A week in the life of the Gravesend Sapper

20161013_102520By Stuart Dixon

Last week, Gravesend branch of the Royal Engineers Association were represented at four significant Royal Engineer Functions:

  • The REA AGM on 8th October, followed by Sapper Sunday.
  • The Visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second to the Royal Engineers at Brompton Barracks on the occasion of the 300th Anniversary of the Corps on 13th October.
  • The 300th Anniversary Party managed by the Medway Branch and the RSM of 1 RSME Regt in Brompton Barracks on 15th October, preceded by the AGM of the South East region of the REA.

Why am I writing this now?  What a week! It took a while to digest everything and I wanted to have a little about each event and something about the family of Royal Engineers.

This particular week, four Gravesend branch members, Mick Dobson, Ric Bardsley, Ken Trevor and Ray Ellis and their wives represented both the branch and others at national and regional events held by the corps in their 300th year.  Myself and Tom Milne – who was flying the radio branch standard were there for the (national) Radio Branch,  The Medway and Junior Leaders Branches were also represented and various others.

This meant Gravesend was pretty well represented at what were highly informative, entertaining and nostalgic events.  When we met at the first meeting we discovered in common none of us had been to all of these events in the corps calendar before and didn’t know what to expect. So we had individually decided to see what it was all about (and pass that on.)

Waiting for Her Majesty (See below)

Annual General Meeting of the Royal Engineers Association* and Regimental Dinner at the Victory Services Club

On Saturday 8th October we attended the annual general meeting of the Royal Engineers Association at the Victory Services Club near Marble Arch in London.  What an excellent venue this is.  Here we heard from the Senior Management, Lt Gen Sir Mark Mans, Maj General Dickinson, and Neil Jordan about a number of improvements to services that would happen in the coming year.  A list of these improvements is covered here.  We also heard about the state of corps finances and learnt about welfare and how to approach it.

Following the AGM the delegates and their wives were wined and dined and entertained.  There is a comprehensive set of photographs of all events where the branch is in attendance on our Facebook Group.

The Royal Standard Flies over Brompton Barrack

Visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second – Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of Royal Engineers

On Thursday 13th October, 1 Royal School of Military Engineering mounted an exceptional event which was well covered by the press and social media.  As usual the weather was at its best for October, and remarkably it was bright and sunny – the kind of weather that usually follows her majesty when she is out and about.  The Royal Standard flying above the parade square told us this was no ordinary regimental parade.  Her majesty arrived by Helicopter, was driven from the landing site in the Royal Limousine to the parade square where about four hundred dignitaries, including the Chief Royal Engineer, General Mans and the senior officers and members of the corps family were waiting for her.

The Standards of the Corps at ease
The Standards of the Corps at ease
The parade
The parade
He Majest Inspects the Guard
He Majesty Inspects the Guard of 1RSME

The queen then took the salute and inspected an immaculate honour guard, which was escorted by the Corps Band and the Standards of the Association.

Officers Mess gather for a photo with Her Majety
Officers Mess gather for a photo with Her Majety

Her majesty also took time to have a photo taken with the officers of the regiment, 20161013_102352meet soldiers and veterans of the corps and view some of our most modern equipment and history.

I imagine as her majesty walked past the photograph of King George V in the Warrant officers and Sergeants mess she would have noticed he stood on the identical spot to take the salute as he did, more than a century ago.  I also imagine she would have felt very much a part of the family.

Ray lining the route to say farwell
Ray lining the route to say farwell

dsc01195At two o’clock her visit to the corps ended and she was given the traditional farewell for a VVIP with people lining the route, between two rows of soldiers and veterans and escorted to the gates by the band.


SE Region AGM* and RE 300 Celebration

On 15th October, Lt Col Cunniff RE, the Commanding Officer of 1RSME and The Regimental Sergeant Major, Jamie Rankine welcomed a 50% turnout of representatives from REA Branches in the South East Group and had laid on a number of events throughout the day – notably a shooting competition and a party in the evening with excellent entertainment by the (Brass) Band of the Medway Branch and a Jazz band – in between the meal and the bar facilities and lots of lively fun and banter.  This was a dignified affair, My wife, Giliian and me took our parents, ex Sapper Geoffrey Eyers and Doreen to the event.  They are big fans of Andre Rieu and the music was comparable but one thing Andre doesn’t do is the corps song.  The band presented us with a few magic moments but none so nostalgic as the gentlemen standing to sing the corps song to the delight of the ladies.  The regiment, being in good spirits gave prizes to the competition winners and made fun of the scores, and how they were gained highlighting some dubious shooting practice and the raffle made a substantial amount for charity.  The dance floor was the centre of activity for the rest of the evening.  Recommendation: Five Stars next year, go if you can.  Thanks for organising Glenn Scarborough and RSM Rankine.

That’s what its all about.

*The minutes of these meetings will be published in due course, and I recommend you read them as they are a valuable insight to the working of the REA.

The photographs in this article came from my own collection or frm Richard Bardsley.


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