
Including Royal Engineers Signal Services

(formed in 1908) - The forerunner of the Royal Corps of Signals

Image right BMB Courtesy of British Military Badges - Daniel Baker

The Royal Engineers (RE's) has been involved in every major conflict the British Army has fought. Their Motto is "Ubique" ("Everywhere") - awarded in 1832 as the unit has been involved in all the British Army's combat theatres).

See Corps of Royal Engineers (Including Royal Corps of Signals)

Please link profiles of those who were Royal Engineers during WW1 to this project regardless of rank or nationality. People of note can be individually listed below in Alphabetical Order

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World War 1

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. The RE's were responsible for developing responses to chemical and underground warfare.

Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies. The RE's maintained the infantry and artillery weapons, 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.

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 the corps formed its own tunnelling companies. This was in response to German mining of British trenches. 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, created 14 metres (46 ft) below Flanders by the 171st Tunnelling Company of the Corps of Royal Engineers, after the Third Battle of Ypres/Battle of Passchendaele.

From October 1916 the Royal Engineers had been working underground, constructing tunnels for the troops in preparation for the Battle of Arras in 1917. There is a vast network of caverns called the boves beneath Arras, consisting of underground quarries and sewage tunnels. The engineers added new tunnels to this network so that troops could arrive at the battlefield in secrecy and in safety. In one sector alone four Tunnel Companies of 500 men each worked around the clock in 18-hour shifts for two months.

Field Companies of the Royal Engineers

At the beginning of WW1 the 13 Field Companies at home on a peacetime establishment were reorganised to create twelve Field Companies, two for each of the six Divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Men required to bring these Companies up to war establishment units came from the RE Training Depot at Aldershot (mounted men) and the RE Reserve Battalion and Depot Companies at Chatham (dismounted men):

See full divisions and allocations at The Long, Long Trail - Field Companies of the Royal Engineers

The Wartime Memories Project - Royal Engineers during the Great War, an ongoing project which has been running for 16 years, has links to pages for each division. Those I looked at do not have any articles attached, but in the main RE page link above is a list of those known to have served in WW1 - there are links to many individual pages where more information as been added. They are looking for Volunteers for the RE's.

Notable Royal Engineers - WW1

Victoria Cross Recipients


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.

  • Tom Edwin Adlam, (1893-1975) 1916, Thiepval, France
  • Adam Archibald, 1918, Ors, France
  • Brett Mackay Cloutman, 1918, Pont-Sur-Sambre, France
  • Clifford Coffin, 1917, Westhoek, Belgium
  • James Lennox Dawson, 1915, Hohenzollern Redoubt, France
  • George de Cardonnel Elmsall Findlay, 1918, Catillon, France
  • William Hackett, 1916, Givenchy, France
  • Lanoe Hawker, VC, DSO (1890-1917 KIA) 1915 {While serving with the RFC}
  • Charles Alfred Jarvis, 1914, Jemappes, Belgium
  • Frederick Henry Johnson, 1915, Hill 70, France
  • William Henry Johnston, 1914, Missy, France
  • Cecil Leonard Knox, 1918, Tugny, France
  • Cyril Gordon Martin, 1915, Spanbroek Molen, Belgium
  • James McPhie, 1918, Aubencheul-Au-Bac, France
  • Philip Neame, (1888-1978) 1914, Neuve Chapelle, France
  • Arnold Horace Santo Waters, 1918, Ors, France
  • Theodore Wright, 1914, Mons, Belgium


  • 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.
  • Royal Engineers First World War memorial at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre
  • National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire
  • The memorial to the Royal Engineers at Arromanches, the site of the Mulberry Harbours during the Second World War

References, Sources and Further Reading

// Main Reference WIKI Royal Engineers Information shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License - see Creative Commons Licenses


There are many books written by RE's -


// this project is in History Link